Celeste Ward Gventer

Associate Editor

Author's Articles

Policy Roundtable: Civil-Military Relations Now and Tomorrow

Policy Roundtable: Civil-Military Relations Now and Tomorrow

Given the number of current and former generals who have been appointed to the Trump administration, TNSR asked a group of experts to share their thoughts on the impact this is having on civil-military relations in America.

Book Review Roundtable: Has the Presidency Become Impossible to Manage?

Book Review Roundtable: Has the Presidency Become Impossible to Manage?

In his latest book, "The Impossible Presidency," Jeremi Suri looks at the history of the presidency and asks whether it is still possible for a president to succeed. We've gathered six scholars and policymakers to weigh in.

WP_Query Object
(
    [query] => Array
        (
            [author_name] => celese-ward-gventer
        )

    [query_vars] => Array
        (
            [author_name] => 
            [error] => 
            [m] => 
            [p] => 0
            [post_parent] => 
            [subpost] => 
            [subpost_id] => 
            [attachment] => 
            [attachment_id] => 0
            [name] => 
            [static] => 
            [pagename] => 
            [page_id] => 0
            [second] => 
            [minute] => 
            [hour] => 
            [day] => 0
            [monthnum] => 0
            [year] => 0
            [w] => 0
            [category_name] => 
            [tag] => 
            [cat] => 
            [tag_id] => 
            [author] => 
            [feed] => 
            [tb] => 
            [paged] => 0
            [meta_key] => tnsr_author
            [meta_value] => 
            [preview] => 
            [s] => 
            [sentence] => 
            [title] => 
            [fields] => 
            [menu_order] => 
            [embed] => 
            [category__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_name__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_type] => Array
                (
                    [0] => post
                    [1] => roundtable
                )

            [tnsr_author] => 23
            [ignore_sticky_posts] => 
            [suppress_filters] => 
            [cache_results] => 
            [update_post_term_cache] => 1
            [lazy_load_term_meta] => 1
            [update_post_meta_cache] => 1
            [posts_per_page] => 10
            [nopaging] => 
            [comments_per_page] => 50
            [no_found_rows] => 
            [order] => DESC
        )

    [tax_query] => WP_Tax_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                )

            [relation] => AND
            [table_aliases:protected] => Array
                (
                )

            [queried_terms] => Array
                (
                )

            [primary_table] => wp_posts
            [primary_id_column] => ID
        )

    [meta_query] => WP_Meta_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                    [0] => Array
                        (
                            [key] => tnsr_author
                        )

                    [relation] => OR
                )

            [relation] => AND
            [meta_table] => wp_postmeta
            [meta_id_column] => post_id
            [primary_table] => wp_posts
            [primary_id_column] => ID
            [table_aliases:protected] => Array
                (
                    [0] => wp_postmeta
                )

            [clauses:protected] => Array
                (
                    [wp_postmeta] => Array
                        (
                            [key] => tnsr_author
                            [compare] => =
                            [alias] => wp_postmeta
                            [cast] => CHAR
                        )

                )

            [has_or_relation:protected] => 
        )

    [date_query] => 
    [queried_object] => WP_User Object
        (
            [data] => stdClass Object
                (
                    [ID] => 23
                    [user_login] => Celese Ward Gventer
                    [user_pass] => $P$Bf68XSYeRLKqcRBjRbw3DLllsufrTE0
                    [user_nicename] => celese-ward-gventer
                    [user_email] => bbb@tnsr.org
                    [user_url] => 
                    [user_registered] => 2017-10-22 20:47:20
                    [user_activation_key] => 
                    [user_status] => 0
                    [display_name] => Celeste Ward Gventer
                )

            [ID] => 23
            [caps] => Array
                (
                    [contributor] => 1
                )

            [cap_key] => wp_capabilities
            [roles] => Array
                (
                    [0] => contributor
                )

            [allcaps] => Array
                (
                    [edit_posts] => 1
                    [read] => 1
                    [level_1] => 1
                    [level_0] => 1
                    [delete_posts] => 1
                    [contributor] => 1
                )

            [filter] => 
            [site_id:WP_User:private] => 1
        )

    [queried_object_id] => 23
    [request] => SELECT SQL_CALC_FOUND_ROWS  wp_posts.ID FROM wp_posts  INNER JOIN wp_postmeta ON ( wp_posts.ID = wp_postmeta.post_id ) WHERE 1=1  AND ( 
  1=1
) AND wp_posts.post_type IN ('post', 'roundtable') AND (wp_posts.post_status = 'publish' OR wp_posts.post_status = 'acf-disabled') AND ( (wp_posts.post_author = 23) OR (( wp_postmeta.meta_key LIKE 'authors%author' ) AND ( wp_postmeta.meta_value = 23 )) )  GROUP BY wp_posts.ID ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC LIMIT 0, 10
    [posts] => Array
        (
            [0] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 539
                    [post_author] => 23
                    [post_date] => 2018-03-27 14:21:36
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-27 18:21:36
                    [post_content] => 

1. Introduction: Civil-Military Relations in the Age of Trump

By Celeste Ward Gventer Intellectual absorption in what is immediately before us, even among historians, is nearly unavoidable. This is not just an American or even a twenty-first century phenomenon. As Adam Gopnik explains in a recent New Yorker piece about the surprising decline of crime in America’s big cities over the last few decades, “in 1858, the pundits and politicians in Britain were obsessing over the British government’s takeover of India from the East India Company and the intentions of Napoleon III, yet the really big thing was the construction … of a sewer system to protect London from its own waste … making cholera epidemics … a thing of the distant past.”[1] As he explains, “Big events go by unseen while we sweat the smaller stuff; things happen underground while we watch the boulevard parades.”[2] And so it is, one suspects, with civil-military relations in America. Snapshots in time are just that — and surface-level events can change quickly. The Trump Administration certainly offers numerous targets of this kind that clamor for one’s immediate attention. The 45th president appointed a recently retired Marine general — James Mattis — as his Secretary of Defense, so close to his removal of the uniform that the legal seven-year “cooling off” period had to be waived by Congress. Another retired marine, John Kelly, became Secretary of Homeland Security, and then White House Chief of Staff. Retired Army general Michael Flynn was appointed national security advisor, only to be quickly replaced by active duty Army general, H.R. McMaster. The president, with no record of foreign policy or public service, seems to thrill at being flanked by “his” generals. Meanwhile, inside the Pentagon, senior civilian positions long went unfilled, while the community rumor held that the uniformed Joint Staff was doing most of the work in “the Building.” These all seemed to be worrying signs that “civilian control” was or is being maintained by the thinnest of margins.[3] Meanwhile, as of this writing, McMaster has left the White House and will reportedly be replaced by a civilian, former Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton. Despite the fact that we are now down one general, it is safe to say that the Trump Administration has given civil-military relations scholars (among others) plenty to worry about. Beyond the staffing issues, there is the unsettling way that Trump talks about his senior military appointees like a gunslinger would the glinting revolvers in his belt holsters. He refers to “my generals” in the same way he does his wife, Melania, as “my supermodel,” as Suzanne Garment pointed out a few months ago.[4] One gets the troubling impression that “the generals” are serving as ornaments, walking symbols of the president’s newfound status as Master of All He Surveys — and reminders that he controls the world’s most potent military and nuclear arsenal. Garment points out that, “Trump regularly asserts that he hired the generals partly because they look the part… nobody is more indubitably alpha male than a general.”[5] Indeed, the president is going to put the trappings of American military might on full display in the nation’s capital this fall, giving the American people a literal “boulevard parade” to watch.[6] If Trump’s firm-handshake adversary, President Emmanuel Macron of France, can roll out the heavy armor onto the streets of Paris on Bastille Day, wait till the world gets a load of America’s equipment.[7] Yet, despite the administration’s seemingly limitless disregard for established norms, making every day Christmas for the cable news channels, it is unclear how lasting are the dynamics associated with Trump’s civil-military arrangements, such as they are. As Suzanne Nielsen and Don Snider point out, “… understanding of U.S. civil-military relations might be distorted by the often narrow focus of the mass media. Rumors of disagreements within the Pentagon, or between the Pentagon and the White House or the Congress, are too often presented as if they were the whole substance of civil-military relations.”[8] They argue that one must look instead at the core “interdependent relationships,” lest we neglect “other dynamics that are more significant or that have long-term ramifications.”[9] In other words, it would be easy to get distracted by the day-to-day, the public brawls, personal takedowns, and court gossip —particularly in this administration — and draw broad conclusions about civil-military relations based on them. But what captures our focus today may not, in fact, be the trends that matter most over the long term. Identifying the Long-Term Effects Texas National Security Review has assembled an outstanding group of civil-military relations experts — Jessica Blankshain, Raphael Cohen, Lindsay Cohn, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Paul Eaton, and Lauren Fish — to illuminate the civil-military issues presented by the Trump Administration and to consider the long-term effects they could have. All of our contributors concede that, only one year into the Trump administration, it is only possible to conclude so much. Yet they also note that, over the last several decades, broader pathologies in American society have developed that may well be leading the nation down the very paths feared by some of the architects of “the national security state” created after the second world war.[10] As Cohen and Blankshain point out, although military officers (active and retired) serving in senior positions is not a new phenomenon, it does tend to be the exception. Even when military officers have served, for example, as national security advisors — Colin Powell and John Poindexter, for example — they were the rare uniform amongst a mostly civilian cabinet and staff. Both Eaton and Fish express concern about the apparent lack of diversity of opinion in the administration. Eaton questions whether three decades of a military career is, in fact, adequate preparation for the full range of foreign policy questions a national security advisor, a White House chief of staff, and even a secretary of defense, may confront. And not only are civilian experts rarer in this administration than is typically the case, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, is also a marine, enjoying decades of association with both Mattis and Kelly. Eaton notes that the Marines are a “small family,” and that having three men (four if you include the Commandant of the Marine Corps, one of the Joint Chiefs) with such similar backgrounds may not offer the president a full range of perspectives on policy choices. The appointment of so many marines also raises questions about service parochialism, or at least the appearance thereof, in the Pentagon. Gone are the days, to say the least, when the Marine Corps feared for its very existence.[11] Civil-military relations experts and observers have noted these issues with concern. Yet, despite all this bending of generally accepted practices, many of them felt some relief that the individuals in question — especially Mattis and McMaster — are true professionals who know what they are doing. If we are going to have a recently retired officer in the E-Ring of the Pentagon, and an active duty one at the White House, the logic went (at least before McMaster exited stage left), the nation could do a lot worse than these two. But, as Cohn points out, perhaps it is precisely that feeling of relief that should give us pause. Shouldn’t it trouble us that we are collectively relying on the nation’s military officers to “save” us from an unpredictable commander in chief? Mehdi Hasan expressed a similar concern last September when he wrote:
This feels like the birth of a militarised presidency. The Associated Press revealed in August that Mattis and Kelly have privately agreed “that one of them should remain in the United States at all times to keep tabs on the orders rapidly emerging from the White House”. Neither Mattis nor Kelly were elected. So what gives them the right to “keep tabs” on an elected president in this way? And what kind of precedent does this set?[12]
For Cohn and Cohen, the apparent willingness of Americans to put their fate in the hands of the military is the heart of the problem. Both authors note the catastrophic decline in confidence in most U.S. institutions in recent years. The military stands alone in its command of the public’s trust — whether compared to the president, the Congress, the Supreme Court, or even business. Cohn and Cohen also see politicians exploiting the public veneration of the military to avoid debating tough issues. More insidious, Cohn notes that some of the nation’s elected leaders seem to imply that only military members deserve respect, health care, and a living wage. Fish, Cohn, and Cohen all recall with chagrin the suggestion by the president’s spokesperson, Sarah Sanders, that arguing with a four-star general (referring to Kelly) would be “inappropriate.”[13] In Whom Do the People Place Their Trust? Indeed, what unites the essays in this roundtable and should be the real source of scholarly and public concern is less the constant spectacle that is the Trump Administration (including the presence of so many generals in his government — good, bad, or otherwise) than the simultaneous loss of public confidence in other institutions and the seemingly mindless reverence for the military. Scholars Roberto Stefan Foa and Yascha Mounk demonstrated in a dispiriting 2016 article that, “(i)n the past three decades, the share of U.S. citizens who think that it would be a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ thing for the ‘army to rule’…has steadily risen. In 1995, just one in sixteen respondents agreed with that position; today, one in six agree.”[14] In some ways, then, the Trump Administration’s lineup makes all the sense in the world. The president is simply doing with “his” generals what he does with so many other issues — playing to the crowd and exploiting the worst instincts of certain segments of the American public. In one of his Letters from America, the famed British journalist and documentarian Alistair Cooke wrote in 1969 about the state of the country, not least the crime and violence problem, and how the American middle class was beginning to respond:
In desperate times, the meekest people show alarming symptoms of defiance. And, in the early races for the autumn elections, I notice that policemen are being elected as the mayors of cities. It should not yet give us cause to splutter … However, it doesn’t seem to me a good thing that the middle class, weary of violence and mockery as it may be, should turn to policemen as rulers, any more than that we should turn the government of the military over to the military …[15]
Are these desperate times? No one really knows why crime declined so precipitously in American cities over the course of a few decades. Most of the attributed causes of the problem went unsolved, yet crime went down anyway. For all of the social science theorizing about the pathologies that led to rampant lawlessness, and the corresponding prescriptions for treating that disease, “the lesson of wise public works,” Gopnik concludes, “is not, truth be told, always about the benefits of foundational analysis or fundamental change.” Instead, it is a “story … about the wisdom of single steps and small sanities.” If that prescription holds here, it is not clear which single steps or small sanities might right the state of American civil-military relations. We have gotten where we are over a long period of time and there do not appear to be deep wells of wisdom on this issue among the nation’s leaders, in the White House, on Capitol Hill, or anywhere else. In any case, like the construction of the London sewer system in the 19th century, the future of our civil-military relations may well be determined by events that are flying below the news cycle radar. Nevertheless, as our authors suggest, even if it is not yet time to splutter, some unhealthy trends are becoming increasingly visible to those who are looking.[16]   Celeste Ward Gventer is an Associate Editor of the Texas National Security Review, a National Security Fellow at the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas, and an adjunct analyst for the RAND Corporation. She currently consults widely with governments in Europe and the Middle East on defense organization and reform and is based in Amberg, Germany. As a Ph.D. student in history at the University of Texas, she is writing a dissertation on Eisenhower’s 1953 and 1958 Department of Defense reforms, inter-service rivalry, and the New Look strategy. She was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush Administration and served two tours in Iraq as a civilian. In mid-April 2018 she will launch a new entrepreneurial venture, Grant Patton (www.grantpatton.com), which will produce and sell elegant, military-themed accessories, beginning with men’s ties.

