Posted by Curt on 9 December, 2016 at 6:11 pm. 1 comment.


David French:

We’ve reached an odd point in American political discourse when a civilian president-elect can appoint three civilian former members of the military to key positions in his administration (with his cabinet appointees being confirmed by a civilian Senate) and mainstream journalists fret about whether Donald Trump is forming a “junta.”

Yet that actually happened yesterday, when Politico’s Julia Ioffe tweeted: “Three generals and maybe a fourth. Can we just cut to the chase and call ourselves a junta?” The New Yorker’s Nicholas Thompson mused on Twitter: “How many generals do you need in government before you technically become a junta?” Then, last night the Washington Post picked up on the theme, writing an article titled “Trump Hires a Third General, Raising Concerns about Heavy Military Influence.”

Trump has tapped retired general Michael Flynn to be his national-security adviser, James Mattis to be secretary of defense, and now John Kelly to run the Department of Homeland Security. These choices are causing “worries” at the Post:

Trump’s choice of Kelly — and his continued deliberations about tapping as many as two more military figures for other posts — has intensified worries among some members of Congress and national-security experts that the new administration’s policies may be shaped disproportionately by military commanders.

Trump should ignore these concerns. With the possible exception of Michael Flynn (who has made a number of erratic statements since he retired, although he has a formidable service record), his selections are the right political, operational, and strategic choices.

How can the most disliked and most distrusted president-elect in American history signal that he’s competent and capable of leading the nation? By appointing people from the nation’s most trusted institution to important positions. We can’t forget that in an era when trust for government and other civic institutions is plunging, the military has retained strong public support.

And it has that support for a reason. In 15 years of war since 9/11, the military has consistently fought with honor, courage, and excellence. The best military in the world isn’t built by accident, nor is it maintained through negligence. The generals who are responsible for some of the military’s greatest recent successes — whether it’s the brilliant push to Baghdad in the 2003 Iraq invasion or the intelligence innovations that empowered the deadliest aspects of the Surge — have proven that they’re worthy of respect. And in polarized times, respect is a precious commodity.

But the choices are wise for reasons beyond public support, however well earned. Most Americans can’t possibly understand the immense challenge of leading large formations in the modern military. A general is a warfighter, yes, but he’s also a human-resources officer, a procurements expert, and a manager. A general is accustomed to dealing with bloated bureaucracies and making them bend to his will. The military has an extremely sharp and deadly spear, but behind that small tip is a bureaucracy so unwieldy that it can make you weep with frustration. No general has been capable of stripping down that bureaucracy — no person has proven that powerful — but the best generals can at least shape it, command it, and accomplish the mission.

Selecting retired generals for key national-security posts is a key signal that Trump is shunning a law-enforcement approach to the war on terror. For the time being, the longstanding debate about whether terrorism is primarily a police challenge (like fighting a Mafia on steroids) or a military challenge is over. And that’s very welcome news. Jihadists present a military-scale challenge to American lives and treasure, and we must counter that with a consistent military-scale response.

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