Seven months after leaving office, the legacy of Hurricane Trump continues to spew second-rate sewage on America.
Consider the recent revelations about General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is now embroiled in his own controversy. Details are obscure, but according to Danger, Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s new book, Milley violated his authority by assuring his Chinese counterpart that the United States would not attack them. “If it is true,” tweeted Alexander Vindman, who was a key witness in Trump’s first impeachment trial, “GEN Milley must step down. He usurped civil authority, severed the chain of command and violated the sacrosanct principle of civilian control over the military. It is an extremely dangerous precedent. You can’t just walk away from it. “
Vindman, the former director of European affairs for the United States National Security Council, is right. America’s founders were so fearful of military coups that they insisted on civilian control of the military and were even suspicious of standing armies. But let’s be honest: the outrage over Milley is tempered by the feeling that Someone had to be ready in case Trump attempted a coup or decided to press the nuclear button on his way out.
It’s not even the first time Milley has been portrayed as the man standing in the gap. A few months ago, yet another ‘revealing’ book from 2020 from Washington post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker claimed that when an old friend warned Milley that Trump could attempt his own coup, the general replied, “They can try, but they are not going to succeed. You can’t do this without the military. You can’t do it without the CIA and the FBI. We’re the guys with the guns.
I remember thinking back then how happy I was that Milley was there to stop Trump, just in case. We want it on this wall. We NEED him on this wall!
But my sense of relief was tempered by warning bells. To paraphrase roughly the old government speech, a general which is strong enough to save you is also large enough to take everything you have. Or, as Daily Beast columnist Wajahat Ali so eloquently notes, “whether our future choices boil down to a ‘right-wing coup’ or a ‘military coup to prevent a right-wing coup’ “, We’re screwed. “
Indeed. Milley’s alleged conduct is viewed in the context of authoritarian tendencies and Trump’s insane presidency, which in fact resulted in an insurgency on the United States Capitol the clear purpose of which was to disrupt or halt the certification of a election.
“When you try to stop him, in a way, you become as bad (and as dangerous) as him.“
However, this situation is complicated by Milley’s role as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: as such, he was specifically tasked with being an adviser to the president. Yet if Trump had gone further with his Big Lie, would we rather have Milley entrusted to him to preserve the civilian power of the military than to preserve a fair democratic election? When would the military stop following Trump’s orders? Noon on January 21?
Speaking of the insurgency, many of us have pointed out that if you really believed the election was stolen by Joe Biden, so storming the Capitol was not an entirely irrational act.
Based on that same logic, if you thought that Trump was putting America at serious risk (either by attempting a coup or by gaining access to nuclear weapons despite his erratic behavior), and you were able to do something, what would be the right thing to do? Should you have followed protocol, or should you have done what you felt you had to do for the good of the republic? (The old Brutus riddle!)
As well-intentioned as it is, Milley’s reported behavior constitutes a violation of both his legal authority and standards, but the fact that I am still grappling with this ethical conundrum shows how well Trump’s presidency was and continues to be. to be dangerous. When the most powerful man in the world does the unthinkable, you can either let him push you around or break your own standards to try and stop him.
And when you try to stop him, in a way, you become as bad (and as dangerous) as him. In this regard, Trump has not only tarnished the Presidency or the GOP, he has compromised many of our democratic institutions and the professional political and military class.
Essentially, Trump started an arms race that changed the way the media covers politicians (many have chosen to ape Trump and his style) and the way Democrats do politics (many have chosen to ape Trump and his style). style – arguing that they must also break their own standards). It also had an impact on the FBI (see Peter Strzok and Lisa Page) and, yes, the way high-ranking military leaders like Milley behave. For all of these institutions, Trump forced a choice between escalation and subjugation. And for anyone looking for an excuse to break the rules, he created an authorization structure that wasn’t just streamlined as acceptable, but heroic.
Never mind that most instances of non-compliance were ostensibly made on the premise that it was necessary to arrest Trump. Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it is difficult to put it back in place.
As such, Trump has not only created a case study for potential future politicians who want to usurp power, he has created an authorization structure that allows other stakeholders to operate outside the lines – as long as their cause is virtuous, of course. (And, of course, who decides if the cause is righteous?) It’s hard to say where this might end.
I admitted to being sympathetic to Milley’s plight, but I wonder if Joe Biden could have helped send a message by firing him. Instead, Biden expressed “great confidence” in him.
It goes without saying that the American people shouldn’t leave Trump within a hundred miles of the White House, again, but this is just the start. To break this cycle, it will take some truly remarkable people to show tolerance.
It is too early to tell if the storm will pass and the waters will recede. But one thing’s for sure: it’s a Trump-made shit storm.