2. Trump’s Generals: Mattis, McMaster, and Kelly

By Jessica Blankshain In the weeks and months leading up to President Donald Trump’s inauguration, many national security analysts — both academics and practitioners — expressed concern over the number of retired general officers the new president planned to appoint to senior positions.[17] Trump’s original appointees included retired Marine four-star James Mattis as secretary of defense, retired Marine four-star John Kelly as secretary of homeland security, and retired Army three-star Michael Flynn as national security advisor. Of primary concern was that having so many senior individuals with close ties to the military would undermine civilian control (or at the very least, perceptions of civilian control). More specifically, many feared that the prominence of military voices around a president inexperienced in foreign affairs and the armed forces would lead to a further militarization of U.S. foreign policy.[18] These concerns were revived when, a month into the new administration, Trump appointed Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, an active-duty Army officer, to replace Flynn as national security advisor.[19] In July 2017, when the president moved Kelly from the Department of Homeland Security to a traditionally more political role as White House chief of staff, the conversation broadened to more explicitly include the risks of politicizing the military.[20] These fears, however, were balanced by hope that seasoned national security professionals like Mattis, McMaster, and Kelly would be the “grown-ups in the room,” steering the new, inexperienced president toward better decisions and bringing stability to an erratic and impulsive administration.[21] These appointment-related concerns about civil-military relations in the era of Trump can be grouped into two broad categories: concerns related to policymaking within government, and those about the relationship between the military and the society it serves. The perceived risk to policymaking is that Trump’s appointment of, and deference to, senior officials with strong, recent ties to the military would give the military too much influence in foreign policy, harming perceptions of civilian control. This strand of concerns has both a relational component — the prospect of normalizing the privileging of military over civilian views — and a policy content component — a further “militarization” of American foreign policy. Militarization, in this context, does not necessarily mean starting more wars, or using military force more often. Evidence suggests that in general, those with military experience are less likely to want to initiate conflict, but are more likely to use overwhelming force once a conflict has started.[22] Rather, it reflects a concern that the military perspective will dominate a wide range of foreign policy decisions to the exclusion of alternative perspectives, or that every issue will become a problem for the military to solve, whether that is through traditional use of force or not.[23] The other area of apprehension — the relationship between the military and society — centers on the risk that Trump’s use of the military as a political prop would drag it into the political arena, harming its respected status with the American public. Normalizing the use of those connected to the military as political actors risks creating an environment where criticism of the military is completely off limits for some segments of society, while trust in the military is equally as unthinkable in others.[24] Just over one year into the Trump administration, what evidence have observers seen to support or refute these concerns? It is too early for definitive answers, but the evidence thus far suggests that the disquiet over both sets of issues was well-founded. Trump’s generals, as he likes to call them, do seem to be extremely influential in policymaking, and the administration has done little to distance these senior officials from their military backgrounds. Some observers have suggested that the generals have been a moderating influence on the president, steering Trump toward better foreign policy decisions.[25] In a previous Texas National Security Review roundtable, Emma Ashford and Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson argue that the Trump administration’s first year, including its first National Security Strategy (NSS), was far more in keeping with status-quo American foreign policy than the president’s rhetoric would have suggested.[26] But if this is true, it suggests that civilian control may in fact be eroding, at least insofar as enacted policy and strategic documents have been inconsistent with the stated political preferences of the president. Since active or former military officers were so instrumental in policymaking, including the drafting of the NSS, it appears that it is their preferred policies that won the day. Meanwhile, evidence of politicization of the military abounds, although it is difficult to measure how enduring an erosion of social and political norms might be in such a short time span.  While the active and retired military officers in the administration are often discussed as a whole, when it comes to considering the implications for civil-military relations discussed above, it will be helpful to consider each of the most prominent players separately. The three most important generals throughout the full first year of the administration have been Mattis, McMaster, and Kelly. Despite their similarities, these three individuals hold three very different positions that one would expect to have different impacts on civil-military relations. It is useful to examine how each of these individuals has either confirmed or refuted the early anxieties about their appointments. While all three concerns apply to each appointment, each of their positions underscores a different one in particular. In the case of the secretary of defense, the question of civilian political preferences prevailing over military ones, “relational control,” is most at play. Militarization of foreign policy is more of a factor in the case of the national security advisor, while politicization of the military, or at least of one particular former general, is most strongly visible in the case of the White House chief of staff. While McMaster is set to depart the administration in early April, it is still important to consider the impact of his time as national security advisor, and what it might mean for the future of American civil-military relations. Mattis: Ceding Civilian Control James Mattis’ appointment as secretary of defense was one of the first nominations announced by the new administration. The decision was much discussed in particular because the 1947 legislation that created the modern national security establishment, as well as the position of secretary of defense, included a provision that the person filling that position must not have been a member of the military within the previous ten years.[27] America has a long tradition of fearing a large standing Army.[28] When the post-WWII drawdown was limited by the onset of the Cold War, the prospect of maintaining a substantial, permanent force for the foreseeable future raised hackles on the Hill and beyond. Congress viewed a civilian secretary of defense — without recent, close ties to the military — as one of the keys to maintaining civilian control in such an environment. Congress passed a one-time exception to the ten-year rule for George Marshall in 1950, and changed the limit to seven years in 2008.[29] Congress similarly granted a waiver to allow Mattis, who had been retired for fewer than five years, to serve as secretary of defense. Most analysts who worry about a secretary of defense who is too closely tied to the military focus on the question of civilian control. As Peter Feaver points out, this is partially about symbolism: “The secretary of defense is the person in government who embodies civilian control 24-7 … That it is a civilian face, wearing civilian clothes, receiving salutes and courtesies from uniformed personnel, is a powerful visible symbol of civilian control.”[30] But there are also concerns about what such an appointment would mean for the military’s influence over policy. As a Cabinet-level political appointee, the secretary is supposed to be the president’s representative, overseeing the Department of Defense and the military, working to further administration policy objectives, and ensuring compliance with administration directives. A defense secretary who is too closely linked to the military might be susceptible to serving the military’s interests more than the president’s interests. One can already see indications that the president is happy to defer to Mattis’s military expertise. To begin with, Trump backed down from his campaign-trail support for “enhanced interrogation” after learning that Mattis didn’t support it.[31] By most accounts, Mattis (with support from McMaster) convinced the president to support an increased troop presence in Afghanistan, despite the president’s campaigning against protracted military interventions around the world.[32] The answer from the Pentagon, populated by many senior officers who have enormous personal and professional investment in that conflict, was to keep American troops there.  Feaver raises an additional concern: 
[I]f recently retired as a four-star, that means the individual has reached the pinnacle of their individual service and so has developed exceptionally strong service loyalties and ties. It will be harder for such a person to then move into an honest broker position that is supposed to be above service rivalry.[33]
In Mattis’ case, there is some early evidence that this phenomenon has not, in fact, occurred. The public version of the 2018 National Defense Strategy represented Mattis’ first chance to make a public statement of his priorities for the Department of Defense. In it, he emphasizes preparing for a future of great power rivalry — a priority that has been pushed by the Air Force and the Navy in recent years — over counterinsurgency and counterterrorism missions in the Middle East, both of which have been led primarily by the Army and the Marine Corps.  Of course, Mattis’ appointment did not only rouse concerns. In the current administration, the possibility that he would stand up to the president and prevent him from enacting some of his more radical policies seemed to be precisely why many outside observers critical of the new president were optimistic about Mattis’ appointment. Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin recently wrote a column celebrating Mattis’s service in this respect: 
The country should be immensely grateful that Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is there—not only because he is a steady hand and speed bump on President Trump’s rash decisions, but because every week he demonstrates how one can serve without degrading one’s self in this administration.[34]
Perceptions of Mattis’ pushback on presidential directives may be more important than the actual substance of his influence. It has been suggested that Mattis has explicitly resisted some of the president’s policy changes, such as the proposed ban on transgender troops. But these tales of pushback have, at times, been exaggerated or misleading. For example, some claimed that Mattis went against the president’s order on the transgender ban, when Mattis was in fact drafting a memo implementing the policy.[35] Other reports suggested that the Department of Defense was refusing to enact a presidential order when it was, in fact, simply complying with court orders.[36] Still others have asserted that Mattis’ close relationship with the current service chiefs, and especially with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine general Joseph Dunford, have allowed them to take liberties in resisting the president’s agenda that they wouldn’t otherwise take.  Philip Carter names this new stance “respectful disobedience,” and uses the label to describe what he sees as senior military pushback with respect to the transgender troop ban and the president’s statements after the deadly rally and counter-protest in Charlottesville, VA. Carter argues:
It’s clear that military leaders have found a formula for saluting their commander in chief while keeping his worst excesses at bay. In this, they are probably aided by a secretary of defense and White House chief of staff who have literally worn their shoes … [Mattis and Kelly] almost certainly provide cover for senior military leaders behind closed doors, where they can explain to the president why the generals are behaving a certain way.[37]
An interesting question is what this “disobedience” will mean for long-term civil-military norms if Mattis’ pushback on the administration is seen as military insubordination in a way that it wouldn’t be with a truly civilian secretary of defense. On the surface, Mattis’ performance thus far would seem to be reassuring for those concerned about his appointment. He has proven more capable of separating himself from the politics of the administration than perhaps any other official serving in it. Mattis also appears to have been a moderating force on a range of policy issues, from torture to openly transgender service members. But the idea that the president’s deference to senior military leaders, even recently retired ones, is saving the country is precisely what concerns many scholars of civil-military relations. Through no fault of his own — simply by doing the job he was asked to do — Mattis may subtly undermine long-standing civil-military norms, precisely as feared.  McMaster: Militarization of Foreign Policy H.R. McMaster presented a different set of concerns. Much of the discussion in civil-military relations circles surrounding his appointment as national security advisor centered on the fact that he was still an active-duty Army officer. While he was certainly not the first active-duty officer to hold the position — he joins John Poindexter and Colin Powell — these individuals have been the exception, not the rule.[38] There are many reasons to regard this kind of appointment with caution. First, being national security advisor requires a military officer to stray “outside their lane,” advising the president on issues far afield from their core military expertise. The national security advisor is supposed to help the president integrate all levers of American power — economics, information, diplomacy, and law enforcement — most of which are well outside the core experience and education of a senior military officer. Second, making an active-duty officer a visible representative of administration policy potentially turns that officer from a defender of the constitution to a defender of a political administration. This phenomenon was underscored when McMaster authored (with Gary Cohn, now-former Director of the National Economic Council) a Wall Street Journal op-ed in support of Trump’s America First foreign policy.[39] This would be an unremarkable thing for a national security advisor to do, but it is quite uncommon for an active-duty military officer to publicly argue in support of a broad administration policy of this nature. Moreover, the symbolism to the rest of the world matters — the primary source of advice to the president on overall national security is coming from someone wearing a uniform. In many analyses of the administration’s 2017 National Security Strategy, observers have noted that they could see a tension between Trump’s “America First” approach and the more traditional approach of McMaster and the National Security Council senior director for strategy, Nadia Schadlow. Kori Schake, writing of the strategy, applauded Schadlow and McMaster “for pulling the president’s well-known views that far into reasonable territory.”[40] McMaster also reportedly clashed with then-White House strategist Steve Bannon over Afghanistan policy, siding with Mattis on keeping troops in that country. One wonders whether the president would have been inclined to listen to civilians in either position arguing for a 16-year war that shows no signs of ending, particularly when the president campaigned against it, as Bannon and even Attorney General Jeff Sessions were eager to remind him.[41] Whatever the content of McMaster’s views, it seems clear that he was working an agenda that was not wholly consistent with the stated aims of the president. It is very difficult to judge whether H.R. McMaster contributed to the militarization of foreign policy, as it isn’t always clear what the “military” view of a policy would be. But he does seem to have been instrumental in pushing the president to send additional troops to Afghanistan, and in keeping the administration on high alert with respect to North Korea. While some level of politicization is inherent in the position, it isn’t clear that this has bled over to the military more generally in McMaster’s case. McMaster’s imminent replacement by John Bolton will remove this visible source of military influence from the White House (although it should be noted that the current deputy national security advisor is Ricky Waddell, an Army Reserve two-star general). But McMaster’s tenure as national security advisor may yet have long-lasting impacts on civil-military norms. Much will depend on what McMaster chooses to do in retirement — whether he speaks publicly about his time in the White House, and whether he remains a political figure.  John Kelly: Politicization of the Military Whatever concerns may exist about Mattis and McMaster, they are modest compared to those surrounding White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. When he was appointed as secretary of homeland security, the most significant issue from a civil-military relations point of view was not the appointment itself but that Kelly would be the third recently-retired general, two of them Marines, serving at high levels in the administration. This risked limiting the views the president was exposed to and creating the perception that a military junta was running the show. When he was appointed chief of staff, however, the potential for politicization of the military seemed a far greater danger. In his new role, it would be difficult for Gen. Kelly (as most would continue to call him) to avoid identification with the administration’s policy agenda and political actions. Furthermore, the justification for putting Kelly in such a position was less clear than the rationale for putting him, a recent commander of Southern Command, in charge of the Department of Homeland Security. The chief of staff is an explicitly political position with no clear need for military expertise. While many hoped Kelly’s military background would allow him to bring order to a chaotic White House, chiefs of staff are more often selected for their political acumen. Kelly has entered the political arena to a far greater degree than the other two generals discussed above have, thus raising much greater concerns about civil-military relations. Since becoming chief of staff, he has made multiple statements that effectively widened the civil-military divide, further separating the military from, and elevating it over, the civilian public it is intended to serve. For example, when Kelly took the podium in the White House briefing room to defend the president’s handling of a phone call to the wife of an American soldier killed in Niger he said,
We don’t look down upon those of you who that haven’t served. In fact, in a way we’re a little bit sorry because you’ll have never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our service men and women do — not for any other reason than they love this country. So just think of that.[42]
At the same press conference, Kelly only took questions from reporters with a connection to a gold star family. The next day, when a reporter asked press secretary Sarah Sanders about Kelly’s accusations against a member of Congress, Sanders responded, “If you want to go after Gen. Kelly, that's up to you, but I think that if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that's something highly inappropriate.”[43] This is precisely the type of statement that worries scholars of American civil-military relations — the assertion that as a recently retired four-star general, the president’s chief of staff, is above reproach. This is particularly worrisome when that military credibility is attached to a particular administration. Kelly has also made controversial comments on topics unrelated to the military. When asked about the debate over Confederate monuments, Kelly argued that “the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War.”[44] This led many to ask what, exactly, Kelly believed the two sides should have compromised about. Kelly also drew criticism based on a discussion of why the number of registered Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (known as DACA) participants was lower than the number eligible: “The difference between 690 and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn’t sign up.”[45] Kelly had already established himself as an immigration hard-liner during his time at the Department of Homeland Security, but this indelicate statement certainly underscored those views.[46] Most recently, Kelly was criticized for protecting White House staff secretary Rob Porter when credible allegations that Porter had abused two ex-wives prevented him from obtaining a security clearance. Kelly reportedly offered to resign over the incident, but, as of the writing of this piece, had not been asked to do so.[47] The incident rekindled discussions of the Marine Corps’ handling of domestic violence, sexual assault, and harassment cases, with some arguing that Kelly was a product and perpetuator of a Marine Corps culture that protects abusers.[48]  In these ways, Kelly seems to have gone above and beyond the initial concerns about his role as chief of staff. It was always going to be a difficult role for a retired military officer, but Kelly has become more involved in White House politics and scandals than anyone initially predicted. If he, and the administration, continue to use his military service as a political shield, the broader military may eventually find itself dragged into the fray as well. Conclusion It seems clear that “Trump’s Generals” — Mattis, McMaster, and Kelly—have had a significant influence on this administration’s policymaking, as one would expect from any secretary of defense, national security advisor, and chief of staff. But what role do their positions as retired or active military officers play in that influence? The picture is unclear. All three seem to have held considerable sway in the administration, in large part due to their military credentials. Mattis and McMaster have clearly been able to pursue policy preferences in a way that civilians may not have, although we cannot know for certain what policies civilians in these roles would have advocated. In that sense, concerns about military influence over policy, if not fully realized, are not to be fully dismissed either. Both McMaster and Kelly have entered the political arena, the latter to a much greater degree. Has this politicized the military? It has certainly politicized those two individuals. What larger effect this might have is not yet clear. Kori Schake has suggested a potential upside to the politicization, and public failings of, military officers. In a tweet about Mike Flynn, Schake argued that Flynn was “making fast progress getting Americans to take military leaders off pedestals and treat as regular citizens when politically active.”[49] The military, like any other large group, contains individuals of all types, some of who will act dishonestly, commit crimes, or hold controversial political views. While this may decrease public respect for the military from its recent lofty heights, if accompanied by a decrease in unquestioning deference, the change might not be all bad. The first year of the Trump administration does not seem to have changed the public’s generally high regard for the U.S. military. In October 2016, a Pew Research Center survey found that 79 percent of U.S. adults reported having “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of confidence in the military “to act in the best interests of the public.” This was compared to 27% having similar confidence in elected officials.[50] A January 2018 poll by NPR/PBS News Hour/Marist found that “The only institution that Americans have overwhelming faith in is the military — 87 percent say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the military.” This was compared to 51 percent reporting the same levels of confidence in the courts, 43 percent in the presidency, and 25 percent in Congress.[51] The polls are not directly comparable, but they do suggest that confidence in the military has not declined in the first year of the Trump administration, and may even have increased.  While a first-year assessment is useful, two of the primary concerns associated with these appointments — the normalization of civilian policymakers deferring to military experts and the increased politicization of the military — are about trust relationships and societal norms, things that change slowly over time. We have certainly seen evidence of shifts and cracks, but it is too soon to tell whether these will lead to seismic changes. With respect to the concern about militarization, policy can shift more quickly than norms, but it is difficult to determine what “militarization” really means. We will need more studies on how military policy preferences and world views differ from those of civilians, and how much these differences remain when a military officer retires. The somewhat peculiar character of this administration, which has already challenged American political norms of all varieties, makes judging the impact of any short-term trends in civil-military relations especially difficult. After all, concerns about the health of the civil-military relationship were alive and well in other recent administrations, from Clinton to Obama, but never resulted in catastrophe. Still, it is important that scholars and observers continue to keep a close eye on the role men and women in (or recently out of) uniform play in policymaking, and on their relationship with society more broadly. The effects of the president’s approach to staffing his administration, and relating to the military, may last long beyond the tenure of any particular appointee. A true crisis in civil-military relations may be slow to develop. But if it arrives, it will be extremely difficult to reverse.    All views are the author’s own and do not represent the views of the United States Government, Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or U.S. Naval War College   Jessica Blankshain is an Assistant Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College.   

3. An Effect Rather than a Cause for Concern: The State of Civil-Military Relations in the Trump Administration

By Raphael S. Cohen Generals in American politics are nothing new.[52] George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses Grant, and Dwight Eisenhower all rode successful military careers to the White House. Others, most recently Wesley Clark in 2004, tried and failed to capture the office. All recent administrations have, to varying degrees, turned to former generals to serve in senior civilian positions. President George W. Bush chose Colin Powell as his Secretary of State and Michael Hayden as his Director of Central Intelligence. President Barack Obama similarly picked James Jones as his National Security Advisor, David Petraeus as his Director of Central Intelligence, and James Clapper as his Director of National Intelligence. Retired general officers have routinely endorsed presidential candidates since at least Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign.[53] Given the established history of military or former military serving in senior positions in government, President Donald Trump’s choice of current and former generals as his cabinet secretaries, his chief of staff, his first two national security advisors, and a host of subcabinet positions is a change in degree, although perhaps not a change in kind, from the past. And yet, the Trump administration’s decision to fill its senior ranks with military officers is nevertheless troubling, for reasons that have little to do with the individuals themselves. One year into the administration, these personnel choices are not the cause of any particular problems (if anything, probably the opposite is true), but reflect a deeper, growing ill within American society. The American public’s increased isolation from and romanticization of the military, combined with an increased skepticism of other American institutions, has left the broader civil-military balance off-kilter. Not the Cause (at Least So Far) of Any Particular Problem… Although many observers eventually concluded that, given the unique present circumstances, they could support the appointment of many general officers to their present posts, civil-military relations scholars gave a host of reasons why presidential administrations should avoid drawing senior political leadership from the ranks of the general officer corps. And yet, a year into the Trump administration, most of these problems have either not materialized, or the evidence supporting them remains inconclusive. Perhaps, the chief concern is the militarization of foreign policy. This seems to lie at the center of Daniel Drezner’s objections to these appointments.[54] Even before the Trump administration, scholars worried about the expanding role of the Department of Defense in U.S. foreign policy.[55] To its critics, the Trump administration exacerbated these concerns when, shortly after taking office, it proposed a so-called “hard power budget” with increases to the Defense Department paid for, in part, by civilian agencies like the State Department.[56] While the Trump administration has emphasized the Department of Defense over the “softer” side of foreign policy, the former generals in the room do not seem to be driving this policy preference. To the contrary, when the administration announced the budget, 121 former flag officers took the unusual step of writing an open letter to congressional leadership advocating for the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Peace Corps, and other diplomatic and development agencies’ budgets.[57] Similarly, Secretary of Defense James Mattis often emphasized his relationship with former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and highlighted how the two departments work in lockstep.[58] Yet another commonly cited concern is the politicization of the military’s senior ranks. As David Barno and Nora Bensahel argue,
If politicians begin to see generals as political figures (or even future political opponents), the vital trust that exists between the nation’s elected leadership and its uniformed military will be lost. As a result, future presidents and other elected leaders may well keep suspect military leaders out of the room when major decisions are made, even on military issues.[59]
The authors argue these dangers are particularly acute if former general officers serve in “unremittingly political” senior positions like a chief of staff (but presumably there are others as well), rather than in national security-related positions.[60] Barno and Bensahel are certainly correct that if currently serving military officers are painted with a partisan brush, it could jeopardize the civil-military dialogue. That said, it is less clear what effects, if any, former military officers serving political positions today will have on politicians’ perceptions of the military in the future. Moreover, the authors’ argument is more applicable in the context of generals running for political office — directly challenging politicians for their jobs — than serving as senior political appointees, even in highly partisan roles like chief of staff. Even this latter phenomenon has occurred occasionally in American history, without catastrophic results. For example, Gen. George McClellan challenged his former commander-in-chief, Abraham Lincoln, for the presidency, but still, the civil-military balance did not break. And so, while generals serving as political appointees likely does not help promote continued trust between generals and politicians, it may not sound its death knell either. A third objection examines the practical considerations of appointing former flag officers to senior civilian posts. Eliot Cohen warned that selecting the Secretary of Defense from among its uniformed ranks comes with a host of potential management challenges — from a perceived bias towards their own services to risk of favoritism among the general officer corps. He notes, “Even the appearance of such biases, let alone their reality, would make effective leadership of the Department of Defense difficult or impossible.”[61] Not until the archives open decades from now will future historians be able to fully assess the inner workings of Mattis’ Pentagon. It is similarly too early to judge whether the prominence of Marine officers in the political ranks of the administration will translate into service bias in resource decisions or in determining plumb general officer assignments. Still, at least from press accounts so far, the Department of Defense is relatively absent from the headlines. Indeed, multiple news accounts refer to Mattis’ “low profile” and the comparative lack of infighting within the Department.[62] And while we still need a few more budget cycles to see how Mattis balances competing service resource needs, it is interesting to note that the only defense investment priority called out by name in the State of the Union address was nuclear modernization — a focus that primarily favors Air Force and Navy budget equities, rather than Marine ones.[63] A fourth objection relates to ensuring that a full range of expertise informs decisions. As Kathleen Hicks has concisely argued, people naturally turn to those with similar backgrounds for counsel — academics to academics, business leaders to fellow business leaders, and military officers to fellow military officers. Sound decision-making, however, requires
guarding against an over-reliance on military viewpoints, just as it relies on ensuring those coming from civilian backgrounds act as respectful and knowledgeable counterparts, with expertise and responsibilities typically distinct from those of their military colleagues and subordinates.[64]
Ultimately, placing former military officers at the head of an already military-dominated national security space may encourage groupthink. Like the aforementioned objections, Hicks’ concern over the loss of diversity of opinion is valid, but only to a point. As noted earlier, the Trump administration chose former flag officers to fill some cabinet-level posts, but also some of the subcabinet ranks and below. The slow pace of filling other civilian political positions in the national security establishment — leaving only the uniformed side of the Pentagon in place — did not help the balance.[65] Still, to their credit, all the former general officers have civilians as their deputies and the Pentagon’s senior leadership today, while including former generals, also features former business executives, Capitol Hill staffers, and appointees with similarly diverse backgrounds. Finally, there are other potential long-term problems with turning to former general officers to fill senior civilian posts — from eroding the American ability to advocate for civilian control of the military abroad,[66] to undermining the very ideals that led to the Declaration of Independence in the first place.[67] The fact that most civil-military relations scholars’ objections have — at least so far — not materialized does not necessarily invalidate their apprehensions. A year is likely an insufficient amount of time to judge the wisdom of these appointments. Moreover, the fact that selecting these particular general officers has not yet yielded the negative consequences does not necessarily invalidate the general rule of balancing civilian and military appointments. Still, whatever the reason, a fair assessment must conclude that the United States has so far avoided most of the pitfalls of drawing leadership from former military ranks. …But Rather the Effect of a Deeper Societal Ill Perhaps, the real lesson of the last year is that overrepresentation of general officers within the civilian political ranks is less a cause for concern and more of an effect of a deeper problem. Politicians place military officers in prominent positions on campaigns and in government because the military remains one of the few institutions that most Americans still respect. And that is a far greater problem than any specific policy issue stemming from who is in what position. According to annual Gallup polling, confidence in the military has grown steadily since Gallup began asking the question — from 58 percent expressing “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in 1975 to 72 percent in 2017. Moreover, those expressing “a great deal” of confidence in the military (the highest rating possible) has risen even more sharply, from 27 percent to 44 percent over the same period.[68] As striking as the actual numbers, however, is the durability of the trend. While there have been some spikes, particularly during key victories, for example, the Gulf War or the start of the 2003 Iraq War, and dips during perceived failures, like during the height of the Iraq War, the trend line for the most part ticks steadily upwards. Americans’ confidence in the military has not been shaken, despite the number of high-profile general officers who have pled guilty to felony crimes or the major scandals that have afflicted the services over the years — from the handling of the nuclear arsenal, to accusations of fraud and corruption, to allegations of widespread sexual harassment.[69] At the end of the day, roughly three-quarters of Americans still place their confidence in the military. Such staunch confidence would not be concerning — and might even be a positive development — if it were not for the erosion of Americans’ trust in the civilian institutions of democracy over the same period. The same Gallup polls that show the growth in confidence in the military also show that Americans’ confidence in the other American institutions — be it Congress, the presidency or the Supreme Court — has declined sharply. In 2017, only 40 percent of Americans expressed “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the Supreme Court, 32 percent in the presidency and a mere 12 percent in Congress. [70] A recent RAND Corporation report on “truth decay” reached a similar conclusion. Comparing today with previous periods in American history, it found a “lack of trust across the board — in government, media, and financial institutions — and a far lower absolute level of trust in these institutions than in previous eras.”[71] This decline in trust, in turn, contributed to a variety of other problems in American society, from “political paralysis,” to “the erosion of civil discourse,” and ultimately to the “alienation and disengagement of individuals from political and civic institutions.”[72] Indeed, a series of surveys suggest that substantial numbers of Americans are questioning democracy itself. An October 2017, a Pew study found that 17 percent of Americans would consider rule by the military “a good way to the govern the country,” 22 percent said the same of “a strong leader,” and 40 percent believed that of “experts.”[73] A separate Washington Post and University of Maryland study, also published in October of 2017, found a steep decline in Americans’ pride in how democracy functions in the United States compared to similar surveys taken over the last two decades. The same study also found that 71 percent of Americans believe that politics has reached a “dangerous low point.”[74] Why then in this era of cynicism has the confidence in the military remained so high? Perhaps, it is because, thanks to the end of the draft in 1973 and the decline in the overall end-strength after the Cold War, fewer Americans have any direct connection to the military. In 1980, about 18 percent of the American adult population were veterans, but by 2016, the proportion stood at less than half that number — roughly 7 percent.[75] The percentage of American men who have served has declined even more dramatically, from around 37 percent of the population in 1980 to 16 percent in 2014.[76] Finally, the decline of veterans among American political elites has been the most precipitous of all. At its peak between the late 1960s and early 1970s, some three-quarters of the House of Representatives and 80 percent of the Senate had military experience. By 2017, the number for both chambers of Congress stood at about one in five.[77] This isolation has led to a romanticization of the military. Without direct experience, for many Americans, military service becomes a caricature, the subject more of Hollywood than reality. Americans paint the military as a paragon of patriotism, selflessness, and efficiency, even if in reality the military attracts all types of individuals for a range of motives — good, bad, and otherwise. This overly romanticized vision of military service creates a host of perverse incentives. It incentivizes politicians to hide behind the uniforms, by placing them in front of key policy decisions. As one political figure recently quipped, “If you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that's something highly inappropriate.”[78] Such adulation also inhibits a clear-eyed valuation of military pay and benefits, a crucial component of any fiscally sound defense policy, and promotes the idea that servicemembers are somehow superior to the citizens they serve. Above all, it encourages Americans to turn to the military for solutions, rather than fixing the problems in the civilian institutions of their democracy. The American public’s continued isolation from and idealization of military service combined with increased skepticism about its other institutions, arguably, should be the real focus of civil-military relations concerns today. The prominence of current and former military officers in senior civilian positions is symptomatic of this more general societal ill and could profoundly impact American democracy. After all, this trend extends beyond any particular policy decision or policymaker and will continue long after the present administration leaves office. It is not a problem that’s easily fixed. What Is to Be Done If the root cause of the United States’ civil-military problem were simply a matter of how the Pentagon is run or who serves in what position, it would be relatively easy to fix. Indeed, many of the concerns about military appointments may dissipate now that the national security advisor position will soon be filled by John Bolton, a civilian. The problem will be further mitigated if other high profile general officers leave the administration, as is rumored, for example, about John Kelly.[79] Not so for broader societal problems. Restoring the balance between Americans’ trust in the military versus their trust in civilian institutions runs headlong into a fundamental endogeneity problem. Americans may not trust the media because they perceive it as biased, but they look for news that caters to their own ideological preferences. They may not trust Washington because of its political gridlock, but then back politicians who cater to the far ends of the political spectrum. In sum, Americans do not trust their institutions because they are dysfunctional, but those institutions are dysfunctional in part because Americans do not trust them. The answer here is not simply to increase public skepticism of the military. While excessive admiration of the military is an unhealthy dynamic, a situation where Americans lack confidence in any of their institutions — military or civilian — is just as bad. And there is much to admire about the military, even if servicemembers and their leaders are not always the heroes Americans tend to typecast them as. If there is a solution, it lies with civic education — teaching Americans to see civilian institutions for what they are, with all their strengths and weaknesses. After all, American democracy has never run with military-like efficiency, nor did the founders intend for it to function that way. And while it is easy to lose faith in American institutions by focusing in on the problems of the moment, if Americans could take the longer view, they would see this system — with all its inherent ugliness — can still produce remarkable accomplishments. At the same time, Americans also need to better understand their military. Absent a catastrophe on par with another world war, ever smaller percentages of the American population will serve in uniform. Even if there was the political will to return to conscription (which there is not), modern warfare — with its emphasis on high technology rather than manpower — simply does not require vast numbers of soldiers. The assiduous study of strategic issues and of the military as an institution can partially compensate for this lack of firsthand knowledge. The key then is for Americans to regain a sense of historical perspective on their government and their institutions. And in a small way, this starts by recognizing the number of current and former military officers at the senior rung of civilian office for what they are: less as a cause for concern, and more the effect of a deeply troubling trend. But perhaps not an insurmountable one.   A former active Army officer and Iraq veteran, Raphael S. Cohen is a political scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation, and an adjunct professor of Security Studies in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program.

