The fate of our nation—perhaps the fate of our very lives–may now be in the hands of a few good (military) men.
Should we rejoice? Probably not. But we should be thankful–thankful the non-military, non-serving individual occupying the office of the President is surrounded by military men, dedicated first to the flag and Constitution of the nation.
The main flaw in the above argument is, of course, the occupant of the office of Chief Executive (with power as Commander-in-Chief), Donald J. Trump. His background does not include military service. It is that of businessman and television personality. He did not serve in the military (multiple deferments for “bone spurs”). He claimed his own “personal Vietnam” was being sexually promiscuous without contracting venereal disease. He attended military high school, but the study of military history doesn’t show. (He once asked: “what’s so wrong with nuclear war?”) Not enough? Trump brags he would have charged into Stoneman Douglas High without any gun at all, to take out the shooter!
Trump’s source of power comes from Article II of the U.S. Constitution and from a tradition of civilian control over the military. Let us hope it remains. It comes also from his certified (though controversial) acquisition of formal power as President. He is dogged by the perception that Russian elements, aiding his campaign, fomented enough discord to distort a few key final voting tallies.
Traditions matter but traditions change. Could it be the historic “civilian over military” concept treasured by Americans is changing, ever so slightly? The military in a few other cases, even in countries (think, Latin America) with a history of unwise intervention into civilian affairs, have been able to play positive roles (e.g., infrastructure builders). Theoretically possible, but such a dramatic re-vamping of the role of the military in the U.S. is unlikely (and would cost large sums).
But, certainly, the U.S. military could expand on some positive roles (e.g., via a drastically re-directed Corps of Engineers). The key, as I see it, from my own experience as an officer in the U.S. Army (Infantry and Intelligence), hopefully would be the dedication to the Constitution instilled during training. Another welcome change might begin with a law requiring all young men and women to spend at least one year in national service. There should be choices of military, educational, health, or Peace Corps/VISTA type positions. A greater sense of national pride would emerge, as well as improvements to social and physical landscape, akin to the New Deal (e.g.,W.P.A.) of President Franklin Roosevelt.
Meanwhile, before such a sea change in policies and attitudes, what can be done to save us from the present saber-rattling administration (e.g., threats of nuclear war with North Korea, giant military parades)? I think (but, alas, can’t prove) high ranking military officers around Trump would help to defuse his hot-headed intentions. Surely, they would not join in pushing the nuclear “football” button. They have their personal flaws, but should be, in the crucial moments, more protective of their oath, rather than loyal to Trump. Here are some who might qualify:
1) Trump’s current National Security Adviser, General H. R. McMaster (Marines). He began service at Ft. Hood, as I did. He was a Military History Professor at West Point. He understands the dangers posed by Russian interference with U.S. campaigns and elections. He cannot hold back reckless decisions alone (in fact, could be fired at any time) but gives courage to those who would resist Trump’s callous disregard of tradition and sanity.
2) Brigadier General John Kelly, current Chief of Staff in the White House. He was declared “architect of the future U.S. Army” by Lt. General Dave Damo (Afghanistan veteran). He has had difficulties fulfilling his duties and expectations under Trump. Nepotism abounds, including daughter and son-in-law of Trump, serving for over a year without adequate security clearance. He has not been able to stop Trump’s “tweet-storms,” but Kelly has, at least, been able to rid the White House of one of the more obvious and odious white nationalists (Bannon).
3) Last but not least, Robert Mueller, Director of the FBI from 2001 to 2003. He was named “Special Counsel” to investigate Russian interference with the U.S. 2016 campaign and elections. As a Marine officer he served “with distinction” in Vietnam, receiving the Purple Heart, among other awards. Later, he spearheaded prosecution of Panamanian dictator, Manuel Noriega. He led investigations into the Lockerbie bombing case and founded the first cyber-dedicated unit of the FBI.
A Republican, Mueller was appointed Acting Deputy Attorney General under George W. Bush. He continues his mandate to investigate past cyber incursions by Russia. He endeavors to prevent further “meddling” in the current election cycle and in 2020. He, too, might be fired by Trump. But if and when that occurs, a major constitutional crisis would be upon us, greater than Reagan’s Iran/Contra scandal, greater than Watergate. If his investigation gets closer and he demands Trump’s tax records, it may be that Trump will resign, rather than hand over such incriminating evidence.
To those who despair (I am trying to reassure myself as well as friends, family, reading public), I say “hold on.” This time we may, partially, be saved by a “man on horse-back,” by one or more strong-willed, constitutionally dedicated military men. I trust they may see themselves in this way, as bulwarks against the tyranny, nepotism and kleptocracy threatening our society.
I hope they hear our pleas to save us. We seem to have no other responsible saviors (or few willing to try) among sycophant Republicans in the U.S. Congress. The traditional “balance-of-power” is out of tilt. The minority party is helpless. (Things could change in November 2018.) Some citizens seem “woke.” Indeed, wonderfully, youth (Parkland and elsewhere) are very “woke.” Puerto Ricans who moved to Florida (after Trump trashed them, tossed them paper towels after the floods) might register and vote against Republicans.
But my lament is full of “might” and “if,” “if,” “if.” Even should some of those “ifs” come true, I worry it won’t be in time. We implore those who do have some power—military men, if and when they be dedicated first to the U.S. Constitution, to our way of life, to use that power to circumvent custom. Speaking directly to them, if I may: You did not take an oath to Trump, but to our Constitution, our government and society. It might be, one day, you must even disobey, if need be, any illegal and immoral directive Trump might issue. You must ride in, in time, to save the Republic. The fate of our society may rest in your hands.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column shows Brigadier General John Kelly and General H. R. McMaster.