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Trump and the Military: Part 2

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Under President Barack Obama, and President Bush before him, America's admirals and generals have utterly failed to prepare us to fight adversaries such as Russia and China.


The worst kept secret in the Pentagon is that the U.S. military may well lose a war to China. In scenario after scenario, war game after war game, our military keeps losing.

Why? Because for decades, America's admirals and generals have invested trillions of taxpayer dollars in legacy military systems that made admirals and generals feel good (manned fighter aircraft, aircraft carriers) but made us increasingly vulnerable to competitors, namely China and Russia.

The U.S. Navy is right now a floating and extraordinarily expensive disaster waiting to happen. The Pentagon tied itself in knots over the firing of Captain Crozier and his leadership during the coronavirus crisis.

Imagine the outrage when the American public learns that our vaunted aircraft carriers will have to turn tail and run at any sign of a serious threat from China. Why? Because Chinese missiles are capable of sending our carriers to the bottom of the ocean, while the U.S. military has failed to keep a strategic advantage in missile or anti-missile technology.

Donald Trump campaigned against the swamp, and he was right to do so.

Nowhere has the swamp made us weaker than when it comes to the U.S. military. The swamp -- Congress, ex-congressmen who are lobbyists, defense companies and the ex-admirals and generals who now profit at defense companies -- all get rich.


America, meanwhile, loses its strategic advantage. Americans should know: The U.S. Navy might lose to the Chinese in the South China Sea. The U.S. Army could lose to Russia in Europe. America's military advantage has been extinguished by the same class of failed military leaders who failed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Trump could have, and should have, been the president to end America's misadventures and take on the swamp in Washington. Instead, he has allowed his ego and moments of self-indulgence to distract from the important mission of keeping America safe.

Trump received five deferments to avoid fighting in Vietnam. He never served one day in the military. He was in no position to disrespect people who served.

Nevertheless, his presidential campaign was notable for its blatant disrespect of John McCain's time as a POW, and his disrespect for a gold star family who spoke against his travel ban.

Once he became president, Trump called a group of admirals and generals who were briefing him at the Pentagon "dopes and babies." Early in his presidency, he was surrounded by generals who agreed to serve under him such as General John Kelly, H.R. McMaster and James Mattis. All of those men have left the Trump administration, and not one of them retains a good relationship with the president. Mattis, Trump's former secretary of defense, has criticized the president vocally. Recently, dozens of retired admirals and generals have come out as critical of the current commander in chief.


The shame of all of this is that on matters of policy, war and draining the swamp, Trump has been right, and the admirals and generals have been wrong. Yet, Trump's style, which seems to reduce every conflict to a conflict of personality, has shrunk the power of his presidency.

Perhaps, above all, Trump's leadership style runs exactly to counter the U.S. military's culture of service. In the military, leaders are taught to put their soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines first. For all his gifts and abilities, Trump is very clearly a leader who thinks of himself first and whose ego often seems to be in charge of American policy.

In this regard, as in so many others, Trump has been his own worst enemy. The American people and the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who serve this country need a commander in chief who is willing to call out the failed leadership of our military leaders. Trump could be that champion -- if only he would put someone else first.

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