4. Civil-Military Relations One Year In

By Lindsay P. Cohn  
“The perpetual menacings of danger oblige [a] government to be always prepared to repel it; its armies must be numerous enough for instant defense. The continual necessity for their services enhances the importance of the soldier ... The military state becomes elevated above the civil … by degrees the people are brought to consider the soldiery not only as their protectors, but as their superiors. The transition from this disposition to that of considering them masters, is neither remote nor difficult ...”

Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 8

  Civil-military relations scholars were aflutter after the national conventions of the two major parties in 2016, in which each side deployed a recently-retired general officer to demonstrate … Credibility? Expertise? Patriotism? It was not entirely clear. The buzz picked up again concerning the number of recently-retired or still active senior general officers/flag officers (GOFOs) that Donald Trump had tapped for his administration — retired general James Mattis for defense secretary, retired general John Kelly for secretary of homeland security and then White House chief of staff, and first retired general Michael Flynn and then active-duty three-star general, H.R. McMaster, for national security advisor (who will soon leave his position). There has been further chatter about Trump’s own avoidance of military service, juxtaposed with an almost excessive admiration of all things military (Could he have tanks for his inaugural parade? Can we have a military parade for Veterans’ Day?). Others have reacted with concern about his administration’s military personnel initiatives — including how to deal with transgender servicemembers and whether the Marine Corps will be allowed to keep the combat ban on women — as well as about Trump’s own tendency to push both decision-making and ultimate responsibility down to field-level commanders. Take, for example, when he said that “the generals … lost [the Navy SEAL killed in Yemen].”[80] More recently, the apparent ramping-up of the U.S. military presence in Syria, Afghanistan, and parts of Africa has continued apace, while lacking a clear and consistent strategic narrative about what this is supposed to accomplish. There is no shortage of things for observers and scholars to worry about when it comes to civil-military relations. While these concerns are legitimate and bear keeping an eye on, they are not the most pernicious issue. Instead, it is the development of almost unthinking veneration of service members by the public as well as many elites and politicians. This is a two-tiered problem: At the highest levels of national decision making, there is a pervasive narrative that the current and former military officers serving this administration are the “adults in the room”,[81] and that they will “save” us from the erratic and potentially dangerous behavior of the president through their wisdom, prudence, and, if necessary, disobedience. More broadly, the reverence for the military has come to distort and manipulate public discourse. The military enjoys an outsized level of public trust, confidence, and approval — significantly higher than all other public institutions.[82] It is the one institution that most Americans feel united in supporting (unlike, say, the police, the church, schools, or the court system). But the elevation of “the troops” to a level of sacrosanctity in public discourse is unhealthy for servicemembers,[83] the general public, and the practice of governance in this country. Save Us, Adults It is undeniable that someone with over 30 years of military experience has great insight into national security matters. The views of such individuals are critical to developing the full range of perspectives and options for a president. That said, such expertise is not necessarily the most relevant to the broadest questions of national security, and especially not to questions of trade, international law, or other forms of coordinated international policy, such as addressing climate issues. “Military expertise” does not consist of a special or unique understanding of how to keep the territory and people of the United States safe and prosperous. These individuals are experts at what the U.S. military organization can do, how quickly and for how long it can do it, how many people and what kind of equipment is required, and, to some extent, how much it is all likely to cost. Many senior officers may also have specific experience or expertise that would be helpful in particular circumstances — for example, experience dealing with a particular adversary, or expertise in cyber operations — but the most important asset they bring is the ability to help policymakers understand the military tools that they have at their disposal. But competent statecraft considers and employs other tools beyond military ones, from diplomacy to sanctions, trade, international law, and international institutions. Experts in these areas must also be part of the policy conversation. Even when the issue at hand is war, economic expertise is critical to determining how to sustain our efforts over time, how to undermine the adversary’s ability to resource its military, and how to weaken an opponent before things come to blows. Experience in diplomacy and international relations can help to evaluate whether other points of leverage can be used to trade for peace, whether we can avoid an armed confrontation, which allies would stand with us, and how we can limit the ability of others to threaten us with armed confrontations. Domestic politics is always a factor as well: What will different plans of action cost us in terms of overall national goals? What are the policy trade-offs? On what matters can we gain agreement from other government actors? While scholars of civil-military relations openly worried about the precedent and the dynamics of having so many recently retired GOFOs in the cabinet, they still, almost to a person, expressed relief about the presence of Mattis, McMaster, and Kelly.[84] So many foreign policy experts — including a large number of conservatives and Republicans[85] — had concerns about the new president’s lack of foreign policy experience, that most were willing to tolerate the break with norms, because the officers involved were at least competent and qualified. While the president might well have done far worse than Mattis or McMaster (the Flynn flameout is a case in point), accepting these choices may be creating a new and undesirable status quo. Moreover, it helps to validate a narrative in which uniformed general officers are seen as more competent and trustworthy policymakers than elected or appointed civilians. Most in the national security community are simply hoping that the current situation is an exception to an important rule, not the beginning of the new normal. According to some, the senior officers on Trump’s national security team (active and retired) have already devised a method to avoid following orders from the president that they consider inappropriate. Phillip Carter of the Center for a New American Security has termed it “respectful disobedience,” by which he means that “military leaders have found a formula for saluting their commander in chief while keeping his worst excesses at bay.”[86] As evidence of this phenomenon, Carter points in particular to Trump’s attempt to overturn the Obama administration decision to allow transgender individuals to serve in the military. Carter may not have this particular decision quite right: There are other plausible interpretations for the slow-down in implementing the ban that do not imply that the military leadership deliberately shirked the president’s policy. One possibility, for example, is that Mattis and Kelly engaged Trump to explain the logistical and organizational difficulties that would be involved with an outright ban on transgender personnel and got him to issue the eventual memo tasking the Secretary of Defense with studying the issue, which Mattis then did. But Carter may nevertheless turn out to be prophetic as time goes on, and this could set a dangerous precedent. Is civilian control not eroded when senior officers simply decide not to implement decisions they disagree with?[87] Even if many agree that this particular president’s excesses need to be curbed, surely it is unhealthy for our democracy when the military can pick and choose which president, and which policies to heed. Furthermore, even when top military officials are not disobeying, some commentators may be tempted to spin the narrative that way. This places an extra burden onto military officers to try to keep up with the political optics of everything they say and do. Our Men and Women in Uniform Another sign that the civilian-military relationship has gone awry is a concerning trend among politicians, pundits, and the public, of using people’s respect for veterans and servicemembers to undercut political debate on non-military matters. This is bad both for the attitude of Americans toward their military and for the actual conduct of politics and governance. It could also harm the armed forces themselves by further politicizing budget debates or relationships with top policymakers. One example includes the NFL kneeling protests, where an appeal to the troops was deployed to dismiss the concerns of the protestors. Another is the debate over a shutdown and near shutdown of the government in January and February 2018, during which lawmakers argued that it was unfair to the troops and their families to have a shutdown over lack of agreement on other political issues. Yet another example can be seen in the proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or “food stamps”), where it was argued that the United States should not impose such indignity on military families who rely on SNAP. And this is only in the last six months or so.[88] Each of these cases has followed a well-worn pattern: A political point is raised, followed by one or both sides arguing for or against the point on the basis of how it affects servicemembers, veterans, or both. It is of course valid to be concerned about how policies, budgets, or public debates affect the people who have served this country in uniform. The problem is that this “appeal to the troops” bypasses a discussion about genuine disagreements that require political solutions. Instead of engaging in debates about whether the United States is fulfilling its promises for all its people, how the government should be funded and what it ought to spend money on, or how the state should be involved in helping the poor buy food, this tactic instead accuses dissenters of “not supporting the troops” — an unanswerable attack. Any attempt to argue that the concerns of other members of society merit as much attention as those of the military is denounced as further evidence of a lack of respect for servicemembers and veterans. What’s more, this line of argument suggests that servicemembers and veterans (and their families) matter more than other members of society. It is a perilous way of thinking because it renders unimportant things like poverty or the proper running and funding of government, except in so far as they impact servicemembers and their families. Ultimately, this implies that the only way to merit basic respect and dignity is to have served in the military or be a dependent of someone who has. Such cynical political use of American popular support for the military undermines the conduct of politics and governance. The long-term danger is two-fold: First, the longer this pattern continues, the more likely some civilians are to resent military members. If this tactic is used too often, some people may start questioning whether they do, in fact, support the troops, if doing so means they must concede on all of their political claims. Second, the more this approach proves useful, the more some people will become reactively and uncritically supportive of anything that has “the troops” attached to it, making it easier for politicians to manipulate them. Of course veterans and military personnel deserve things like health care, job security, funding for their programs, and aggressive poverty assistance. On the other hand, the broader issues of budgets, pay, and benefits of military service members cannot simply be declared off limits. So long as the conditions of every other American’s life are up for debate ­— taxes, minimum wage, unemployment protection, labor protection, disability — why should only military service members be protected from the debate? It is absolutely clear why members of the military and veterans deserve societal respect and care. It is not clear why they are the only ones who do.[89] When politicians deflect discussion by hiding behind a sacred cow, nothing gets resolved. When grievances remain unresolved, aggrieved parties become resentful. Where to From Here? Civil-military relations scholars are right to worry: A political arena in which the military is deployed as a political shield has potentially dangerous consequences. When “military expertise” is seen as supreme or is allowed to go largely unquestioned — either because no one dares to question it or because there is no one with any other expertise in a position to balance it — it can have devastating implications for U.S. policy both foreign and domestic. While we are not yet at a point of crisis, left unchecked the current path might well lead us there. It is good and healthy for uniformed servicemembers to enjoy the respect and gratitude of society, but not for a society to treat uniformed servicemembers as paragons of virtue whose opinions are always valid and whose claims on society are unlimited. What, then, can be done? First, scholars, journalists, pundits, politicians, and the engaged public should call out these trends rather than allow them to become part of the status quo. It should not be normal to expect military officers to “save us” from corrupt or inept politicians. Citizens should fight the corruption and ineptitude themselves — by engaging in the debate and by holding their elected officials in Congress accountable, for example — rather than place the burden on the military. Second, American society must learn to talk with and about servicemembers and veterans without putting them either in the “hero” category or the “broken” category. Servicemembers and veterans are diverse groups of people with extremely diverse experiences, and they deserve to be taken as they are rather than stereotyped or mythologized. Above all, they should not be used by politicians as a way to win political arguments. Third, scholars, policymakers, and military professionals must develop a new set of civil-military norms. Otherwise, “respectful disobedience” may fill the vacuum left by the crumbling model proposed by Samuel Huntington. He argued that military officers ought to be completely apolitical, focusing only on their technical expertise as “managers of violence.”[90] This was predicated on a presumption, however, that a thick bright line could be drawn between “political” problems and decisions, and “military” problems and decisions, and that this bright line could allow both policymakers and military personnel to clearly understand their remit and the limits thereof. Most experts now agree that that distinction is not realistic, leaving us without a roadmap for the future of civil-military relations.[91] Eliot Cohen has proposed the concept of an “Unequal Dialogue” to clarify both the need for military and political actors to engage in discussion with one another and develop some mutual understanding, as well as the need for the military to remain subordinate in that relationship.[92] Peter Feaver has argued that civilian policymakers have the “right to be wrong,” that is, the right to make policy decisions that are opposed by their military advisors, even if they turn out to be wrong, because it is the elected officials who have the moral and legal authority to make such judgments. Feaver has also noted, however, the civilian policymaker’s “right to be right,” which acknowledges that military advisors may not in fact have the best plan or understand the full picture as well as the policymaker.[93] But standing in the way of a truly new set of civil-military norms is a common line of thinking that leads both politicians and military leaders to believe that, as long as we can “let the military win the war,” everything will turn out well. As Americans should understand from repeated experiences, military victory does not automatically or necessarily achieve the desired political outcomes. Until we can reach a generalized understanding of how to use force as a bargaining tool, and how the political and military competencies must intermingle, there will be a dysfunctional relationship at the top of the political system, a distorted public dialogue about American interests and America’s role in the world, and a tendency to start fights that do us no good and seem never to end. New frameworks for civil-military relations in the post-post-9/11 era are still evolving, as they have each time there have been major changes in the strategic environment. Yet, irrespective of the particular challenges the country faces, we all have a role to play in ensuring healthy civil-military relations in the United States. The public must hold their elected officials accountable and not allow them to hide behind uniforms and exploit the high regard in which the military is held. Military professionals, politicians, and policymakers must devote time and effort to understanding and respecting their different competencies and responsibilities. Only through vigilance and the building of effective relationships can the nation avoid the scenario Alexander Hamilton warned of more than two centuries ago.   The views expressed in this piece are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of the U.S. Naval War College, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.   Lindsay P. Cohn is Associate Professor in the National Security Affairs Department at the U.S. Naval War College. Her research focuses on civil-military relations — particularly personnel issues, public opinion, and democratic theory. Before joining the Naval War College, she spent a year at the Pentagon as a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow and was an Assistant Professor at the University of Northern Iowa. She comes from a long line of combat veterans, and is the proud daughter and sister of Marines.

5. Trump and His Generals: An Unfolding Crisis in Civil-Military Relations

By Maj. Gen. (ret.) Paul Eaton Over the last seventeen years, successive American presidents have concentrated extraordinary powers in the executive branch. Congressional passivity, gridlock, and dysfunction have resulted in a legislative branch of government that is missing in action. During the Obama administration, the Republican party’s leadership in both houses demonstrated an inability to govern, focusing their energies instead on their stated intent to frustrate the president’s initiatives, particularly on domestic policy.[94] This left Obama little choice but to govern by executive order. In foreign policy matters, Congress has been content to stand idly by for nearly two decades now, ignoring its duty to decide when and where America wages war. This does not bode well for how the Congress might perform in a crisis.[95] If the nation cannot count on its elected representatives or many other U.S. institutions to provide leadership, where is America to turn? As the only institution that retains much trust among the American people, the military might seem to be a natural answer.[96] Senior officers have signed an oath to support and to defend the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies, foreign and domestic. They have the extraordinary duty and privilege to do the right thing for the nation and their troops. There is no more noble charge. But this route is fraught with danger. The prominence of recently retired or active duty military men in the Trump administration, such as James Mattis as secretary of defense and John Kelly as White House chief of staff, should concern Americans — certainly more than it appears to — for a number of reasons. First, the training of a military officer does not necessarily prepare him or her to make difficult, strategic trade-off decisions for the nation. These men and women have a strongly ingrained tendency to fight for their position but, if they lose the argument, ultimately salute and execute. In the past, our military officers have not always been forthcoming with the bad news when it comes to calling out questionable decisions or policies the military cannot execute. President Trump therefore presents the current and former officers serving in his administration with a conundrum: carry out his policies, whether or not they consider them wise, in keeping with a lifelong deference to civilian control, or buck those decisions and fail to fall into line with their commander in chief. A civilian may face similar dilemmas, but disagreement is easier to express when you have not spent thirty years yielding to “civilian control.” Second, the Trump Administration’s staffing choices raise the question of whether so many senior officers, regardless of their personal qualities, should occupy critical leadership positions in government and thus be in the policy-making business. This is not only important from the perspective of appearances — the “militarization of American foreign policy” has been a concern of observers for some time. But it is particularly relevant when the other elements of national power, such as the State Department, are being systematically dismantled, leaving only military voices to evaluate complex issues that range well beyond their traditional areas of expertise.[97] Third, the common background of these officers — the prominence of Marines, for example — is concerning from the perspective of whether the president is receiving a sufficiently diverse set of viewpoints. However well-intentioned (and well-qualified) the individuals in question are, their shared background will limit the diversity of opinion they offer up to the president. The Cultural Gap Military officers are not trained to tell their leaders they cannot do something. An abiding “can do” spirit is inculcated early and often in their careers, which is usually a virtue. But in the realm of national policy, sometimes a chief executive must be told that what they wish to happen cannot be achieved or cannot be done without prohibitive cost. A brief look at some examples of this trait in action helps illustrate the point. Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, in his superb book, Dereliction of Duty, describes how the very conflicted Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Harold K. Johnson, seriously considered resigning from his post after a study of the ongoing Vietnam War revealed victory was unlikely at best.[98] And yet, Gen. Johnson, as well as the rest of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, failed in the end to do the right thing. They instead allowed the report to be hidden away and a futile war to grind on. The conflict continued to take the lives of many thousands more young Americans.[99] Years later, America’s four-star officers failed again in a similar way. In the face of the decision to attack Iraq in 2003, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki was the only person to oppose Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his decision to under-resource that war.[100] The seeds of the current situation in Iraq were sown in early 2003 when the Combatant Commander of Central Command, Tommy Franks, and all but one of our senior generals, failed to insist on properly planning for the inevitable occupation.[101] There are also significant differences between the culture and leadership styles in military organizations and civilian ones. Some individuals can cross the boundary smoothly, but these people are rare. Kelly perhaps best exemplifies the difficulty many officers would and do experience in shedding a lifetime of military habits. Perhaps unwittingly, he has managed to become one of the more politicized former generals in recent memory. In previous months, he has insulted young immigrants, a gold star mother, a Congresswoman, and joked when Trump was given a ceremonial sword that he could use it on the press.[102] This is not to suggest such behavior is condoned in the military, but rather that speaking carefully and diplomatically to the press is not a core competency among many general officers. No less an authority than former Secretary of Defense and former Director of the CIA Leon Panetta said of Kelly, “John is a great Marine … but he is not a politician, and one thing he lacks is the ability to look at the big political picture and understand what you should and shouldn’t say as chief of staff.”[103] To borrow from a trusted friend and advisor, “Kelly doesn’t know how to civilian.” Policymakers or Policy Executors? Certainly, civilians can be — and have been — wrong as well. But four-star generals and admirals operate at the interface between policy direction and policy execution, and in recent months that boundary has shifted in surprising ways, with more uniformed or recently uniformed people being placed in positions to actually make policy. However skilled and sophisticated these men and women may be, their background does not necessarily prepare them for the roles they are in. At a minimum, they may turn to the military to solve problems that arise, rather than employing other elements of national power. The appointment of so many military men to key leadership positions has also given the appearance of a “militarization” of the American government. Enhancing this sense of militarization is the systematic emasculation of a once great Department of State — all the more dramatic not only with the replacement of Secretary Rex Tillerson, but the manner in which he was fired.[104] The State Department is now a lonely place that has suffered an epic loss of talented career men and women, diplomats and bureaucrats who were mentored by the most successful in the department.[105] It is impossible to overstate how difficult rebuilding the department will be. We have only to look at how hard it was to rebuild the U.S. Army after Vietnam to see the challenges that lie ahead. If it seemed that the administration’s military appointees were managing, the concerns above notwithstanding, then perhaps one might step back and declare the current situation an important exception. However, the administration’s handling of its first real national security crisis — the rise of a nuclear-capable North Korea — has been stunningly inept, revealing a national security team either unprepared for the real world or incapable of managing a Twitter-empowered, rogue president. The upcoming summit between North Korea, South Korea, and the United States is emblematic of a failure to understand sophisticated and difficult foreign policy negotiations. The summit should be the final step in the process in which those nations’ leaders approve the extraordinary work of our best and brightest in hammering out the details of a negotiated deal. A summit ought to be the end, not the beginning of the negotiation.[106] Diversity of Views Mattis possesses a remarkable intellect, steadiness, and ability to speak plainly. His Marines loved him, as did and do his peers. But it is inevitable that, on some level, Mattis is still a Marine, and the Marine Corps is a small family. Mattis and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joe Dunford, have known each other for decades. This is also the case with Kelly and the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller. At the highest levels of the American government sit critical players who emerged from the same, close-knit family. It is worth asking whether the perspectives they have to offer the president are sufficiently diverse and whether the dialogue that occurs in policymaking is brutally honest, as it ought to be. These military men and women have strong bonds rooted in years of service together. The risk is that these individuals will seek consensus with one another rather than face the uncomfortableness of disagreeing with former “family.” The result is that the president may not be getting the best and most wide-ranging analysis from his top appointees. With the recent appointment of CIA Director and former Army officer Mike Pompeo to Secretary of State, the problem of the militarization of our foreign policy and the lack of diversity of thought and analysis has grown further. Notwithstanding the departure of H.R. McMaster and his replacement by a civilian, the primary sources of advice and input to the National Security apparatus are now largely military — active, retired, and former. This is not what our founding fathers envisioned. Duty, Honor, Country Among scholars of civil-military relations, “politicization” of the military is a perennial concern.[107] With a president in office who suggests that Democrats who failed to applaud for him at his State of the Union address might be considered treasonous,[108] fulfilling the task our retired and active generals in government doubtless have set out for themselves — to protect the nation and curb the worst excesses of a mercurial commander in chief — is doubtless more challenging than ever. For his part, Kelly appears to have the most difficult task. I can only commend to these individuals the quote by Brevet Major William Jenkins Worth that every West Point plebe is required to memorize:
But an officer on duty knows no one — to be partial is to dishonor both himself and the object of his ill-advised favor. What will be thought of him who exacts of his friends that which disgraces him? Look at him who winks at and overlooks offenses in one, which he causes to be punished in another, and contrast him with the inflexible soldier who does his duty faithfully, notwithstanding it occasionally wars with his private feelings. The conduct of one will be venerated and emulated, the other detested as a satire upon soldiership and honor.[109]
The Trump Administration has certainly made life more difficult for our senior officers. Their challenge is to hold themselves and their organizations to a higher standard than Trump has so far set for his Administration. And they should also be prepared to take the blame should anything go wrong, from a Commander in Chief with a proven track record of shirking all responsibility when a crisis arises.   Maj. Gen. (ret.) Paul Eaton retired from the U.S. Army after thirty-three years service in Germany, Somalia, Bosnia and Iraq. He served as Chief of Infantry for the Army and commanded the effort to rebuild Iraq’s Armed Forces immediately after the fall of Baghdad. He now manages a non-profit, 501(c)(3) foundation, the Vet Voice Foundation and advises VoteVets.

