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When Many Generals are “Too Many”

July 5, 2020

The National Security Act of 1947 that created the U.S Department of Defense also made it a requirement that only civilians could lead that Department. Service agencies were also required to be led by civilians.

Gradually, however, the appointment of former Generals and Admirals came into prominence.  Here is a list.

Ronald Reagan:       Gen. Al Haig, Secretary of State

Gen. Colin Powell, National Security Council

Bush 41                     Gen. Brent Scowcroft, National Security Advisor

Bush 43:                    Gen. Colin Powell, Secretary of State

Barack Obama:        Gen. Eric Shinseki, Veterans Affairs

The damn burst with the election of President Donald Trump who did not serve in the U.S. military, but has demonstrated a loyalty to, and fondness for, former General and Flag Officers.  Some point to President Trump’s education at New York Military Academy, where his parents sent him when they felt he needed to acquire discipline.

Donald Trump’s affection for high rank military, acquired as a 17-year old Cadet, is visible in this list of Trump Administration appointees:

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

Gen. Gustave Perna, CEO, Operation “Warp Speed”

Add to this list, Mike Pompeo, a West Point graduate who finished first in his graduating class, and attained the rank of Captain in ten years of military service from 1986-1991.

Due to his Dyslexia, Donald Trump doesn’t read books, nor, apparently, daily Intelligence Reports. This is important because our traditional Constitutional order is challenged when acts of terror, domestic and foreign, call for a military response. Bush 43 empowered a “war faction” in the President’s Party, typified by the appointment Michael Gerson and John Bolton as National Security Advisor by President Trump. That appointment and the many career military in the Trump Administration places President Trump’s desire to avoid war in the company of many top appointees trained to fight wars.

It’s clear, President Trump lacks appreciation of the limits that the Constitution of the United States places on the Executive Branch. Lacking in the governance of his Office is any understanding of the long history of civilian control of the American government that began after our War of Independence in resistance to a standing Army. Americans who had fought the British Army were in no mood to fight an American Army.

When President Trump sends in troops to deter protests and uses the military salute at ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, appoints dozens of Generals and Admirals to top civilian posts and expresses unlimited confidence in the powers of “the State,” we must fear that when President Trump leaves office, the Republican Party “brand” of limited government will be so battered and defenseless that it no longer will no longer attract leaders able and willing to deter the United States of America from domination by the Administrative State.

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