What’s more, not only is Trump President, there’s still a chain of command and he’s still the top of it. Oh, and the Secretary of Defense is senior to the Secretary of the Navy in the chain of command.
This seems to be a point of confusion among many. Historically, people should recall — except, apparently history isn’t a big topic in schools these days — that during the Korean War, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur commented to the press that Truman’s restrictions on operations beyond the Yalu River, and thus beyond North Korea and in Mao’s China, were “an enormous handicap, unprecedented in military history.”
I bow to practically everyone in my admiration for Douglas “Move over God, it’s Mac” MacArthur, although he did make a decent Shogun in Japan during the Occupation. But this time I think he had a point: without being able to cross the Yalu, American forces were severely hindered in being able to interfere with the Red Chinese logistics that were keeping North Korea alive.
The other side of that is that bringing Red China overtly into the war, and through them, Russia, would have probably prolonged the war, and we’d only been out of the last World War for six years. So Truman’s side had its reasons.
The real issue, though, was that MacArthur was publicly disputing President Truman’s — a.k.a. the commander in chief’s — policy. MacArthur’s mastery of his relationship with the press had made him feel untouchable, apparently, but Harry Truman touched him anyway and relieved MacArthur of his command.
Which is the way it works, apparently to the Permanent Praetorian Press Party’s dismay.
This little historical lecture is prompted by the news that Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer had proposed to President Trump that he would ensure that CPO Edward Gallagher could retire with his SEAL Trident if Trump would allow the board to meet, even though it would almost certainly rule Gallagher should lose it.
Now, just in passing, this implies that Spencer really does think Trump is an idiot: should the board meet, recommend removing Gallagher from the SEALs, and then be countermanded by Trump, it would guarantee that there would be another week of political backbiting, and Spencer thought Trump would fall for it.
Maybe even more to the point, however, is that Spencer did it over the head of the Secretary of Defense.
Apparently, Trump’s response was “I said no,” after which the SecDef told Spencer that he’d lost confidence and that clearing his desk was the appropriate next step.
Honestly, I haven’t followed the Gallagher case closely, other than to note that he was found innocent by court-martial of everything but a minor offense. My conversations with EMs and NCOs suggest to me that Trump’s actions were popular with them, and not with people in the C-ring in the Pentagon, but I’ll leave that discussion to people who actually know more about it.
The thing is, I think this is of a piece with the impeachment inquisition, with “I am a Lieutenant Colonel” Vindman, with Fiona Hill, with
Eric Ciaramella, with “Anonymous” of the famous op-ed and book, with Chuck Schumer and Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi. It’s the presumption that if what you order is “inconsistent with the consensus views of the interagency,” that it’s therefore illegitimate.
Which is far more dangerous than anything Trump is trying to do: it’s an assertion that elections be damned, the Permanent Bureaucracy is in charge.
Whatever the truth is about CPO Gallagher, that’s a much greater risk to “good order and discipline” than a Trident.