6. The Lack of Diverse Viewpoints on Trump’s National Security Team and its Long-Term Consequences

By Lauren Fish President Donald Trump has been in office for over a year, and while many key staffers have departed and been replaced already, there are a few clear trends in his staffing decisions. First, the president has relied heavily on active-duty or retired military to fill crucial national security roles, going as far as to regularly refer to them as “my generals,” including when traveling abroad.[110],[111] Second, when staffing the Pentagon, he has tapped many defense industry executives to fill senior roles, against the preferences of the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John McCain, who has threatened not to confirm them on at least two occasions, saying “we’ve had a couple, and that’s okay, but I don’t want [more of] them.”[112],[113] Perhaps most significantly, these selections have collectively been made to the exclusion of other, civilian, policy professionals. The Trump administration has not only eschewed individuals deemed insufficiently loyal during Trump’s campaign, but also those who, even privately, do not wholly endorse all of the administration’s policy predilections.[114] The implications of these staffing decisions are difficult to see day-to-day. They are more likely to manifest themselves as opportunity costs — roads not taken, insights not provided, contributions not considered. However, reducing the number of qualified voices and minimizing diverse perspectives on a team often does result in suboptimal decisions.[115] While it is not uncommon or inappropriate to include retired officers or defense industry executives in an administration, such individuals usually feature among a broader cohort that includes policy analysts, academics, and other experts. It is the lack of diverse voices and perspectives in the staffing decisions of the current administration that should be the cause for greatest concern. The relevance of this phenomenon for civil-military relations is that military views are likely to be privileged over those of civilian policy experts who are simply not invited to the table. The power balance in the Pentagon between and among civilians, the military services, and the Joint Staff has been adjusted since the creation of the Department of Defense — whether by legislation, regulation, or practice — and maintaining that power balance has traditionally been viewed as a mechanism for ensuring strong civilian control.[116] This balance was arguably lost in the early days of the Trump administration by its failure to fully staff the civilian, policy-making side of the Pentagon, which left the Service and Joint Staffs empowered and at the helm. Staffing the Administration The staffing of any administration begins long before an election. Policy experts seeking future positions align with a candidate early in the hopes that they have bet on the right horse. Those who align with the party’s nominee and ultimate electoral victor might even find their way into their dream jobs. Others who chose poorly have to settle for the positions still available after campaign staff have taken first pick. In general, political parties tend to seek reconciliation as the task turns to governing, which means hiring advisors who worked for rival campaigns. Those whose experience and policy insight can build a legacy for the administration are valued, despite whose campaign they worked on during the primaries. Yet none of the usual rules have applied when it comes to staffing for the Trump administration. During the campaign, the Trump team was notoriously staffed by only a skeleton crew of largely unknowns.[117] Many of the most well-known Republican experts had concerns about then-candidate Trump’s policies and statements and therefore chose not to support his candidacy. Some signed letters, such as the one published on War on the Rocks[118] or the follow-on released in the New York Times,[119] while others endorsed other primary candidates, Hillary Clinton, or write-in Republican favorites, like 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Instead of bringing those individuals into the fold after the election, as would normally be the case, Trump and his closest advisors instead rejected many of them, regarding them as disloyal. In fact, it is rumored that the administration maintains a list of letter-signers, which constitutes an automatic rejection for a job in government.[120] Needless to say, this decision has severely limited the pool of experienced national security hands available to guide the administration, including those from the civilian policy world. This is unfortunate because policy professionals working in think tanks and academia are able to offer unique and valuable insights that help to layout the options available for the nation’s leaders. They tend to focus less on specific operational, technical, or process details (though some are also experts in such areas) and more on the desired end states or outcomes for the nation. Policy experts then theoretically join up with experts in other areas — those who bring deep tactical proficiency about how military operators use equipment on the ground, masters of technical and scientific detail, or defense industry veterans who have survived the acquisition gauntlet, for example — to produce a fully informed set of options for leaders to consider. And yet, since most of the Republican national security establishment disagreed vocally with Trump on his stated policies during the campaign, the policy expertise side of this equation has, thus far, been anemic or non-existent. The Need for Civilian Policy Professionals It is a truism that experience shapes perceptions and is the foundation of a person’s knowledge base. It would be too simple to say that those with military experience inevitably approach every problem with a military solution. However, it is arguable that such individuals will be less familiar with the nuances of the diplomatic or economic options available to resolve foreign policy challenges, and will be unlikely to see their own organizations and their attendant pathologies from the perspective of an outsider. While not in uniform, those from the defense industry do not bring purely civilian perspectives either. Senior executives have financial incentives for the sales of certain equipment, and while they are required to divest of financial holdings that could create a conflict of interest with their government duties, Sen. McCain, for one, has recognized that these risks persist. He kept the issue front and center during the confirmation process of the Department of Defense’s civilian leaders.[121] The Trump administration, however, has not just challenged norms by hiring primarily senior military officers or defense industry professionals. Those staffing decisions have also excluded people who disagree, even privately, with the administration’s policy preferences. Rather than seeking educated and experienced thinkers who could offer dissenting views, the Trump team has rejected anyone suspected of holding even slightly divergent opinions. For example, the administration recently rejected the immensely qualified and widely lauded Victor Cha after he privately shared concerns about its North Korea strategy.[122] In response, Cha drafted an articulation of the risks of the Trump administration’s dangerous “bloody nose” gamble.[123] By not including countervailing views in its policy and strategy deliberations, the Trump administration narrows its options and limits its analysis of particular policy decisions. So much for a “team of rivals.” There is clear business literature that discusses the benefits of assembling a diverse team. Such teams tend to review facts in more depth, rather than relying on shared assumptions, and are often more innovative.[124] Bringing alternative viewpoints together means that group members expect to argue their case, rather than assume minimum push back, refining and increasing the value and persuasiveness of their positions.[125] The increased friction that occurs when convening people of different backgrounds ultimately improves analysis and decisions.[126] Furthermore, there is evidence from senior military officers themselves that leadership styles beyond the conventional military model are needed when countering modern adversaries. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, when he led Joint Special Operations Command, realized that al-Qaeda’s leadership was nimbler than the military’s cumbersome, hierarchical decision-making processes. In response, he rebuilt his command to produce faster responses and enabled smaller units, which he describes in his book Team of Teams.[127] Diverse viewpoints in national security will also help ensure that none of the military Services or other entities receive special treatment. It’s hard to dismantle an organization that one helped build or that propelled one’s career. Outsiders naturally find it easier to identify inefficiencies and are less sentimental about taking a hatchet to an organizational chart. This principle holds true for our military institutions. For example, many, including current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, have suggested the need for reform of the combatant commands.[128] Secretary Mattis’ final post was as the combatant commander of Central Command, raising concerns that he might be more likely to shun reform of his former command. The Boiling Frog Given the staffing decisions made within Trump’s administration, the president inevitably receives a disproportionate number of opinions from current and former military officers, as well as from defense industry insiders. His staff also hints that the American people should not question the choices of such distinguished officers, curbing debate.[129] Trump does not appear to hear perspectives from individuals with other backgrounds, those who bring different kinds of expertise to the table, such as regional knowledge, experience in economic development and trade, or those trained in the subtleties of diplomacy. Such lack of diversity in background can easily result in groupthink. The consequences of the Trump administration’s staffing choices are not yet clear. Like the proverbial boiling frog, small changes often go unnoticed until they have resulted in wholesale transformation. The American people may rebuff these centralized voices, but they also may not. The insidious part of this lack of diverse viewpoints is that its effects can best be measured in the opportunity costs of options never even contemplated, the outcomes of which will manifest themselves somewhere down the road. At that point, changing course may be more difficult or even impossible. Lauren Fish is a Research Associate for Defense Strategies & Assessments at the Center for a New American Security. Image: Department of Defense [post_title] => Policy Roundtable: Civil-Military Relations Now and Tomorrow [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => policy-roundtable-civil-military-relations-now-tomorrow [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-03-28 16:56:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-28 20:56:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?post_type=roundtable&p=539 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => roundtable [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => Given the number of current and former generals who have been appointed to the Trump administration, TNSR asked a group of experts to share their thoughts on the impact this is having on civil-military relations in America. [pubinfo] => [issue] => [quotes] => [style] => roundtable [type] => Policy [style_label] => Roundtable [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 23 [1] => 159 [2] => 158 [3] => 157 [4] => 156 [5] => 160 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Adam Gopnik, “The Great Crime Decline,” New Yorker, Feb. 12, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/02/12/the-great-crime-decline. [2] Gopnik, “Great Crime.” [3] While the jobs have slowly been filled, some vacancies persist, including about ten that require Senate confirmation, such as the Assistant Secretary for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities, and numerous other senior jobs that do not require confirmation. See: “Presidential Appointee Tracker,” Partnership for Public Service, accessed Mar. 24, 2018, https://ourpublicservice.org/issues/presidential-transition/political-appointee-tracker.php. Observers noted as early as last November, however, “The unusually long absence of Senate-approved Pentagon officials has led Mattis to rely more heavily on uniformed members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, rather than civilians temporarily filling high-level positions. That has caused some concern over the civilian-military balance in an administration already stocked with current and former generals inside the White House and other agencies.” Paul McLeary, “Here Comes Trump’s Pentagon – Finally.” Foreign Policy, Nov. 2, 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/11/02/here-comes-the-trump-pentagon-finally/. [4] Suzanne Garment, “Trump surrounds himself with generals who are masculine — but also obedient.” NBC News, Dec. 10, 2017, https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/trump-surrounds-himself-generals-who-are-masculine-also-obedient-ncna827476. [5] Garment, “Trump surrounds.” [6] Michael D. Shear, “Trump Envisions a Parade Showing Off America’s Military Might,” New York Times, Sept. 18, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/18/us/politics/trump-4th-of-july-military-parade.html. [7] “Macron: Awkward Trump handshake a 'moment of truth',” BBC News, May 28, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-40077241. [8] Suzanne C. Nielsen and Don M. Snider, “Introduction,” in American Civil-Military Relations: The Soldier and the State in a New Era, ed. Suzanne C. Nielsen and Don M. Snider (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), 2. [9] Those five relationships are those between civilian elites and military leaders; military institutions and American society; military leaders and their professions; among civilian elites; and between civilian elites and American society. Nielsen and Snider, 3. [10] In his influential article, “The Garrison State,” Harold Lasswell warned of “a world in which the specialists on violence are the most powerful group in society.” Harold D. Lasswell, “The Garrison State,” American Journal of Sociology 46, No. 4 (January 1941): 455-468. [11] Alan Rems, “Semper Fidelis: Defending the Marine Corps,” Naval History Magazine 31, No. 3 (June 2017), https://www.usni.org/magazines/navalhistory/2017-06/semper-fidelis-defending-marine-corps. [12] Mehdi Hasan, “Why we should worry that the only restraint on Trump is three unelected generals,” The New Statesman, Sept. 8, 2017, https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/observations/2017/09/why-we-should-worry-only-restraint-trump-three-unelected-generals. [13] John Wagner, “White House press secretary: It's ‘highly inappropriate’ to question a 4-star Marine general,” The Washington Post, Oct. 20, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/10/20/white-house-press-secretary-its-highly-inappropriate-to-question-a-4-star-marine-general/?utm_term=.176845f1e4c6. [14] Roberto Stefan Foa and Yascha Mouk, “The Danger of Deconsolidation: The Democratic Disconnect.” Journal of Democracy 27, No. 3 (July 2016): 12. [15] Alistair Cooke, “‘Eternal Vigilance’ – by Whom? 19 October 1969,” in Letter from America, 1946-2004 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 186. [16] Andrew Bacevich pointed out some of these same trends some five years ago. See: Andrew J. Bacevich, Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2013). [17] See, for example, Mark Landler and Helene Cooper, “Trump’s Focus on Generals for Top Jobs Stirs Worries Over Military’s Sway,” New York Times, Nov. 21, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/21/us/politics/donald-trump-national-security-military.html ; Carol Giacomo, “Why Donald Trump Shouldn’t Fill the Cabinet with Generals,” New York Times, Nov. 30, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/30/opinion/why-donald-trump-shouldnt-fill-the-cabinet-with-generals.html ; David A. Graham, “All the President Elect’s Generals,” The Atlantic, Dec. 8, 2016, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/12/all-the-president-elects-generals/509873/ [18] See, for example, Bryan Bender, “Is Trump hiring too many generals?” Politico, Dec. 2, 2016, https://www.politico.com/story/2016/12/trump-transition-generals-232148 [19] David Barno and Nora Bensahel, “An Active-Duty National Security Advisor: Myths and Concerns,” War on the Rocks, Feb. 28, 2017, https://warontherocks.com/2017/02/an-active-duty-national-security-advisor-myths-and-concerns/ [20] Elliot Kaufman, “Against John Kelly as White House Chief of Staff,” National Review, Aug. 1, 2017, https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/08/john-kelly-wrong-man-white-house-chief-staff-civilian-control-military/ [21] Jonathan Stevenson, “The Generals Can’t Save Us From Trump,” New York Times, July 28, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/28/opinion/sunday/mattis-mcmaster-foreign-policy-trump.html [22] Gelpi, Christopher, and Peter D. Feaver. "Speak softly and carry a big stick? Veterans in the political elite and the American use of force." American Political Science Review 96, no. 4 (December 2002): 779–793. [23] See, for example, Rosa Brooks, How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2017). [24] For evidence of the effect of partisanship and ideology on confidence in the military, see David T. Burbach. "Partisan Dimensions of Confidence in the US Military, 1973–2016," Armed Forces & Society (January 2018), http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0095327X17747205?journalCode=afsa. [25] See, for example, James Kitfield, “Trump’s Generals Are Trying to Save the World. Starting with the White House,” Politico, Aug. 4, 2017, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/08/04/donald-trump-generals-mattis-mcmaster-kelly-flynn-215455. [26] Emma Ashford and Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson, “Trump’s National Security Strategy: A Critic’s Dream,” Texas National Security Review, Dec. 21, 2017, https://tnsr.org/roundtable/policy-roundtable-make-trumps-national-security-strategy/#essay2. [27] National Security Act of 1947, p. 500 http://legisworks.org/congress/80/publaw-253.pdf. [28] See the Federalist Papers, especially 8 and 24–29, available at https://www.congress.gov/resources/display/content/The+Federalist+Papers and Anti-Federalist Papers, especially 23–25, available at http://resources.utulsa.edu/law/classes/rice/Constitutional/AntiFederalist/antifed.htm. [29] Peter Feaver, “Mattis’ Appointment Would Require Special Approval from Congress,” interview by Michel Martin, All Things Considered, NPR, Dec. 3, 2016, https://www.npr.org/2016/12/03/504274577/mattis-appointment-would-require-special-approval-from-congress [30] Peter Feaver, “A General to Be Secretary of Defense? A Good Choice for Civil-Military Relations,” Foreign Policy, Dec. 2, 2016, http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/12/02/a-general-to-be-secretary-of-defense-a-good-choice-for-civil-military-relations/. [31] Sheri Fink and Helene Cooper, “Inside Trump Defense Secretary Pick’s Efforts to Halt Torture,” New York Times, Jan 2, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/02/us/politics/james-mattis-defense-secretary-trump.html. [32] Michael R. Gordon, Eric Schmitt, and Maggie Haberman, “Trump Settles on Afghan Strategy Expected to Raise Troop Levels,” New York Times, Aug. 20, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/20/world/asia/trump-afghanistan-strategy-mattis.html. [33] Feaver, “A General to Be Secretary of Defense?” [34] Jennifer Rubin, “Distinguished Person of the Week: He Deftly Defies Trump,” Washington Post, Feb. 11, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2018/02/11/distinguished-person-of-the-week-he-deftly-defies-trump/. [35] Fred Barbash and Derek Hawkins, “Mattis Hailed as ‘Hero’ for ‘Defying’ Trump on Transgender Policy. But Did He?” Washington Post, Aug. 30, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/08/30/mattis-hailed-as-hero-for-defying-trump-on-transgender-policy-but-did-he/. [36] Dan Lamothe and Ann Marimow, “In Defiance of Trump Ban, Pentagon Releases Detailed Policy for Recruiting Transgender Troops,” Chicago Tribune, Dec. 20, 2017, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-pentagon-recruiting-transgender-policy-20171220-story.html. [38] David Barno and Nora Bensahel, “An Active-Duty National Security Advisor: Myths and Concerns,” War on the Rocks, Feb. 28, 2017, https://warontherocks.com/2017/02/an-active-duty-national-security-advisor-myths-and-concerns/. [39] H.R. McMaster and Gary D. Cohn, “America First Doesn’t Mean America Alone,” Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/america-first-doesnt-mean-america-alone-1496187426; discussed in Carter “U.S. Military Chiefs Respond to Trump’s Decisions with Respectful Disobedience.” [40] See, for example, Kori Schake, “How to Grade Trump’s National Security Strategy on a Curve,” Foreign Policy, Dec. 19, 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/12/19/how-to-grade-trumps-national-security-strategy-on-a-curve/. [41] Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, “‘It’s a Hard Problem’: Inside Trump’s Decision to Send More Troops to Afghanistan,” Washington Post, Aug. 21, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/its-a-hard-problem-inside-trumps-decision-to-send-more-troops-to-afghanistan/2017/08/21/14dcb126-868b-11e7-a94f-3139abce39f5_story.html?utm_term=.a9ebe72f93ad. [42] Transcript, John F. Kelly remarks in the White House briefing room, New York Times, Oct. 19, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/19/us/politics/statement-kelly-gold-star.html. [43] Callum Borchers, “The White House’s ‘Highly Inappropriate’ Response to a Fact-Check Reveals an Authoritarian Mindset,” Washington Post, Oct. 20 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/10/20/white-house-to-media-its-highly-inappropriate-to-question-john-kelly-because-hes-a-4-star-general/. [44] Maggie Astor, “John Kelly Pins Civil War on a ‘Lack of Ability to Compromise,’” Washington Post, Oct. 31, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/31/us/john-kelly-civil-war.html. [45] Miriam Valverde, “In Context: John Kelly’s Remarks on ‘Lazy’ Immigrants and DACA,” Politifact, Feb. 7, 2018, http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2018/feb/07/context-john-kellys-remarks-lazy-immigrants-daca/. [46] Jonathan Blitzer, “Evaluating John Kelly’s Record at Homeland Security,” The New Yorker, Aug. 1, 2017, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/evaluating-john-kellys-record-at-homeland-security. [47] Maggie Haberman, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, and Michael S. Schmidt. “Kelly Says He’s Willing To Resign as Abuse Scandal Roils the White House,” New York Times, Feb. 9, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/09/us/politics/trump-porter-abuse.html. [48] Don Christensen, “John Kelly and the ‘Good Soldier’ Defense,” The Atlantic, Feb. 26, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/john-kelly-rob-porter/554177/ ; Joanne Lipman, “Surprised John Kelly Would Overlook Abuse? The Military that Bred Him is Rife with It,” USA Today, Feb. 13, 2018, https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/02/13/john-kelly-rob-porter-donald-trump-overlooking-abuse-military-culture-column/328994002/. [49] Kori Schake (@Kori Schake) “Flynn making fast progress getting Americans to take military leaders off pedestals and treat as regular citizens when politically active,” Twitter, Dec. 5, 2016, https://twitter.com/KoriSchake/status/805949423050059780. [50] Brian Kennedy, “Most Americans Trust the Military and Scientists to Act in the Public’s Interest,” Pew Research Center, Oct. 18 2016  http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/10/18/most-americans-trust-the-military-and-scientists-to-act-in-the-publics-interest/. [51] Domenico Montanaro, “Here's Just How Little Confidence Americans Have in Political Institutions.” All Things Considered, NPR, Jan. 17, 2018, https://www.npr.org/2018/01/17/578422668/heres-just-how-little-confidence-americans-have-in-political-institutions. [52] This essay draws from an earlier article on a similar topic. See Raphael S. Cohen, “Minding the Gap: The Military, Politics and American Democracy,” Lawfare, Dec. 17, 2017, https://lawfareblog.com/minding-gap-military-politics-and-american-democracy. [53] Edwin Chen, “Clinton Backed by 21 Former Military Leaders,” Los Angeles Times, Oct. 13, 1992, http://articles.latimes.com/1992-10-13/news/mn-92_1_military-leaders. [54] Daniel Drezner, “My Concern with Trump's Team of Generals,” Washington Post, Dec. 5, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/12/05/my-concern-with-trumps-team-of-generals/?utm_term=.039055228e89. [55] For example, see Rosa Brooks, How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster 2016). [56] Hael A. Memoli and Noah Bierman, “Trump's 'Hard Power' Budget Makes Sweeping Cuts to EPA and State Department, Boosts Defense Spending,” Los Angeles Times, Mar. 16, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-pol-trump-budget-20170316-story.html. [57] U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, “Over 120 Retired Generals, Admirals on State and USAID Budget: ‘Now is not the time to retreat,’” Feb. 17, 2017, http://www.usglc.org/newsroom/over-120-retired-generals-admirals-on-state-and-usaid-budget-now-is-not-the-time-to-retreat/ [58] For example, see Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis, “Remarks by Secretary Mattis on the National Defense Strategy,” Department of Defense, Jan. 19, 2018, https://www.defense.gov/News/Transcripts/Transcript-View/Article/1420042/remarks-by-secretary-mattis-on-the-national-defense-strategy/. [59] David Barno and Nora Bensahel, “Why No General Should Serve as White House Chief of Staff,” War on the Rocks, Sept. 12, 2017, https://warontherocks.com/2017/09/why-no-general-should-serve-as-white-house-chief-of-staff/. [60] Barno and Bensahel, “No General Should Serve.” [61] Eliot A. Cohen, “Civilian Control of the Armed Forces,” Senate Armed Services Committee, Jan. 10, 2017, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Cohen_01-10-17.pdf. [62] For example, Jacqueline Klimas and Wesley Morgan, “Mattis Delegates Down and Manages Up in Tricky Trump Relationship,” Politico, Dec. 30, 2017, https://www.politico.com/story/2017/12/30/new-documents-reveal-mattis-influence-on-trump-white-house-247743; and David Welna, “Defense Secretary James Mattis Keeps Low Profile amid White House Controversy,” All Things Considered, NPR, June 15, 2017, https://www.npr.org/2017/06/15/533102578/defense-secretary-james-mattis-keeps-low-profile-amid-white-house-controversy. [63] “President Donald J. Trump’s State of the Union Address,” The White House, Jan. 30, 2018, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trumps-state-union-address/. [64] Kathleen H. Hicks, “Civilian Control of the Armed Forces,” Senate Armed Services Committee, Jan. 10, 2017, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Hicks_01-10-17.pdf. [65] Joe Gould, “Top Pentagon Posts 74 Percent Vacant as Congress Returns,” Defense News, Aug. 20, 2017, https://www.defensenews.com/congress/2017/08/20/top-pentagon-posts-74-percent-vacant-as-congress-returns/. [66] Hicks, “Civilian Control of the Armed Forces.” [67] Cohen, “Civilian Control of the Armed Forces.” [68] Gallup News, “Confidence in Institutions,” 2017, http://news.gallup.com/poll/1597/confidence-institutions.aspx. [69] For example, see Craigh Whitlock and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “More High-Ranking Officers Being Charged with Sex Crimes Against Subordinates,” Washington Post, Mar. 19, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/more-high-ranking-officers-being-charged-with-sex-crimes-against-subordinates/2016/03/19/3910352a-e616-11e5-a6f3-21ccdbc5f74e_story.html?utm_term=.8dcb434cf961; and Ann Scott Tyson and Josh White, “Top Two Air Force Officials Ousted,” Washington Post, June 6, 2008, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/05/AR2008060501908.html on March 10. [70] Gallup News, “Confidence in Institutions.” [71]Jennifer Kavanagh and Michael D. Rich, Truth Decay: An Initial Exploration of the Diminishing Role of Facts and Analysis in American Public Life (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 2018), xiii. [72] Kavanagh and Rich, Truth Decay, xvi. [73] Richard Wike, Katie Simmons, Bruce Stokes and Janell Fetterolf, “Globally, Broad Support for Representative and Direct Democracy: But Many Also Endorse Nondemocratic Alternatives,” Pew Foundation, Oct. 16, 2017, http://www.pewglobal.org/2017/10/16/globally-broad-support-for-representative-and-direct-democracy/. [74] John Wagner and Scott Clement, “‘It’s Just Messed Up’: Most Think Political Divisions as Bad as Vietnam Era, New Poll Shows,” Washington Post, Oct. 28, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/national/democracy-poll/?utm_term=.ee38300d3f5b. [75] Kristen Bialik, “The Changing Face of America’s Veteran Population,” Pew Foundation, Nov. 10, 2017, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/11/10/the-changing-face-of-americas-veteran-population/. [76] Gretchen Livingston, “Profile of U.S. Veterans is Changing Dramatically as Their Ranks Decline,” Pew Foundation, Nov. 11, 2016, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/11/profile-of-u-s-veterans-is-changing-dramatically-as-their-ranks-decline/. [77] Bialik, “America’s Veteran Population.” [78] John Wagner, “White House Press Secretary: It’s ‘Highly Inappropriate’ to Question a 4-star Marine General,” Washington Post, Oct. 20, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/10/20/white-house-press-secretary-its-highly-inappropriate-to-question-a-4-star-marine-general/?utm_term=.35ff816b6ce1. [79] Samuel Chamberlain, “McMaster, Shulkin and Kelly Could be Next to Go in White House, Sources Say,” Fox News, Mar. 14, 2017, http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/03/14/mcmaster-shulkin-and-kelly-could-be-next-to-go-in-white-house-bloodbath-sources-say.html. [80] See Cynthia McFadden, William M. Arkin, and Tim Uehlinger, “How the Trump Team’s First Raid in Yemen Went Wrong,” NBC News, Oct, 2, 2017, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/how-trump-team-s-first-military-raid-went-wrong-n806246. [81] For a good round-up of this trope, see James Mann, “The Adults in the Room,” New York Review of Books, Oct. 26, 2017, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/10/26/trump-adult-supervision/. [82] Pew Research Center, “The Military-Civilian Gap: War and Sacrifice in the Post-9/11 Era” (2011), especially p. 61., http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/10/05/chapter-5-the-public-and-the-military/. [83] See Peter Lucier, “Not your Messiah,” The Revealer, Sep. 8, 2017. https://wp.nyu.edu/therevealer/2017/09/08/not-your-messiah/. [84] See Mark Perry, “Are Trump’s Generals in Over Their Heads?” Politico Magazine, Oct. 25, 2017. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/10/25/donald-trump-john-allen-kelly-generals-military-215740; for an exception to this rule, note that Richard Kohn has been outspoken in his reservations: Mary Louise Kelly, “Trump’s Cabinet of Ex-Generals Indicates Focus on National Security,” National Public Radio, Dec. 7, 2016, https://www.npr.org/2016/12/07/504723677/trumps-cabinet-of-ex-generals-indicates-focus-on-national-security. [85] “Open Letter on Donald Trump from GOP National Security Leaders,” War on the Rocks, Mar. 2, 2016, https://warontherocks.com/2016/03/open-letter-on-donald-trump-from-gop-national-security-leaders/. [86] Phillip Carter, “Military Chiefs’ Reluctance to March,” Slate, Dec. 12, 2017, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/12/how_military_leaders_slowed_down_trump_s_transgender_troop_ban.html. It is true that Kelly and Mattis are no longer active duty military officers and therefore not technically required to “obey orders,” but they are widely seen through the lens of their military service (Trump and his spokespersons regularly refer to both as “General”), and the public discussion of their potential disobedience seems to stem directly from a hope that, as military officers, they would have the courage and fortitude to resist what mere civilians could not. Thus, though they are technically no longer on the “military” side of the civil-military relationship, from the public perspective, they might as well be. [87] More to Carter’s point was the situation after the Charlottesville marches and the death of Heather Heyer, when the president made fairly non-critical comments about the white supremacist marchers, and nearly all the service chiefs made public statements soon after, condemning both the violence in general and white supremacy in particular. This was not a policy disagreement, as such, but was seen by many as military pushback against a political narrative they thought might be damaging. [88] On the shutdown debates, see Dan Lamothe, “Amid Government Shutdown, the Military Becomes a Major Front in Political Battle”, Washington Post, Jan. 20, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2018/01/20/amid-government-shutdown-the-military-becomes-a-centerpiece-to-make-political-jabs/?utm_term=.7e4a9eba6cbd; Richard Sisk, “Lawmakers Push Bills to Keep Paying Troops Amid Shutdown”, Military.com, Jan. 20, 2018, https://www.military.com/daily-news/2018/01/20/democrats-republicans-push-bills-keep-paying-troops-shutdown.html; Gregory Hellman and Conor O’Brien, “Troops Caught in Shutdown Crossfire”, Politico, Jan. 21, 2018, https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/21/government-shutdown-military-soldiers-302007; Kayla Tausche and Jacob Pramuk, “Mitch McConnell Says Senate Leaders Have Reached a Major Budget Deal”, CNBC, Feb. 7, 2018, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/07/shutdown-news-senate-seeks-deal-to-raise-military-spending.html. On the NFL protests, see Jennifer Earl, “How NFL National Anthem Protests Have Evolved since Kaepernick”, Fox News, Mar. 6, 2018, http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/03/06/how-nfl-national-anthem-protests-have-evolved-since-kaepernick.html; P.R. Lockhart, “Trump’s Reaction to the NFL Protests Shows How He Fights the Culture War”, Vox, Feb. 4, 2018, https://www.vox.com/identities/2018/2/4/16967902/nfl-protests-patriotism-race-donald-trump-super-bowl. On the Proposed Changes to SNAP, see Amy Bushatz, “How President’s Food Stamp Cuts Would Impact Military Families,” Military.com, Feb. 14, 2018, https://www.military.com/daily-news/2018/02/14/how-presidents-food-stamp-cuts-would-impact-military-families.html; Scott Simon, “Military Families and SNAP Benefits,” Weekend Edition, NPR, Feb. 17, 2018, https://www.npr.org/2018/02/17/586759930/military-families-and-snap-benefits. [89] Lindsay P. Cohn, “How Much is Enough?” Strategic Studies Quarterly 9, no. 3, (Fall 2015): 47-61. [90] Samuel Huntington, The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations (The Belknap Press, 1957). [91] Jim Golby, Lindsay P. Cohn, and Peter Feaver, “Thanks for Your Service: Civilian and Veteran Attitudes After Fifteen Years of War” in Warriors and Citizens: American Views of Our Military, ed. Kori Schake and James Mattis (Hoover Institution Press, 2016), 97-142. [92] Eliot Cohen, Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime (Simon and Schuster, 2012). [93] Peter Feaver, Armed Servants (Cambridge University Press, 2003); Peter Feaver, “The Right to be Right,” International Security 35, no 4 (2011): 87-125. [94] Glenn Kessler, “When did Mitch McConnell Say He Wanted to Make Obama a One Term President,” Washington Post, Jan. 11, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/when-did-mcconnell-say-he-wanted-to-make-obama-a-one-term-president/2012/09/24/79fd5cd8-0696-11e2-afff-d6c7f20a83bf_blog.html. [95] Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, “How the Republicans Broke Congress,” New York Times, Dec. 2, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/02/opinion/sunday/republicans-broke-congress-politics.html. [96] Frank Newport, “U.S. Confidence in Military Reflects Perceived Competency (Americans with a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the military: 78%),” Gallup, July 27, 2017, http://news.gallup.com/poll/214511/high-confidence-military-reflects-perceived-competency.aspx. [97] Nicholas Burns and Ryan C. Crocker, “Dismantling the Foreign Service,” New York Times, Nov. 27, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/27/opinion/dismantling-foreign-service-budget.html. [98] H.R. McMaster, Dereliction of Duty (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997), 300. [99] Among those were my own father, killed flying over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. [100] Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor, Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq (New York: Pantheon Books, 2006), 102. [101] According to Tom Ricks, “Gen. Franks appeared to believe that planning for the end of the war was someone else’s job.” Thomas E. Ricks, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq (New York: The Penguin Press, 2006), 79. [102] CBS News/AP News, “John Kelly Says Some Immigrants Didn’t Sign Up under DACA Because They Were ‘Lazy.’” CBS News/AP News, Feb. 6, 2018, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/john-kelly-says-he-doesnt-think-trump-will-extend-daca-deadline/. Matthew Rozsa, “Here’s What John Kelly is Missing About Trump’s Gold Star Insult,” Salon, Oct. 20, 2017, https://www.salon.com/2017/10/20/heres-what-john-kelly-is-missing-about-trumps-gold-star-insult/. Richard Sisk, “Kelly Jokingly Tells Trump to Use Ceremonial Sword on Media,” Military.com, May 17, 2017, https://www.military.com/daily-news/2017/05/17/kelly-jokingly-tells-trump-use-ceremonial-sword-media.html. [103] David A. Graham, “The Rise and Fall of John Kelly’s Reputation,” Atlantic, Feb. 7, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/john-kelly-rob-porter/552704/. [104] Dan Mangan, “Rex Tillerson Found Out He Was Fired as Secretary of State from President Donald Trump’s Tweet,” CNBC, March 13, 2018, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/13/tillerson-learned-he-was-fired-from-trumps-tweet.html. [105] Robbie Gramer, Dan de Luce, and Colum Lynch, “How the Trump Administration Broke the State Department,” Foreign Policy, July 31, 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/07/31/how-the-trump-administration-broke-the-state-department/. [106] Evans J.R. Revere, “A U.S.-North Korea Summit: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?” Brookings Institution, March 9, 2018, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/03/09/a-u-s-north-korea-summit-what-could-possibly-go-wrong/. [107] Andrew Exum, “The Dangerous Politicization of the Military,” Atlantic, July 24, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/07/the-danger-of-turning-the-us-military-into-a-political-actor/534624/. [108] Jacob Pramuk, “'Un-American' and 'Treasonous': Trump Goes after Democrats Who Didn't Clap during State of the Union,” CNBC, Feb. 5, 2018, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/05/trump-calls-democrats-un-american-and-treasonous.html. [109] United States Military Academy, “Bugle Notes: Learn This!” accessed March 15, 2018, http://www.west-point.org/academy/malo-wa/inspirations/buglenotes.html. [110] Mark Abadi, “Trump Won’t Stop Saying ‘My Generals’ – and the Military Community Isn’t Happy,” Business Insider, Oct. 25, 2017, http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-my-generals-my-military-2017-10. [111] “Trump Thanks Cabinet, ‘My Generals’,” CNN, Jan. 26, 2018, https://edition.cnn.com/videos/politics/2018/01/26/trump-thanks-cabinet-generals-davos-sot.cnn. [112]  Aaron Mehta and Joe Gould, “McCain to White House: No more Defense Industry Nominees,” DefenseNews, July 11, 2017, https://www.defensenews.com/pentagon/2017/07/11/mccain-to-white-house-no-more-defense-industry-nominees/. [113] “McCain Says No More Defense Industry Execs for Top DoD Posts,” ABC News, Nov. 2, 2017,  http://abcnews.go.com/amp/Politics/wireStory/mccain-defense-industry-execs-top-dod-posts-50887220. [114] David Nakamura and Anne Gearan, “Disagreement on North Korea Policy Derails White House Choice for Ambassador to South Korea,” Washington Post, Jan. 30, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/disagreement-on-north-korea-policy-could-derail-white-house-choice-for-ambassador-to-south-korea/2018/01/30/3a21191c-05da-11e8-94e8-e8b8600ade23_story.html?utm_term=.427e2704204a. [115] Justin Fox, “The Computer Models Say That Diversity Helps,” BloombergView, Aug. 21, 2017, https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-08-21/the-computer-models-say-that-diversity-helps. [116] Consider the first line of the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act: “An Act To reorganize the Department of Defense and strengthen civilian authority in the Department of Defense…” Goldwater- Nicholas Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986. Armed Forces. Defense and national security, 10 USC §111. [117] Michael Crowley, “Trump’s Foreign Policy Team Baffles GOP Experts,” Politico, Mar. 21, 2016, https://www.politico.com/story/2016/03/donald-trump-foreign-policy-advisers-221058. [118] WOTR Staff, “Open Letter on Donald Trump From GOP National Security Leaders,” War on the Rocks, Mar. 2, 2016, https://warontherocks.com/2016/03/open-letter-on-donald-trump-from-gop-national-security-leaders/. [119] “A Letter from G.O.P. National Security Officials Opposing Donald Trump,” New York Times, Aug. 8, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/08/08/us/politics/national-security-letter-trump.html. [120]David Nakamura, “‘Never Trump’ National Security Republicans Fear They Have Been Blacklisted,“ Washington Post, Jan. 16, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/never-trump-national-security-republicans-fear-they-have-been-blacklisted/2017/01/16/a2fadf54-d9a3-11e6-b8b2-cb5164beba6b_story.html?utm_term=.813bb7a0a1a1. [121] Phil Stewart, “McCain Warns Trump over Staffing Pentagon with Industry Insiders,” Reuters, Nov. 16, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-pentagon/mccain-warns-trump-over-staffing-pentagon-with-industry-insiders-idUSKBN1DG39N. [122] Nakamura and Gearan, “Disagreement on North Korea Policy.” [123] Victor Cha, “Victor Cha: Giving North Korea a ‘Bloody Nose’ Carries Huge Risk to Americans,” Washington Post, Jan. 30, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/victor-cha-giving-north-korea-a-bloody-nose-carries-a-huge-risk-to-americans/2018/01/30/43981c94-05f7-11e8-8777-2a059f168dd2_story.html?utm_term=.bdb1d1d131bd. [124] David Rock and Heidi Grant, “Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter,” Harvard Business Review, Nov. 4, 2016, https://hbr.org/2016/11/why-diverse-teams-are-smarter. [125] Katherine W. Phillips, “How Diversity Makes Us Smarter,” Scientific American, Oct. 1, 2014, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-diversity-makes-us-smarter/. [126] Katherine W. Phillips, Katie A. Liljenquist, and Margaret A. Neale, “Better Decisions through Diversity,” Kellogg Insight, Oct. 1, 2010, https://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/article/better_decisions_through_diversity. [127] McChrystal Group, “Team of Teams,” accessed Mar. 22, 2018, https://www.mcchrystalgroup.com/insights-old/teamofteams/. [128] Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., “Meeting Today’s Global Security Challenges with General Joseph F. Dunford,” remarks and Q & A, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mar. 29, 2016, https://www.csis.org/events/meeting-todays-global-security-challenges -general-joseph-f-dunford. [129] John Wagner, “White House Press Secretary: It’s ‘Highly Inappropriate’ to Question a 4-star Marine General,” Washington Post, Oct. 20, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/10/20/white-house-press-secretary-its-highly-inappropriate-to-question-a-4-star-marine-general/?utm_term=.64246392f730. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => Contents [contents] => 1. Introduction, Celeste Ward Gventer 2. Trump's Generals: Mattis, McMaster, and Kelly, by Jessica Blankshain 3. An Effect Rather Than a Cause for Concern: The State of Civil-Military Relations in the Trump Administration, by Raphael S. Cohen 4. Civil-Military Relations One Year In, by Lindsay P. Cohn 5. Trump and His Generals: An Unfolding Crisis in Civil-Military Relations, by Paul Eaton 6. The Lack of Diverse Viewpoints on Trump's National Security Team and its Long-Term Consequences, by Lauren Fish ) ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 421 [post_author] => 124 [post_date] => 2018-01-31 12:59:06 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-01-31 17:59:06 [post_content] =>

