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When Things Fall Apart

December 21, 2018

President Donald Trump’s selection of Generals and Admirals to serve in top positions in his Administration shines a light on what makes President Trump ‘tick.’ Central is his experience at New York Military Academy where he was taught a philosophy that values strength over weakness. Generals and Admirals are strong, not weak, and he found plenty who were willing to work for him.

Gen. James N. Mattis, Secretary of Defense

Gen. Michael T. Flynn, first National Security Advisor

Gen. H.R. McMastersecond National Security Advisor

Gen. John F. Kelly, Homeland Security and Chief of Staff

Brig. General, Mitchell Zais, Deputy Secretary of Education

Rear Admiral Eric C. Jones, Military Advisor to the                                                                               Secretary of Homeland Security

Adm. Harry Harris, Ambassador to South Korea

Only later has he realized that these men were shaped by a system of international law and organizations and that this “Internationalist” framework is quite different from his concept of American sovereignty. We saw a sign of that when President Trump referred to Gen. James Mattis as a “Democrat.”

President Trump has other ideas too that challenge the mindset of professional military who are trained to work within the existing international system. His ideas about immigration, nation-building, tariffs, entitlement programs and taxation challenge the way we’ve thought about these issues over the last 70 years and in 2016 they excited sectors of the American electorate who feel that now is the time to place “America First.”

Like Conservative member of Parliament Enoch Powell in Great Britain in the late 1960s, President Trump figured out that there was good advantage to proposing to shut down illegal and legal immigration of non-Europeans, especially Mexicans on our southern border and Muslim’s fleeing revolutions and war in the Middle East. That too is something the President’s instructors at New York Military Academy might have taught him.

President Trump has also declaimed our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq because the mission in those countries changed from defense against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction to nation-building. And President Trump believes that “free trade” policies have gone too far and it is necessary to correct trade imbalances with higher tariffs.

All these attitudes proved attractive and contributed to his election, but they were over the heads of the Generals and Admirals he thought he respected. There is only so much turmoil that an electorate in democracies can take, however, and “things” are now beginning to fall apart. I doubt the philosophy the young Cadet picked up at New York Military Academy is sufficient to put “things” back together.


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