1. The American Presidency in the 21st Century: Too Much Even for a Stable Genius?

By Celeste Ward Gventer Can Donald Trump handle being president? This is a question that has been on the minds of many in Washington, the mainstream media, and perhaps some world leaders, since the 45th president took office. The question re-emerges with striking frequency, usually in the wake of the president’s latest tweet, questionable claim, or impolitic remark. But few observers have raised the larger, more significant question: Can anyone, regardless of background, talent, preparation, mental faculties, rhetorical gifts, or other qualities, successfully manage what has become an overwhelmingly difficult job? Jeremi Suri argues in his new book, The Impossible Presidency, the Rise and Fall of America’s Highest Office, that the demands have come to exceed the capabilities of any one human being. Suri looks to five of America’s celebrated chief executives to understand the personal qualities and circumstances that allowed them to achieve their feats of leadership — Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and, as Suri sees it, the best of them all, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). The first four of these presidents, he argues, added something substantial to the office — majesty, populism, rhetorical virtuosity, strenuous engagement — which FDR fully leveraged to accomplish his unrivaled achievements. The apotheosis of presidential mastery, FDR “…was the culmination of one hundred and fifty years of growth in the reach of the presidency, the personal role of the president, and the public expectations surrounding the office and the man in it…The country never looked back.”[1] FDR’s successors, on the other hand, each failed in some way to deliver a remarkable presidency. According to Suri, they have fought losing battles against the U.S. government bureaucracy, which often works at cross-purposes with the Oval Office. Overscheduled victims of the in-box, these men have lurched from crisis to crisis while shouldering expectations that are simply more than one person can handle. Gone is time for considered thought or the opportunity to focus on a few strategic priorities. Post-World War II presidents have been engaged in a pell-mell race against time, pitched battles against intractable Congresses, and faced a mountain of obstacles that even the most exceptional personal gifts could not help them to surmount. Our six contributors — academics, practitioners, and some who straddle both worlds — generally agree that each occupant of the Oval Office since 1945 has faced great burdens. They have operated at an increasingly breakneck pace in order to keep up with whatever might cross their desks. Our reviewers concede that the American president is certainly the subject of great (possibly inflated) expectations on the part of the public. Indeed, as Jeff Engel notes, most of our recent presidents have left office looking careworn, exhausted, and distinctly older than they did at their first inaugural balls. But the contributors also ask hard questions about the fundamental planks of Suri’s argument. Is the narrative of progressive decline credible, or is it simply nostalgia for imagined glory days? What is the standard by which historical presidencies should be judged? Is the president the only causal agent that can explain outcomes? If the presidency has indeed become impossible, what can be done about it? Finally, is Donald Trump the perfect exemplar of Suri’s impossible presidency thesis or a refutation of it? Robert Cook and Kori Schake point out that American history is full of unexceptional presidents. Suri’s narrative of deterioration after FDR does not account for the parade of middling chief executives earlier in American history. What about Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, or Calvin Coolidge? Schake notes that the founders would likely have been far more comfortable with a limited presidency than an FDR-like figure, and that perhaps the brilliance of their original design is precisely that unexceptional people can do the job. David Adesnik asks what the standard is for the “success” and “failure” of presidencies, whether we might better grade their tenures on a curve, and how to appraise the performance of presidents who had both great accomplishments yet also presided over historic disasters. He and Luke Hartig both note that assessing any president’s performance is impossible without an examination of the composition and outlook of Congress. Several of Suri’s “successful” presidents enjoyed great support on the Hill, while the disappointments he cites — Clinton and Obama among them — faced largely hostile legislatures. Schake, too, notes that engaging with the literature that explores causal factors beyond the presidency would have improved the book’s argument. Hartig reminds us that there are forces acting on the presidents of today that their predecessors did not face, or at least not to the same degree: political polarization exacerbated by shadowy donors and gerrymandering; a media landscape in which sensationalism and playing to the public’s worst instincts brings in revenue; and an electorate seemingly uninterested in holding their leaders accountable. Derek Chollet largely agrees with Suri’s premise, and places the book in the canon of prior histories of the presidency by Arthur Schlesinger, Richard Neustadt, and Theodore Lowy. Chollet had a front row seat to the challenges President Obama faced in the White House. He notes that, to some extent, the difficulty of the job is inherent to it, because all the hard decisions get made before they reach the president’s desk. But he also underscores one of Suri’s key conclusions: A core problem of the modern presidency is the outsize (and unrealistic) expectations of the public. Jeff Engel is also sympathetic to Suri’s argument, and points to the author’s consistent and admirable willingness to tackle the big questions in all of his work. But he argues that the problem has less to do with how presidents manage their time or the international commitments they make on America’s behalf, than it does with the overall pace of events in the world today as a result of communication technologies and media. What to do about the impossible presidency? Suri suggests perhaps breaking the job into two parts, separating the ceremonial from the leadership and policy duties, along the lines of some European models. He also argues that presidents must do a better job of prioritizing and focusing on the most important strategic issues, thus allowing them time for much-needed thought and contemplation. Suri further urges the development of mechanisms to help the American public return to fact-based debate and become better informed through, for example, greater funding of educational and research institutions. There is a consensus among our contributors that changing to a European model is unrealistic in the imaginable future. A formal change of that magnitude seems a long reach indeed in today’s polarized politics. While it is also perhaps desirable to have a more informed public, the contributors have a hard time seeing how that problem is readily solved, even if educational and research organizations were better capitalized. As Hartig points out, it is the distrust of just such “elite” institutions that seemed to have helped usher Donald Trump into the White House. Of course, several of our writers note, any president could theoretically choose to focus on a few key issues and take better control of an overburdened schedule. This brings us to Trump. There is divided opinion on whether or not he is doing exactly what Suri suggests. Schake points out that Trump is, in fact, focusing on a few key issues — immigration, trade, taxes. Engel notes that he is leaving himself plenty of white space on the calendar for golf and “executive time.” But just because Trump is not tackling all the tasks that consumed his predecessors, Engel argues, does not mean that the need to deal with them has disappeared. And even if the job has become unmanageable, Robert Cook points out that the president retains one power in particular that should perhaps worry us more than his overburdened schedule: the ability to deploy a massive nuclear arsenal, largely on his own orders. All of the contributors seem to agree with Suri on at least one count. No solution to the problems he identifies is possible without the American public setting realistic expectations and holding all of their leaders to account. How to make this happen, one hopes, is the subject of Suri’s next book.   Celeste Ward Gventer is an Associate Editor of the Texas National Security Review, a National Security Fellow at the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas, and an adjunct analyst for the RAND Corporation. She currently consults widely with governments in Europe and the Middle East on defense organization and reform and is based in Amberg, Germany. As a Ph.D. student in history at the University of Texas, she is writing a dissertation on Eisenhower’s 1953 and 1958 Department of Defense reforms, inter-service rivalry, and the New Look strategy. She was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush Administration and served two tours in Iraq as a civilian. 

2. Grading on a Curve: Adjusting Expectations for Presidential Success

By David Adesnik If Harry Truman ranks as a failed president, then the bar for success must be exceptionally high. On Truman’s watch, the United States implemented the Marshall Plan, orchestrated the Berlin airlift, desegregated the armed forces, established NATO, and put Japan on the path to democracy. The stalemate in Korea undermined Truman’s popularity, yet he correctly saw the invasion of the south as a war of aggression. As president, Truman put in place the pillars of containment that lasted until the end of the Cold War. He deserves a generous share of the credit for a victory that cemented America’s place as the lone superpower. Nevertheless, Jeremi Suri concludes that the office of the presidency experienced “a rapid decline, and ultimate fall, after 1945,” an era in which “strategy became a lost art in the White House”, thus ensuring that “American power has underperformed.”[2] The difficulty of reconciling these judgments with Truman’s actual achievements highlights important gaps in Suri’s new book, The Impossible Presidency, in which he argues that “the inhuman demands of the office [have] made it impossible to succeed as president.”[3]  One crucial problem is that the book does not lay out a clear threshold for distinguishing success from failure. Post-WWII presidents may not have achieved the greatness of Washington, Lincoln, or the Roosevelts. But it is not clear that they should all be branded as failures, let alone that it is no longer possible for a president to succeed. Another problem is that, by focusing so intently on presidents as protagonists, the book misses an important opportunity to consider whether factors beyond the control of the president, especially the balance of power in Congress, may impose substantial limitations on what a president can achieve. In a system of government composed of three co-equal branches, it is vital not to confuse the absence of dramatic achievements by a president with the dysfunction of the system as a whole. Finally, these two analytic gaps raise questions about one of the book’s main prescriptions for reviving the presidency by “restoring facts to public discussion” so that Americans can begin to have “the rigorous, fact-based dialogue envisioned by the Founders.”[4] Understandably, Suri decries the partisanship and rancor of today’s public debate, facilitated by social media, yet slander and conspiracy theories have remained depressingly integral to public discourse since the time of Adams and Jefferson. There are five case studies of failure in The Impossible Presidency that profile the tenures of Presidents Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Reagan, Clinton, and Obama. It’s a list of supposed underachievement that runs directly counter to the collective assessment of 91 presidential historians who participated in C-SPAN’s Presidential Historians Survey for 2017.[5] On that list, Kennedy, Reagan, and Johnson occupy positions number eight, nine, and ten, respectively. Obama debuted on the list in 12th place, while Clinton holds on to position fifteen, which he also occupied in the 2009 survey. While significant inadequacies marred the tenure of each of these presidents, the C-SPAN Survey suggests that presidential effectiveness reached a peak, not a trough, in the postwar era. Notably, the survey ranks Truman fifth and Eisenhower sixth, just ahead of Thomas Jefferson. Suri declares that Lyndon Johnson, by “[t]rying to serve as chief legislator and chief executive turned an inhuman job into an impossible leap of folly.”[6] Yet Johnson’s legislative success was extraordinary. Suri concedes that he played an instrumental role in the success of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and thus “had done more for racial inclusion in American society than any president since Lincoln.”[7] But the author omits any mention of Medicare and Medicaid, the establishment of Head Start, or the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, all of which had a significant impact on American society. Advocates of limited government have made the case that Johnson’s triumphs were a prelude to eventual tragedies —witness today’s entitlement-driven $20 trillion debt — yet they do not question that Johnson was a success in terms of achieving what he set out to achieve. Johnson’s greatest failure — Vietnam — raises another difficult question for Suri’s argument: How does one evaluate a president who has extensive entries on both sides of the ledger? Perhaps a case like Johnson’s should lead to a reconsideration of whether any given presidency on the whole can be labeled as a success or a failure (and whether it is productive for historians to assign numerical rankings). It is similarly unclear why Suri concludes that the tenures of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton exemplify the decline and fall of the office of president, rather than illustrating the extent to which the chief executive cannot advance his agenda if the opposing party wins control of Congress. An alternate title for The Impossible Presidency might have been The Invisible Congress, since it gives so little consideration to the role of the legislative branch. While the book has many harsh words for Clinton’s and Obama’s Republican opponents on Capitol Hill, it identifies other causes for the failure of the two most recent Democratic presidents. While praising both for their empathy, inspirational power, and impressive intelligence, the author argues that “those qualities did not substitute for deep-thinking about how to shift the behavior of a massive government and a sprawling, diverse country.”[8] As a result, they were “harried, overstretched, and reactive executives,” whose record was one of “limited accomplishments, frequent haste, and emerging fatigue, rather than big and enduring New Deal-style transformations.”[9] It seems unfair to indict Clinton and Obama for their inability to measure up to Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). This may be a sign that The Impossible Presidency has not fully internalized its own warning that outsized expectations are responsible for persistent dissatisfaction with modern presidents. More significantly, the book does not compare the political situations faced by Clinton and Obama with those of the five presidents held up as examples of success, all of whom benefited from deep wells of support in Congress. While Washington and Jackson saw some erosion of legislative support in their later years, Lincoln and the two Roosevelts enjoyed commanding majorities. The achievements of Johnson’s Great Society would also have been unthinkable without a dominant position in the House and Senate. Clinton faced Republican majorities on the Hill from 1995 onward, whereas Obama lost his majority in the House after just two years and his majority in the Senate four years later. Perhaps Clinton and Obama occasionally wondered what they might have accomplished with the seventy-percent majorities on the Hill that FDR enjoyed. With good reason, Suri is concerned about the corrosive effect of today’s media landscape. He argues that, “in the highly individualized social media space, the absence of traditional editorial standards means that information circulates as truth with very little accountability to evidence.”[10] While granting that such challenges are not entirely new, the author writes, “The contrast with the rigorous fact-based dialogue envisioned by the Founders, and later generations, could not be greater.”[11] Yet the experience of Dwight Eisenhower, to cite just one example, suggests that stunning lies and character assassination are not the products of twenty-first century technology alone. As president, Eisenhower endured ferocious calumnies, notably accusations that he was soft on communism or even a communist himself. McCarthyism flourished long before Twitter or talk radio. While the founders may have hoped for better, they knew first-hand that freedom of the press can be dangerous. The partisan publications of the 1790s promoted the ideas that John Adams was a monarchist and Thomas Jefferson was a Jacobin. A half century later, American politics had to contend with the Know Nothing movement. In the late 19th century, yellow journalism abounded. Eisenhower’s experience, and that of the founders before him, suggests that this problem may have less to do with media technology than it does with more deeply rooted impulses. Yet, this sordid history should give rise to optimism and pessimism in equal measure. On the one hand, prospects for a cure are remote if the problem has always been with us. We cannot return to an idealized past. On the other hand, many presidents have achieved greatness despite having to contend with the corruption of public debate. Eisenhower, for example, helped to end the Korean War, prevent violent conflict with the Soviet Union, and steer the Republican Party away from isolationism. The economy grew while debt and deficits remained under control. To that list, one might add the establishment of the interstate highway system and the deployment of federal troops to ensure the peaceful integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Impossible Presidency deserves ample praise for advancing a bold hypothesis that directly challenges conventional wisdom. When leading scholars like Jeremi Suri take on received opinion, they prevent the field from becoming stale and complacent. No doubt, there are many reasons to be pessimistic about the state of American politics, the tenor and quality of public debate, and the capacity of modern presidents to get things done. Even so, the road to recovery may be easier to identify if we recognize that the challenges we face today are not altogether new, and stem in part from the structure of American government, rather than treating them as unprecedented obstacles we have not previously overcome.   David Adesnik is the Director of Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a Washington-based research institute focusing on national security. He spent two years at the Department of Defense and was part of the foreign policy staff for John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008. David holds a doctorate and master’s degree international relations from Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. His dissertation focused on President Reagan’s rhetoric and his administration’s approach to democracy promotion.

3. Can the Presidency Be Saved?

By Derek Chollet   “It’s like middle management.” -Barack Obama   The job of President of the United States is usually characterized in more heroic terms, like commander in chief or leader of the free world. But this workmanlike description is how Barack Obama summed up life in the Oval Office to Marc Maron in 2015, while recording a podcast in the less august surroundings of the comedian’s Los Angeles garage. “Sometimes your job is just to make stuff work,” Obama explained, “to make incremental improvements or try to steer the ocean liner two degrees north or south so that ten years from now, suddenly we’re in a very different place.”[12] Yet, as Obama experienced, this kind of slow, steady, sensible pace of progress requires patience and persistence that is in short supply nowadays. “At the moment people may feel like we needed a fifty degree turn,” he told Maron. But the danger is capsizing. “If I turn fifty degrees, the whole ship turns. And you can’t turn fifty degrees.” Being president is not easy. All modern ones have had to grapple with high expectations and shared powers, and at some point every White House occupant has expressed frustration with how difficult it is to get things done. While they all enter office with great confidence that, unlike their predecessors, they have the secret sauce for success, every outgoing president would likely agree with Harry Truman’s oft-quoted observation about Dwight Eisenhower from over sixty years ago. “He’ll say, ‘do this! Do that!’ And nothing will happen,” Truman predicted. “Poor Ike — it won’t be a bit like the Army. He’ll find it very frustrating.”[13] Or, as Jeremi Suri observes in his insightful new book, The Impossible Presidency, most presidents “die from a thousand cuts.”[14] Building his case by exploring several of America’s most consequential presidents, Suri provides a useful historical overview. His biographical sketches are vivid and revealing, recalling a classic work of political history, Richard Hofstadter’s 1948 The American Political Tradition.[15] Suri shows that while the scope of presidential power and ambition evolved from George Washington’s commanding modesty to Andrew Jackson’s fiery populism to Abraham Lincoln’s soaring poetry, it grew exponentially in the 20th century, thanks to both Roosevelts. Theodore Roosevelt brought unprecedented energy and ambition to the office, broadening the reach of the presidency into almost every aspect of American life, forging the bully pulpit, and spreading American influence in the world. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) took the reins at a time of profound national and global crisis, and transformed the government more than any other president, building an office with a tremendous span of control — a system with powers so vast that political scientist Theodore Lowi called it America’s “Second Republic.”[16] Suri argues that while FDR was the most successful president — describing him as the nation’s healer — his legacy gave his successors “too much power, too much responsibility, and too much temptation.”[17] After presidential accomplishment reached its zenith with FDR, Suri shows how subsequent occupants of the Oval Office became over-extended, over-scheduled, and overwhelmed. The expectations are now so high, the scrutiny so crushing, there is little time for innovation or strategic thinking. Scholars have been exploring the dilemmas of the modern presidency for decades. Perhaps the most famous of these was Richard Neustadt, who substantially influenced how presidents think about exercising power. His 1960 book, Presidential Power, became mandatory reading for the incoming John F. Kennedy team.[18] Reflecting the frustrations of the Eisenhower years, Neustadt’s angle was presidential weakness. He portrayed the constitutional duties of the job as inherently those of a “clerk.” Because of this structural disadvantage, a president needed to generate power from public authority and persuasion. Just thirteen years later, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. worried about the opposite problem, warning of the ills of the “Imperial Presidency,” in which presidents use secrecy, a monopoly of information, and the power of decision to give the White House a span of control that is dangerously undemocratic.[19] Derived from the management of foreign policy — the argument was built on the ashes of Vietnam and Watergate — Schlesinger cautioned that a president will exploit a persistent sense of threat to accumulate power at the expense of accountability. Then, at the height of the Reagan Revolution in the mid-1980s, Theodore Lowi took things a step further, acerbically describing the modern presidency as a “plebiscitary” office, arguing that this “Personal Presidency” created a no-win situation.[20] As presidential power blossomed with the growth of a massive executive branch bureaucracy, congressional abdication, legislative sclerosis (which has led to the increased use of executive orders), and the ability of leaders to engage directly with the public through mass media, so did the expectations for what a president could achieve. This created a pathology: presidents would habitually over-promise and under-deliver, which only fueled disillusionment. “As Presidential success advances arithmetically,” Lowi argued, “public expectations advance geometrically.”[21] Or to use Obama’s analogy, people want one of those fifty-degree turns. The Impossible Presidency fits nicely in this canon, and should be read as a successor to these earlier works. Suri’s book combines the historical wisdom of Neustadt and Schlesinger with the biting analysis of Lowi, and his core insights are made persuasively. By detailing the shared struggles of presidents whose talents he admires — Kennedy, Johnson, Reagan, Clinton, and Obama — Suri leaves the reader with a sense of despair, resigned to the fact that even the most capable leaders are stuck in a job so big they are destined to fail. Like these other works, this book reflects the frustrations (and worries) of its time — including the grim conclusion that as important as the presidency has become, succeeding in the job has become, well, impossible. Are things really so bad? Suri makes a compelling case, explaining how the demands of the daily grind — as well as the expectation that the White House will respond to everything, immediately — makes presidential success unachievable. Anyone who has served at high levels in government knows how important daily calendars can be, and Suri helpfully shows how a president’s days have only become more packed. The pace of events can be unrelenting, and it is increasingly difficult for presidents to maintain control over their workday, let alone their broader policy agenda. In many ways that’s the nature of the office. All the easy decisions get made before they reach the president’s in-box, so all that’s left are choices without clear answers or those that require difficult trade-offs. Most presidents understand this — consider the messages they send with the inspirational plaques they place on their Oval Office desk. Harry Truman’s famously declared where the buck stops, whereas Reagan’s had a characteristically optimistic “It CAN Be Done,” and Obama’s reminded “Hard Things are Hard.” All reflect the burden, and occasional loneliness, of the job. Yet Suri shows how things have only gotten worse. Suri’s analysis makes our leadership crisis today more comprehensible. He wrote most of this book before Trump was elected, but in many ways the 45th President is the natural culmination of the pathology Suri describes. The Trump presidency is like a vast social science experiment to test the outer limits of democratic presidential power, and one wonders whether the office will become even more imperial or if, in response to Trump, the system will self-correct with congress, the courts, the media, and yes, the “deep state,” acting as antibodies to constrain the president further. Trump himself will never change. So, as his presidency evolves, one can envision two outcomes, neither of which is good for the future of American democracy: an increasingly autocratic, “Trumpist” system, with democratic checks and balances eroded; or a president detached from the mechanics of governing (or hemmed in by senior aides) whose only real weapon is a Twitter account. In explaining how we got to this point, Suri’s sour conclusion is that the problem has less to do with any particular officeholder or institution of government. The problem is us — with our inflated expectations and, as the founders feared, susceptibility to demagogues. Over forty years ago, journalist Elizabeth Drew made a similar observation. In her Washington Journal, a detailed diary of Nixon’s downfall in 1973-74, she remarked that we have a “totemic” view of the presidency. “Societies need symbols, and the Presidency has been ours,” Drew wrote. “Our well-being is involved with it…. In Nixon’s frequent reminders that he is the President, he speaks to something in us.”[22] In other words, our expectations for the presidency must change — as well as our susceptibility to the ills Suri so eloquently describes. So what are we to do? What reforms could make the job more manageable? Suri offers some common sense ideas that are hard to disagree with, but none of them seem achievable at the moment. A president should focus only on “vital” national interests and urgent needs, communicate with the goal of “enlightening, rather than alienating” citizens and, most radically, move away from a single executive and divide responsibilities along the lines of the systems in France and Germany. This all sounds good, and to a certain extent, recent presidents have tried to act along the lines Suri suggests. For example, Obama worked vigorously to impose rigor on his agenda, going to great lengths to explain complex policy issues and future challenges. His last State of the Union address is a textbook example.[23] He reached out to audiences in the new media landscape, which is how he ended up doing a podcast in a comedian’s garage. He tried to divide the labor with his vice president and senior cabinet officials and built a “team of rivals.” But even someone as skilled and disciplined as Obama, who I think would agree with this book’s analysis and conclusions, failed to overcome the ills of the impossible presidency. While Obama played a long game and was able to accomplish many significant policy objectives (on health care and on the Iran nuclear deal, to cite just two examples), he struggled to meet expectations. Even Suri admits that he found Obama’s acknowledgement of the limits of presidential power — when much of the job can seem like a middle management grind of getting things done — to be “wise but deeply unsatisfying.”[24] Obama left office enormously frustrated by the political ecosystem defined by, as he described in his farewell address, the “rise of naked partisanship, increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste.”[25] Which brings us back to Obama’s ship metaphor. Over a century ago, another astute Washington observer, Henry Adams, himself the direct descendant of two presidents, argued that the American chief executive “resembles the commander of a ship at sea. He must have a helm to grasp, a course to steer, a port to seek.”[26] Future presidents can certainly do better at navigating their course. But after reading Suri’s book, one might add that a president must also have a populace who will give him (and someday her) a chance to succeed.   Derek Chollet is Executive Vice President of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. He served in senior positions during the Obama administration at the White House, State Department, and Pentagon, most recently as the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. His latest book is The Long Game: How Obama Defied Washington and Redefined America’s Role in the World.

4. It is the Possible Presidency that Should Worry Americans

By Robert Cook Jeremi Suri is an academic with a mission. He wants to repair the political system in the United States by persuading readers that the American presidency is no longer capable of delivering on the voters’ mandate to execute coherent policies tested in the fires of electoral democracy every four years.[27] He regards this situation as profoundly worrying because the president is the one person who, in theory at least, has the capacity to advance the public good, yet operates in a federal system designed to limit powers in order to minimize the danger of tyrannical rule. “The presidency is the world’s most powerful office,” he contends, “but it is set up to fail.”[28] Suri’s wide-ranging historical assessment demonstrates that American presidents have not always failed. His sketches of truly great leaders like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), as well as those of two arguably lesser presidents, Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt, provide evidence of considerable success. Washington, for example, carefully fostered the growth of a stronger central government capable of generating national prosperity and, crucially, defending the interests of the new republic in a menacing geopolitical climate. Jackson created the spoils system to undermine the influence of established elites and Theodore Roosevelt used his bully pulpit to promote a number of progressive reforms. Lincoln created a national army to prevent the destruction of the Union and FDR expanded the reach of the federal government in order to protect ordinary Americans from the most serious consequences of the Great Depression. Wisely, Suri offers a balanced appraisal of these achievements. He rightly chastises Jackson for his ethnic cleansing of Native Americans, and criticizes FDR for his inattention to the plight of African-Americans. However, he does not allow his subjects’ flaws — their limited racial vision in particular — to distract him from his central thesis: These men succeeded where other presidents failed, not only because they had exceptional personal qualities (Jackson’s military experience, Lincoln’s poetic speeches, FDR’s sunny radio voice, and so forth), but also because each of them possessed a clear strategic vision, set achievable goals, and maintained a close connection with the people. Suri argues that these presidents enjoyed a large degree of success because American society was less complex before 1945 than it is today. These great or nearly great men achieved as much as they did, he suggests, because the country’s population was relatively small and ethnically homogeneous and because industrial capitalism and bureaucracy were in their infancy. He regards the United States’ entry into World War II and its subsequent involvement in the Cold War as watershed moments in American history. No president after 1945 could match or surpass the towering achievements of FDR because their own efforts to act decisively were limited by a range of factors linked to historical change in the modern era. These included an expansion of executive business (which Suri illustrates usefully by comparing the crowded calendars of modern presidents with that of FDR), the stultifying operation of entrenched government bureaucracies, mounting domestic and foreign policy crises, growing tension between the president and his military advisers, social and political polarization that triggered a disastrous decline in bipartisan cooperation, and a proliferation of information spawned by technological innovations like the internet. To illustrate his thesis, Suri shows how energetic liberal presidents like John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson quickly became frustrated by their descent into crisis-management (though he does credit Kennedy for his ability to overrule his military advisers during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, and Johnson for his decisive action on civil rights). Instead of being able to follow through purposefully on a focused political agenda, they found themselves reacting to events on a day-to-day, sometimes hour-to-hour basis. Even Ronald Reagan, the hero of the American right, disappointed many of his conservative supporters by vastly inflating the national debt in order to combat the Soviet Union. His presidency ended in scandal, with Iran-Contra, a crisis born of his attempt to pursue his own foreign policy goals without the necessary congressional oversight. Suri acknowledges that Reagan’s Democratic successors, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, did achieve some things: economic growth in Clinton’s case and the Affordable Care Act in Obama’s. But overall, he claims, both of these highly intelligent presidents failed in their attempts to remake the country and the wider world in their own image. While Clinton permitted genocide in Rwanda and unwittingly spawned an energized conservative movement at home, Obama was unable to mend fences with Russia and left a power vacuum in the Middle East that was filled by Islamic State terror. In the case of both men, Suri concludes, “tactical brilliance crowded out strategic focus.”[29] As a result of the packed calendars, inflated expectations of U.S. power in the world, and the tyranny of the in-box, Suri claims, Americans are now confronted with the “impossible presidency.” Presidents are charged with the task of promoting the national good within the constraints of a federal polity but, regardless of their personal qualities, they no longer have the ability to get the job done. One can quibble with various aspects of what is, essentially, a declension narrative — a story of something becoming progressively worse, or declining, over time. Profound national crises empowered Lincoln and FDR, rendering them exceptional figures in American history. They would not have achieved as much as they did without seizing and being granted extraordinary powers to deal with civil war and economic collapse. One could make a plausible case for regarding Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt as failures, certainly in terms of their ultimate inability to stem corporate power in the United States. And even FDR, perhaps the greatest of all modern presidents, was thwarted in his efforts to foster progressive reforms by the emergence of a bipartisan conservative bloc in Congress in the mid-1930s. The truth is, there has been no golden age of American presidents. Even granting the successes of the great and not-so-great, the “achievements” of many 19th- and early 20th-century incumbents were decidedly negative. Take, for example, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan.[30] Both were men of narrow vision whose actions contributed unwittingly to the dubious accomplishment of southern secession. Or how about John Tyler who succeeded only in thwarting the economic program of his own party, or Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge who helped to lay the foundations for the Wall Street crash?[31] While his declension thesis is far from watertight, Suri is right to insist that constraints upon effective executive action have increased greatly in the modern age. Donald Trump joins a growing list of presidents frustrated by their inability to put their policies into practice as quickly and as decisively as FDR did. Trump may be the most powerful man on the planet on paper, but he has struggled to translate his much-touted abilities as a business tycoon into tangible political achievements. This said, contemporary liberals should be wary of congratulating the Founding Fathers for limiting the powers of the president. What is remarkable is the extent to which Trump has achieved his objectives thus far in spite of the obvious constraints on his power, including intense opposition from Democrats (and a handful of Republicans) in Congress, state and municipal opposition to his travel ban, sustained negative coverage of his presidency in the mainstream media, and deep social divisions generated by the ongoing culture wars. His signature policy of a border wall with Mexico remains an aspiration, but during his first turbulent year in office Trump has nonetheless put some points on the board. He appointed a conservative Supreme Court justice, significantly reduced the size of the federal government’s regulatory regime, has taken steps to unravel Obamacare and his predecessor’s nuclear deal with Iran, and secured passage of a conservative tax bill that he hopes will stimulate the American economy. He has accomplished these things by using his legal powers as president and by dealing with pragmatic Republican leaders in Washington. These successes indicate that Suri may underestimate the power of the modern president to get things done in the face of the many obstacles that he identifies. One policy area, to which Suri alludes only occasionally, clearly uncovers the limits of his thesis: the president’s enormous power to unleash nuclear weapons on the world. Donald Trump stands at the apex of a short chain of command that essentially gives him sole control over America’s vast nuclear arsenal. Procedures require him to seek confirmation from the secretary of defense, but ultimately the decision to order nuclear attacks is his alone. Therefore, if Trump determines, for whatever reason, that American nuclear weapons should be deployed against an enemy state like North Korea or Iran, his decision will be acted upon. The results would be catastrophic, both in terms of human casualties and environmental damage. Jeremi Suri rightly highlights the many constraints on the modern presidency, but on this critical subject his thesis is unconvincing. Readers of this roundtable should hope that this power of the possible presidency is not tested in their lifetime.   Robert Cook is professor of American History at the University of Sussex, UK. He is the author of Civil War Memories: Contesting the Past in the United States since 1865 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017).

5. Thinking Big About the Biggest Job in the World

By Jeffrey A. Engel Jeremi Suri does not write small books. Designed to reveal, prompt discussion, and ultimately serve as vehicles for offering solutions, his thoughtful works are not for intellectual shrinking violets. His first explored the international turbulence of 1968, a year remembered too often in our own tumultuous era simply as a point of comparison.[32] Having taken on a topic no smaller than the world, he then turned his eye towards perhaps the most influential, and surely the most controversial, American policymaker of our era: the oft-discussed yet perennially confounding Henry Kissinger.[33] Suri’s account ranks among the top works on Kissinger for its insightful portrayal of how the young boy’s exile and upbringing affected his older self’s Metternichian fascination with order and power. Turning from the question of what fueled intertwined protests or made a single man tick, Suri next put all of American history on the analyst’s couch, identifying an impulse for democratic missionizing and ultimately nation-building, which he considers essential to the nation’s culture and history.[34] These are not small topics, nor are they incontrovertible. That is, in part, the purpose of making a large argument: to generate thought (perhaps even controversy), pushback, and debate, within, and ultimately beyond, the ivory tower. Each of Suri’s books has aged well, remaining as relevant to contemporary discussion as any historian’s work today. The questions he has raised in each bubbled below the surface of American life and politics for generations: the implications of globalism’s reach and the interwoven lives of disparate peoples and states; explorations of America’s self-proclaimed mission and responsibility to the world; and yes, the influence of Jewish intellectuals (foreign-born no less!). These questions have become even more relevant with the election of President Trump, who disdains everything Suri has devoted a lifetime to studying — protesters, internationalism, nation-building, and experts — making his new book all the more timely. Written mostly before Donald Trump’s election to the nation’s highest office, Suri’s latest work shines a new light on the 45th president and the state of the office today. The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America’s Highest Office, explores the past and future of the nation’s chief executive and commander in chief. It is a position that, from 1943–2017, had no real rival for the title of world’s most powerful ruler. But along with the rise of Trump, there is a growing sense that the leadership of the free world and beyond no longer automatically accompanies the Oval Office. That virtually every major issue on earth once flowed across a president’s desk, as Suri describes, largely explains the office’s decline in effectiveness, thoughtfulness, and ultimately influence. If Trump’s election brought the presidency’s deterioration into sharp relief, Suri shows that it had been sick long before. Tracing the history of the presidency from its first occupant to its most recent, Suri argues that such a fall from power was inevitable, as the demands of the job became too great for any one man (or woman) to fully master: “Today, power elicits demands, at home and abroad, that exceed capabilities… Power pulls the president into mounting commitments, exaggerated promises, and widening distractions—‘mission creep,’ in its many infectious forms.”[35] The presidency itself has become an impossible job, his latest book concludes, whose burdens, being at once global and omnipresent, leave little time for reflection, strategizing, evaluation, or even governing. Given the size of today’s federal bureaucracy, and the breadth of the nation’s global commitments (both wise and imprudent), there is no issue capable of appearing in a newspaper that could not in some way fall under the president’s purview (for comment if not for coordination of policy). Yet, at the same time, there is no way for any human being to coordinate everything said, done, or committed in his name and under his presidential seal. The problem is not a new one: “[Ronald] Reagan’s presidency ended in scandal,” Suri concludes, in one of eight episodic chapters exploring a sample of historically popular presidents, when his “strong beliefs empowered zealous staff members…to push beyond the legal boundaries of their authority.”[36] Reagan was a hands-off visionary, unconcerned with nuance or detail. No one would ever reasonably call him a micromanager, whether of his office, his administration, or even his own daily schedule. Yet, “even if he had tried” to exert more personal control, Suri writes, “Reagan could not have maintained the same direct control over the larger, more complex, and more international government bureaucracy” that Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) did.[37] FDR was not only Reagan’s political idol, he is also the fulcrum on which Suri’s book hinges. Every predecessor to FDR he discusses contributed something to the office that FDR, beset both by global economic depression and then world war, found useful and empowering. George Washington’s “vision of a focused executive set the standard for his successors.”[38] Andrew Jackson, a self-styled man of the people with all the attendant contemporary fascist resonances embedded in that term, “rooted his presidency in the interests and expectations of ordinary citizens, rather than the refined institutions and ideas that had guided his predecessors.” As Suri writes, Jackson “made the presidency anti-elitist.”[39] Abraham Lincoln pushed the boundaries of presidential power still farther, yet not so far that it could not be focused and controlled. By the time Lincoln passed from this earth and into history, he’d commanded the world’s largest military, overseen a broad expansion of the federal government’s promotion of education, infrastructure, and industry, and retooled the nation from a collection of conjoined states into one national union. He’d also overseen more American blood spilt than any of his presidential peers before or since. Lincoln was neither perfect nor without his critics, being in Suri’s portrayal more controversial saint than unquestioned savior. The presidency under his mantle “became more powerful not because he could always achieve his aims, but because he managed to imbue his centralizing efforts with legitimacy through the force of his actions, and especially his words.”[40] As American power grew from its 18th century origins across the 19th century, so too did the president’s. By the 20th century, the power centralized in the White House was employed by progressive leaders to rein in other, more nefarious, centers of influence over American life, be they Wall Street financiers or corporations more concerned with profits than with the lives of their workers or the safety of their products. Theodore Roosevelt created a “strenuous presidency,” increasing “the speed, range, and impact of the nation’s executive as a catalyst for domestic and international change.” He was a “progressive,” Suri writes, determined to employ the power of his office to reform what ailed America’s modernizing economy and society, “but he was also hyper-interventionist in all areas of policy.”[41] By FDR’s time, the presidency had thus become prestigious (Washington’s influence); personal (Jackson’s); powerful (Lincoln’s); and potentially omnipresent (Theodore Roosevelt’s). A man of remarkable temperament and charm, capable of delegating in order to reserve time to socialize, think, and thus strategize, FDR employed all these attributes when facing and ultimately overcoming two of the three greatest existential threats the American republic has ever faced: the Great Depression and World War II (Lincoln’s Civil War was both the third and the direst). Suri writes that “Roosevelt was the last great president because the office was still small enough for him to control it, just barely. After him, the continued increase in presidential power exceeded executive capacity.”[42] It was all downhill from there, as leaders such as John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama soon found. During and after the Cold War, required to patrol and police the global reach of Roosevelt’s nascent leviathan, each of his successors discovered too much on their desk — and in particular, too much on their daily agenda — to truly prioritize their energy and efforts. Diffused by circumstance and driven more by crisis than by design as the necessity of responding to events outpaced a president’s ability to truly shape them, their effectiveness waned. There is, Suri ultimately concludes, too much on any president’s plate to expect success. The system is simply overwhelmed. So too the man. This is a hard argument to refute in the 21st century. The manic pace of events denies any president, let alone any citizen, the quiet and intellectual solitude afforded in previous generations. We all respond to crises, represented by beeps and buzzes emanating from the electronic tethers we keep in our pockets or by our bedsides, never straying far from their grasp. Donald Trump’s infatuation with the instantaneous reach of his influence is undoubtedly a key to his electoral success. Where would his campaign have been without Twitter, and a willingness to use it at all hours, and without restraint? It is worth noting that this proximity does not appear to make the electorate’s heart grow fonder. From Clinton to Trump, technology has brought Americans ever closer to their presidents, erasing much of the majesty and mystique Washington originally infused into the office. Trump, in particular, is omnipresent, dominating the news cycle and thus the electorate’s attention as no predecessor, while simultaneously receiving an equally unprecedented disapproval for any modern Commander-in-Chief at the close of their first year in office.[43] Trump notes his “ratings” are up, but counting views and clicks might work for reality television, where the difference between infatuation and revulsion matters not so long as eyeballs are transfixed. But in actual reality, one must take account of quality as well as quantity. Presidents have always longed to directly engage their constituents with immediacy and without intermediary. Woodrow Wilson traversed the country in order to sell his internationalist wares directly to voters. FDR’s voice could simultaneously flow into every business and living room, while, from Truman until today, presidents’ faces have routinely filled television and computer screens. With the Oval Office now connected directly to the miniature display of any citizen’s phone or even wrist-watch, the presidency today appears smaller than ever before. Pace and proximity are not the only problems the office confronts. No single leader could do all that is expected of a president today, Suri argues. In some sense, the current occupant does not even try. Trump’s post-FDR predecessors bemoaned being buried in paper. This president eschews reading. Television is less taxing. Roosevelt’s successors aged at a terrifying speed in office, its pressures etched into every premature wrinkle and gray hair. Trump’s coif appears untarnished. Perhaps golf helps. He hit the links one out of every three days, on average, during his first year in office. “I don’t have time for golf,” he complained when campaigning for office, and certainly won’t once “working for you,” the American voter. Inauguration left other presidents drowning in information and responsibility, Suri shows in great detail, their every movement and minute scripted, parsed, and occupied. Trump’s daily schedule, conversely, contains primarily “executive time,” his office’s in-house euphemism for further television viewing. Donald Trump is therefore not the ideal example of the burdens of office that Suri accurately describes, being particularly unburdened by them. This does not mean the problems Suri identifies have been solved or reached their nadir merely because they are going unattended. How then might more conscientious presidents, presuming there are more to come, contend with the overburdening of their post? Suri offers only two brief solutions — all too brief a payoff for a reader who has followed his long story of decline and yearns for a glimmer of hope. First, Americans might rework their constitution to separate the sovereign’s governing and ceremonial responsibilities, following a British or German model (one hereditary, the other elected) wherein the duties of head of state and of policymaking are divorced. Think how much more work a president might achieve if relieved of the awesome burden of greeting Super Bowl winners and spelling bee champs? Alternatively, the presidency’s plight might be improved by improving the electorate. “Instead of serious, fact-based debate, an increasingly segmented media landscape encourages citizens to receive information that confirms their biases, often without attention to contrary facts or perspectives.”[44] If better educated, more widely informed, and ultimately wiser, Suri essentially posits, voters would more likely hold their leaders to a higher standard. By “restoring facts” to public discussion, a president might more effectively lead. In 1931, ironically just before FDR’s election, the famed historian Carl Becker observed that “every man is his own historian.”[45] Suri in 2017 calls for each American to be his or her own fact-checker as well. Would that it were so easy. In the Impossible Presidency, Suri has thoughtfully identified the problem of an overworked and overextended presidency, and done a great service by sparking discussion and debate on the topic, even if he has failed to identify the root cause of that problem. Why are American leaders from Washington’s time forward busier than their predecessors, why has their pace of work increased as has America’s power and global reach (and thus global responsibility)? It is not merely because FDR took up a burden others dared not set down. Their pace has increased merely — and yet profoundly — because the world’s overall pace has quickened, along with its intertwinement. This is not simply because of new global responsibilities Americans have undertaken, but because of the technologies they employ. Washington and Jackson never had to allot time for consuming and composing telegraphs or emails. Their missives could take weeks (if not more) to arrive, and an equal period for a response to return. Lincoln would hear telegraphed reports from the battlefield and manage demands for a decision multiple times a day. Theodore Roosevelt’s words could be read across the country within minutes. Woodrow Wilson’s circled the globe in less than an hour. And by the 1930s, FDR’s constituents could hear him, in real time, simultaneously. The pace of connections and the reach of a president’s office and influence only increased in the decades that followed, not just arithmetically but geometrically. Today our commander in chief can instantaneously communicate to the world merely by tapping his thumbs. This is the real problem of the overburdened presidency, and one that is impossible to imagine retreating from or improving. Separating the ceremonial and the governing elements of the job would help. So too would a more educated and informed electorate who could afford policymakers the opportunity for a more elevated public square in which to debate policies. Ultimately though, the presidency is not such an impossible task for a leader who understands the basic elements of power in the 21st century — the speed and reach of that power in particular. But it is impossible to do well without fully recognizing when to put that power down. That one can reach the world within milliseconds in order to express every passing whim or fury does not mean one should. Suri has skillfully identified what makes the presidency difficult. The solution lies not in dividing the office or in limiting its scope, but rather, in our leaders choosing to concentrate on what matters most to them and what is in the country’s national interest, and not only on their retweets, ratings, and putts.   Jeffrey A. Engel is the founding director of Southern Methodist University’s Center for Presidential History. Author or editor of ten books on American foreign policy and politics, his latest is When the World Seemed New: George H.W. Bush and the End of the Cold War.

6. The Road to the Impossible Presidency Runs Through Our Dysfunctional National Politics

By Luke Hartig At some point early in the Kennedy administration, the president’s men — the “best and brightest” of their generation — realized they faced a challenge that not even their prestigious educations and fine family lineages could help them surmount. The federal bureaucracy that their hero, President Franklin Roosevelt, had built and that President John F. Kennedy hoped to harness to unleash American greatness, had become so unwieldy and obstinate that it threatened the very authority of the president as head of the executive branch. In the words of Kennedy’s chosen chronicler, Harvard historian Arthur Schlesinger, the bureaucracy “remained in bulk a force against innovation with an inexhaustible capacity to dilute, delay, and obstruct presidential purpose. Only so many fights were possible.”[46] By pointing to this observation in his new book, The Impossible Presidency, Jeremi Suri lands squarely on one of the fundamental challenges of the modern presidency. How can the occupant of the Oval Office serve as the chief executive of a vast establishment that may — by statute or due to political and cultural leanings — sometimes stand in the way of his or her agenda? This challenge has only become more acute in the ensuing decades, as a series of presidents, frustrated by legislative intransigence, have come to rely on their executive powers to get anything done. Suri’s treatment of the modern executive revolves around Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, both of whom he regards with admiration. He describes them as “Magicians of Possibility,” two men of humble backgrounds and extraordinary gifts who inspired their bases and enraged their opposition.[47] Nonetheless, according to Suri, both ultimately succumbed to the challenges of the office and delivered middling presidencies to the American people. In the end, Suri’s account concludes with a whimper. Seemingly overwhelmed by the impossible circumstances he has outlined, Suri suggests changes — a restructuring of government, perhaps the creation of a prime minister — that are more fanciful than practical. In addition to leaving the reader with few realistic solutions to the problems he so compellingly describes, a major shortcoming of an otherwise persuasive book is that Suri spends so little time on the real, day-to-day methods modern presidents have used to confront those problems. A closer look at the presidency of Barack Obama (in whose White House I served), in many ways, underscores Suri’s thesis about the challenges of the office. However, unpacking some of the additional challenges Obama faced on the Hill and with the public — including major complications of modern politics that Suri omits or touches on too briefly — and how he maneuvered within the executive branch to achieve major policy wins provides practical lessons for future executives. Indeed, it was both Obama’s pragmatism and his exercise of executive authority that made the things that he did accomplish possible. For Suri and other students of the office, the Obama presidency might serve either as a guide to what can be done about the overwhelming nature of the modern presidency, or a cautionary tale of executive overreach. It may be a bit of both. Any accounting of Barack Obama’s tenure must acknowledge his dysfunctional relationship with Congress. Many of the successful presidencies Suri cites relied on productive partnerships with the Hill. But today’s members of Congress operate in a different incentive structure from their predecessors, making the kind of wheeling and dealing of days past an impossibility. For Suri, the resistance Obama (as well as Clinton) faced was a result of resentment over their “non-traditional backgrounds, their remarkable rise, and the people [i.e., racial minorities] they brought along with them.”[48] But a more careful examination reveals a range of forces in Washington that have poisoned and polarized the atmosphere and would complicate the ambition of any president, no matter their rhetorical gifts or partisan affiliation. Getting elected to Congress has become almost entirely about fundraising, and districts have been gerrymandered so that the dominant party can stay in power. Serious 1990s-era legislative attempts to reform campaign finance have largely been abandoned, and the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United unleashed torrents of dark money. Lobbying expenditures have surged, while political mega-donors, like George Soros on the left and the Koch brothers on the right, now fund not only candidates, but constellations of political action committees, coalitions, think tanks, shadow groups, grassroots organizers, media outlets, and academic institutions that serve their objectives.[49] A throng of Beltway trade associations and special interest groups demands attention to their issues, and advocacy groups release scorecards grading the administration and Congress on how well they support priority issues and then urge their supporters to hold to account those members who are insufficiently pure. The kinds of deals cut by previous presidents and Congresses are no longer tenable. Suri has little to say about these realities, or their impact, and partisan gridlock is too often reduced to simplistic concepts like congressional Republican desires to “reduce taxes and protect a traditional white America”[50] or “a virulent political attack culture.”[51] The president also has less ability to shape public consensus than he once did. The media environment, which grew more polarized with the advent of widespread cable news and the proliferation of political talk radio in the 1990s, has only become more complex in the digital age. Web-based publications, blogs, and social media — carefully funneled to the political beliefs of the viewer and powered by a click-based revenue model that incentivizes the sensational — provide an avalanche of charged content to reinforce partisan positions. False or misleading news stories go viral on social media and partisans release 280-character streams of vitriol aimed at those they disagree with. Winning the argument has come to supplant the search for truth in our national dialogue. Here too, Suri’s treatment is far too cursory and his solutions too simplistic. While he acknowledges the role of new media and “false news” in our dysfunctional public dialogue, his prescriptions of empowering public educational institutions, public media, and non-partisan research organizations fail to grapple with the growing conservative distrust for these “elite” institutions.[52] Suri is surely right that governing strategically in such an environment seems impossible. But Obama took a number of steps to find work-arounds to these many obstacles, and in many cases, he succeeded. After early legislative wins on economic stimulus and health care reform, Democrats lost seats and eventually their majorities in both chambers. Republicans declared their top goal was making Obama a one-term president, and prospects for legislative victories faded. Obama, the former constitutional law professor, who had set out to work with Congress on landmark legislation, increasingly looked to executive action to fulfill his policy agenda. Often, this meant taking an expansive view of the statutory authority granted to the executive branch and pushing the regulatory machine to the outer bounds of congressional intent. In one of the more notable examples, the administration approved regulations to slash carbon emissions by fundamentally redesigning power generation in the United States — all without an act of Congress.[53] Other regulatory action introduced muscular reforms across industries, and contrary to Suri’s account, a great deal of them have not been easily reversed. A similar playbook guided foreign policy. In 2011, for example, in the absence of congressional authorization, an expansive interpretation of executive authority justified U.S. participation in a months-long war against the sovereign government of Libya. After Congress failed to pass a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that would have covered U.S. action against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Obama Administration justified its ISIS campaign under the 2001 AUMF that authorized military action “against those nations, organizations, or persons [the President] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.”[54] No matter that ISIS did not exist on 9/11, nor that ISIS had publicly split with al-Qaeda a few months prior. Some of Obama’s top foreign policy accomplishments that Suri favorably cites, such as the normalization of relations with Cuba, the Paris climate accords, and the Iran nuclear deal, were similarly lawyered so that the president had maximum discretion to execute deals he believed were in the best interest of the United States. His administration engaged Congress on these issues but deftly sidestepped congressional veto of the most controversial aspects. Also central to Obama’s approach to the presidency was mastering the mechanics of the executive branch. He appointed to his national security cabinet men and women who knew how to work the bureaucracy. At lower levels, the president appointed an army of experienced lawyers and policy wonks, most of whom had worked together for years in Washington, D.C.’s think tanks and law firms, to help him navigate complex legal and policy questions. And while some of Obama’s predecessors (and his successor) were in some ways thwarted by the career civil servants they presided over, the Obama team set out to woo the federal workforce. In many ways, Obama’s empowerment of a professional civil service harkens back not to Kennedy but to the Theodore Roosevelt ideal that Suri praises.[55] What’s more, in the post-Bush era, serving in government, especially at the White House or near the upper ranks of cabinet agencies, gained a new cachet among left-leaning young people, and served as powerful social currency in Washington and beyond. White House staffers associated with A-list stars and became celebrities in their own right. The New York Times gushed over the young Obama White House staffers remaking Washington, D.C. as if they were the young New York heirs often featured in the Sunday Styles section.[56] Top talent from Silicon Valley left high-paying jobs to serve in government. A Facebook photo with the president was the ultimate sign of insider status. For career staff, the desire to serve in the White House, always a sought-after rotation, became ever more intense, both as an opportunity to be on Team Obama and to potentially catapult oneself out of the slow, seniority-based career progression that defines the civil service. Beyond winning over the bureaucracy, the Obama national security team sought to understand the bureaucratic process and make sure it was actually carrying out the president’s priorities. As Suri notes, the modern bureaucracy tends to take on a life of its own and can stymie a president’s plans by slow-rolling them or implementing them in a way that allows the bureaucracy to fulfill its institutional biases. Whether by design or circumstance, the Obama approach to taming the national security bureaucracy ran through a muscular National Security Council (where I served from 2013-2016). A large staff — the NSC ballooned to more than 400 in Obama’s second term — had extraordinary reach across the government. The staff held more meetings on a wider range of issues and on more levels than many of its predecessors. The progress the Obama team made in reducing the detainee population at Guantanamo Bay would not have been possible had the president purely deferred to the Pentagon. His drone reforms, which held operators to a higher standard and resulted in a restriction of the kinds of strikes they could take, might not have been possible if Obama had fully acquiesced to the preferences of those operators. The Iran deal might not have been possible if the White House had been more solicitous of departments and agencies dominated by those that held more hawkish views on Iran. For the Obama team, overcoming bureaucratic inertia and executing the president’s priorities required both earning the trust of the bureaucracy and building a team big enough to wrangle it. To critics, the large NSC staff became a sign of Obama’s micromanagement and the insularity of the White House. National security commentators from both sides of the aisle called for greater delegation of policymaking to departments and agencies and for the NSC to focus on strategic matters. Seen through the lens of Suri’s argument, it would also suggest a continued trend of a White House without clear and limited strategic priorities. But keeping the bureaucracy moving along required the intensive involvement of staff with a direct line to the president and his closest advisers. Others impugned Obama’s expanded use of executive powers. Indeed, while most of Suri’s book was written before the Trump presidency got under way, he might have noted that Trump began immediately issuing executive orders and rolling back a raft of regulations, thus aggressively using the tools available to him thanks, in part, to the precedent set by President Obama. Thus, one implication of the impossible presidency, as illustrated by Obama’s tenure, is that occupants of the office must now inevitably push its powers to the limit in order to accomplish any of their priorities at all. Overloaded calendars and time famine have no doubt been a problem for modern presidents — certainly before President Trump brought “executive time” to the Oval Office.  Yet many of America’s business leaders face similar challenges, and anyone who has worked in Washington or similarly demanding professional environments would view a full schedule for senior officials as the norm. Indeed, many of Suri’s practitioner readers may be shocked by (and envious of) the large blocks of white space on Franklin Roosevelt’s calendar, but a return to those times is hardly practical. Suri stretches the time management argument beyond its breaking point by implying that effectiveness and calendar density are inversely related. The true lesson of the Obama presidency — as well as the Bush years and the early Trump administration — is not really about the increased demands and overloaded schedules of our presidents. It is about the extraordinary power residing with the executive and the necessity of exercising that power in order to advance a president’s agenda. Yet the reliance on executive power is a symptom of a broader problem, namely the dysfunction of our current politics, both among citizens and their elected representatives. The real solution, therefore, lies in having an informed populace and a responsible media that holds the government — all of it — to greater account. And it demands a serious Congress focused on solving the adaptive challenges we face as a nation rather than stirring the political pot and kowtowing to donors. It remains to be seen whether the extraordinary and appalling nature of Trump’s presidency precipitates a realignment or rebalancing of powers — that would be the best outcome — or whether he manages to follow Obama’s lead in using that power to the maximum extent.   Luke Hartig is the Executive Director of National Journal’s Network Science Initiative, a fellow at New America, and a member of the editorial board of Just Security. He served as Senior Director for Counterterrorism at the National Security Council from 2014-2016. He previously served in other counterterrorism and national security policy roles at the White House and Pentagon from 2008-2014.

7. The Possibility of Mediocrity

By Kori Schake Jeremi Suri argues in The Impossible Presidency that the post-World War II American presidency is “set up to fail.”[57] The core of his argument is that “by the start of the twenty-first century, the inhuman demands of the office made it impossible to succeed as president.”[58] Expectations of the office have burgeoned such that no woman or man could master the span of control, or resist the temptation to fritter their time away. Power “elicits demands…inspires resistance…[and] pulls the president into mounting commitments, exaggerated promises, and widening distractions.”[59] And presidents “are too busy deploying their power flagrantly, rather than targeting it selectively.”[60] This is a variant of the imperial overstretch argument. Suri’s version is not a straightforward realist argument, though; it is shot through with puritan disapproval that the country “strayed from its values” and undermined its democracy. There is much of interest in Suri’s history of the American presidency. His exploration of the origins of the term “executive” — and what its propagation in the 18th century tells us about changing political mores — is particularly compelling. But Suri uses a discussion about the structure of one branch of the American government to advance a normative agenda about who America should elect, and the foreign policies that elected officials should enact. The Impossible Presidency opens with an accessible description of the evolution of the American presidency, its origins in Enlightenment philosophy and the anxieties of balancing power and restraint in the office. Suri offers insightful observations on why there is value in the office’s responsibilities remaining undefined. But the book suffers somewhat from golden-ageism — the belief that there was a time when presidents were all “idealistic in their aspirations” and brilliant at their executive functions.[61] In fact, there was a lot more bungling and failure by our great presidents (think Washington and the whiskey rebellion or Franklin Roosevelt’s court-packing debacle) than Suri’s account encompasses. As Joseph Ellis has argued in His Excellency, George Washington, this does a disservice to the founders.[62] Carving them from marble leeches the real majesty of their achievements by making them Elysian figures rather than political actors. George Washington’s presidency looks a lot more anxious and unmanageable with less pedestal and more tawdry politics. Suri mistakes the aspirations of the founders — that men of civic virtue were required to hold the position — as the job description itself. Those virtues were in short supply in the 18th century, just as they are in the 21st. Jefferson’s pastoral moralism wasn’t shared by Hamilton or many others, and indeed Jefferson himself was a poor example of the qualities purported to be essential.[63] He was a romantic about power and an advocate for Plato’s philosopher king because — despite his Machiavellian manipulations for partisan advantage — he considered himself one. America’s third president was also astute (and arrogant) enough to reckon that few others met his standard. Suri says that “for Jefferson, the essential qualities of leadership came from the intellect of the man who occupied the office.”[64] This is another way of saying that for Jefferson, the essential qualities of leadership were those he himself possessed. Not for him the battlefield tenacity or executive humility of Washington, or Adams’ acidulous worries that gave rise to legal constraint. Our man Jefferson extolled his own virtues, which were intellectual, and imagined himself in possession of self-abnegation (a fiction which his indebtedness and personal relationships belied). Yet for all his faults, Jefferson did foresee the dangers of an imperial presidency. The great presidents were not uniformly virtuous and capable. Nor were most presidents great: The history of America is replete with mediocre chief executives. Suri focuses his critique on post-World War II presidents and ascribes a causal link between the growth of the job and presidential ineffectualness, but fails to account for all the ineffectual presidents before the job had the dimensions it does today. The 19th century roster of American presidents reads like a parade of mediocrity ­— and so does the 20th. In fact, what Suri bemoans can be cast as the founders’ greatest achievement: executive direction of the national enterprise by unexceptional individuals. Suri depicts Franklin Delano Roosevelt both as the architect of the imperial presidency and the last person to effectively wield that power. But is the reason for that structural or personal? It seems likelier that Roosevelt was an outstanding politician who effectively worked a system designed by its founders to do little; and therefore, the answer to an ineffectual presidency lies less in the structure of the office than in the deficiencies of the politicians we’ve been electing to it. There exists a vibrant body of literature on the explanatory power of structural versus other causal factors (such as personal qualities and decisions, or the preferences of bureaucracies).[65] While The Impossible Presidency is clearly intended to be an accessible and commercial read rather than a strictly academic one, it still would have benefitted from engaging some of that literature. What didn’t come through clearly enough in Suri’s account is that the president’s main policy challenge comes from Capitol Hill. The chief executive can propose priorities and legislation but must ultimately cajole the Congress to act on those priorities and enact laws to support them. Suri considers it “startling how much time they [Presidents] spend fending off small demands.”[66] And it is true that for the world’s most powerful office, the president does spend an inordinate amount of time having his picture taken and greeting visitors. But another term for those activities is building and holding together a political coalition, and that is the sole leverage a president has over the Congress. The small-bore politicking serves a large-scale purpose of giving the president the ability to direct Congress toward his priorities. Whether presidents can effectively capitalize on that may be the more salient political question. Suri concludes that the very power of the presidency prevents a president from being effective: Presidents are incapable of prioritization and focused activity because they are expected to do something about everything. He argues their interests would be better served, and their presidencies more consequential, by identifying a few priorities and dedicating all of their energies to advancing them. But one possible conclusion one could draw from Suri’s excellent recounting of presidential history is that because modern presidents are overwhelmed by all the power at their disposal, the presidency has returned to dimensions the founding fathers would endorse. They would have been more comfortable with today’s circumscribed presidency than they would have been with Lincoln or either of the Roosevelts. A few of Suri’s policy recommendations for addressing presidential enfeeblement have the advantage that any holder of the office could choose to adopt them. Other than his suggestion of dividing the functions of the office along European lines, his recommendations require only sparse legislation and no constitutional renegotiation. Presidents have in their power to establish and enforce their priorities and set their own schedules. Suri argues they should redesign the presidency to eliminate “non-necessary roles,” and use the presidency to teach “agreed facts” for making policy, and provide public funding for research organizations. Leaving aside the challenge of convincing the American public to accept their president as an arbiter of truth (Jefferson would roll in his grave!), Suri’s solutions seem inadequate to meet the magnitude of the problems he identifies. A president has many other levers at their disposal, and using the power of the presidency aggressively may counterintuitively solve the problem that Suri suggests an overactive presidency created. The election of Donald Trump is, for Suri, proof in support of his argument that America has strayed from the prudence and personal restraint of intelligent leaders. Crazily enough, President Trump may be the refutation of Suri’s argument. Because while stoking the flames of the culture wars, President Trump appears to care only about economic growth, restricting trade, and preventing immigration. The only piece of legislation he’s produced in a year in office is about taxes. He is scything back the administrative state, and his first executive order was an immigration ban. In his own way, he is exhibiting the focused prioritization Suri extolls. Trump seems averse to the alliance commitments and prosecution of wars that Suri considers immoral over-extensions of power supposedly irresistible to previous American presidents. Trump also appears to have activated antibodies against his agenda in the form of both institutional constraints and a more widespread engagement of the citizenry. While Thomas Jefferson would surely be repulsed by Trump’s belligerent ignorance, he would be deeply gratified to see civic forces mobilizing to constrain the president and the country prospering economically despite an ineffectual presidency. After all, Jefferson’s worry about an overweening executive was because of his belief that “every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.”[67]   Kori Schake is the deputy director general of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the author of Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony.

8. Author Response: Smarter and Younger, Not Bigger

By Jeremi Suri Bigger is not always better. Size can distort, distract, and discourage. It elicits excessive ambitions and expectations, dooming leaders to disappoint. These truisms of politics and strategy date back to Herodotus’ account of the Persian Empire and Sallust’s histories of Rome.[68] In its modern incarnation, the problem of size has underpinned two of the most influential historical studies of empire, Ronald Robinson and John Gallagher’s Africa and the Victorians, and Paul Kennedy’s Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.[69] For these authors, and many others, the historical growth that contributed to the wealth and power of dynamic societies also contributed to their rapid decline. Landed expansion to extract resources and project power overstretched the capabilities of the metropole. Early, strategic priorities gave way to hyperactive reaction in the face of multiplying crises. Foundational interests and values were lost beneath layered commitments, complex institutions, and — the nightmare of America’s founders — factionalized political communities. Most significant, the drive for growth caused the humility and focus of early leaders to be replaced with excess, militarism, decadence, and hubris. I wrote The Impossible Presidency as a study of American leadership and “executive” culture, paying close attention to size and history. The presidency was the most original and uncertain part of the early American constitutional project. As the country grew from a small republic into an industrial nation and then a global power, so too did the presidency grow to steer policy, serve expanding constituencies, and manage a multitude of far-flung government agencies. With a larger, more heterogeneous space for action, the opportunities and challenges for presidents became increasingly complex. Managing war and society in the 20th century involved exponentially more moving parts and peoples, across a vaster geography, and at greater speed, than ever before. The Constitution did not prepare leaders for these circumstances; they had to adapt the office with each generation and create new patterns of executive behavior. Presidential power is therefore path dependent and determined by context. The thoughtful reviewers of The Impossible Presidency have helped me to expand and refine these historical insights at a moment when the presidency is in existential crisis. David Adesnik astutely asks how we judge presidential success and what role Congress plays. He insightfully points to the accomplishments of recent presidents, especially Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, to show that size is not always debilitating for national leadership. Of course, this is true. My argument is not that all presidents have failed since Franklin Roosevelt, but rather that Truman, Eisenhower, and their successors found themselves responding to ever-multiplying international and domestic demands. As much as they tried — and Truman and Eisenhower tried mightily — they could not avoid the Cold War conflicts abroad and rising expectations at home that distracted them from their original goals. The Cold War conflagrations around the world that redefined communist containment during their presidencies and empowered anti-communist excesses at home, left a military-industrial complex in place that both Truman and Eisenhower perceived as a profound threat to the democracy they held so dear. At home and abroad, size made the defense of core values more difficult, even for clairvoyant leaders such as these. Kori Schake takes me to task for smuggling a normative judgment into this argument. She wishes for more realism; less “puritan disapproval.” (I have never been called a Puritan before!) Schake also points out that many earlier presidents, including George Washington, contended with competing demands, rising expectations, and even a fair share of personal bumbling. She is, of course, correct — but only to a point. Even the worst presidents of the 19th century had fewer opportunities to fail than their successors a century later. What’s more, failure in the 20th century meant more harm to more people in more places, with greater rapidity than before. The Civil War, for all of its mass death and destruction, pales in comparison with the repeated genocides of the 20th century. A divided, distracted, and overstretched presidency is much more threatening to the security of our nation and our world today than it was in previous generations. Leadership is harder, yet more necessary; its absence has more tragic consequences. The healthy civic “antibodies” to despotic leadership that Schake so eloquently describes, and I embrace, are not solutions to the leadership problem, but symptoms of it. Robert Cook builds on this perspective, pointing to the existential dangers of such a sizeable nuclear arsenal in the hands of contemporary presidents. For Cook, presidential power to irradiate the world is all too possible. I fear he is correct, although the real question is why presidents who strongly wished to eliminate nuclear weapons — especially Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama — could not do so. For all their power as commanders in chief, they confronted a wide range of international threats and organized domestic interests (including a stubborn military-industrial complex) that opposed steep weapons reductions. Although presidents could make war, their range of responsibilities made it much harder to un-make the nuclear dangers of their time. Large nuclear arsenals became an inescapable albatross for presidents as early John F. Kennedy, limiting their strategic flexibility and freezing dangerous commitments in place. Nuclear weapons made America’s traditional international aloofness — first announced by George Washington and maintained until Franklin Roosevelt — impossible. Luke Hartig’s review describes how presidents, particularly Barack Obama, create flexibility in these impossible circumstances by stretching executive authority, drawing top talent, and mobilizing particular constituencies, where possible. The pressures on presidential decision-making, especially from a dysfunctional and oppositional Congress, make these extra-constitutional actions necessary, Hartig argues, and I certainly agree. Hartig is also correct to describe the costs of these presidential efforts for the overall quality of policymaking and national unity. Presidential maneuvers to get around the impossibilities of the office make enduring leadership only more impossible. The solution is surely, as Hartig argues, to focus the power of the executive on fewer priorities and empower other institutions, particularly Congress, to contribute more substantively. Derek Chollet reveals that Barack Obama conceptualized his presidency along these lines. He played the “long game,” and sought to accomplish big things through “incremental improvements” in key areas, “so that ten years from now, suddenly we’re in a very different place.” “It’s like middle management” — a revealing statement from Obama. And that is the problem. The office pulls men who are elected to solve big, pressing problems into incremental roles that are prudent, but often insufficient. Incrementalism is the story of war in Vietnam and creeping inequality in the United States. Incrementalism is the excuse for sticking with bad decisions in Afghanistan and the war on drugs, rather than abandoning obvious failure. Chollet is surely correct that incrementalism still has wisdom, and perhaps it is the best we can do. I share his (and Obama’s) frustrations with partisanship and institutional resistance. But instead of giving up, I still believe that presidents must find a creative way forward. More priorities and selective risk-taking, as in Obama’s opening to Cuba, are necessary, and other daily issues must be removed from the president’s calendar. This is not an excuse for laziness and pig-headedness, as exemplified by our current president, but instead a call for deep thought, broad consultation, and innovative action where they are most opportune for the nation as a whole. Jeffrey Engel captures beautifully how different the book’s historical diagnosis is from the mangled presidency of our current moment: Trump “disdains everything Suri has devoted a lifetime to studying — protesters, internationalism, nation-building, and experts.” So true! The current president is not mobilizing the nation as a whole behind priorities for national security and domestic tranquility, but hardening divisions and neglecting growing vulnerabilities. Engel makes superb points about how technology — from social media to cyberwarfare — has pushed even the best leaders to frenetic reactivity, rather than calm, considered thought. Engel is correct that The Impossible Presidency says too little about technology. The suggestions for a focused presidential agenda, investments in public enlightenment, and a less personalized presidency that I offer in the epilogue are indeed insufficient to counteract the pings on our phones that pull leaders’ attention at all hours of the day. The reviewers all agree that much more work is needed to chart pathways forward from our current predicament. Celeste Gventer makes this point in her excellent introduction to the roundtable. I agree, and I am optimistic. The Impossible Presidency is not a declension narrative. I believe that a rise and fall in the presidency can be followed by renewal in a new form of the office — devoted to creative problem solving and inspiring the best qualities in American society (“the better angels of our nature,” in Lincoln’s words). That is the real point of my epilogue. The resources for American leadership — a dynamic, wealthy, secure nation — remain firm. The challenge is to reassemble the resources within our constitutional structure for something new. The Impossible Presidency shows that we have done this before in each of the presidential transformations that I describe in the first half of the book. We have an opportunity to do the same again today, at a time when the failures of the current executive institutions are so evident. While I may not have the answers for how this will happen, I believe that asking hard questions about where the institution of the presidency came from, how it has changed, and what is needed next is the right place to start. Challenging ourselves to think about alternative models — even France! — can open our minds to other sources of inspiration. Most of all, engaging a new generation of problem solvers — the “Millennials” — in this vital task is a golden opportunity. Institutions change when people within them seek new ways to solve real problems. That is not happening today. As currently constituted, our institutions discourage this kind of change. We need the exogenous force of youthful idealism and intelligence to enter our political institutions and wreak some havoc, tip some sacred cows, and redefine what democracy looks like. That needs to happen in the presidency, in Congress, in our universities, and elsewhere. I wrote The Impossible Presidency, above all, to encourage that kind of messy revitalization. Generational change has been the engine of American executive development and democratic reform in the past, and it can be again. The presidency will be less impossible when the woman in office reinvents it to serve the most important national needs, currently lost somewhere in the crowded schedules and long hours of “executive time” spent on Twitter and television. Instead of being bigger, we should focus our leadership on being smarter. Jeremi Suri holds the Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is a professor in the Department of History and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. He is the author and editor of nine books, most recently, The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America’s Highest Office.   Image: Public Domain [post_title] => Book Review Roundtable: Has the Presidency Become Impossible to Manage? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => book-review-roundtable-presidency-become-impossible-manage [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-08 14:34:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-08 19:34:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?post_type=roundtable&p=421 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => roundtable [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => In his latest book, "The Impossible Presidency," Jeremi Suri looks at the history of the presidency and asks whether it is still possible for a president to succeed. We've gathered six scholars and policymakers to weigh in. [pubinfo] => [issue] => [quotes] => [style] => roundtable [type] => Book [style_label] => Roundtable [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 124 [1] => 30 [2] => 125 [3] => 126 [4] => 23 [5] => 127 [6] => 75 [7] => 135 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Jeremi Suri, The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America’s Highest Office (New York: Basic Books, 2017), xii. [2] Jeremi Suri, The Impossible Presidency: The Rise of Fall of America’s Highest Office (New York: Basic Books, 2017), xiii-xiv, xxi. [3] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 289. [4] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 291-292 [5] National Cable Satellite Corporation. “Presidential Historians Survey 2017.” C-SPAN.org, accessed Jan. 31, 2018,  https://www.c-span.org/presidentsurvey2017/?page=overall. [6] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 211 [7] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 220 [8] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 271 [9] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 271-272. There is some ambiguity on the subject of Clinton and Obama’s alleged failure. At one point, the book condemns Republicans whose “partisanship and a virulent political attack culture prohibited legislative compromise.” Yet presumably even the most fair-minded and civil Republicans would not have agreed to a New Deal-style transformation (see Suri, Impossible Presidency, 275). [10] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 291 [11] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 292 [12] See Marc Maron interview with Barack Obama, June 22, 2015, http://www.wtfpod.com/podcast/episodes/episode_613_-_president_barack_obama. [13] Richard Neustadt, Presidential Power (New York: The Free Press, 1990), 10. [14] Jeremi Suri, The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America’s Highest Office (New York: Basic Books, 2017), xvi. [15] Richard Hofstadter, The American Political Tradition (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1948). [16] Theodore Lowi, The End of Liberalism (New York: Norton,1969). [17] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 177. [18] Neustadt, Presidential Power. [19] Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Imperial Presidency (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1973). [20] Lowi, The Personal President (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985). [21] Lowi, Personal President, 20. [22] Elizabeth Drew, Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon's Downfall (New York: Overlook Press, 2015), 121. [23] Barack Obama. “State of the Union Address.” https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/01/12/remarks-president-barack-obama-–-prepared-delivery-state-union-address. [24] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 286. [25] Barack Obama. “Farewell Remarks.” http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-obama-farewell-speech-transcript-20170110-story.html. [26] As quoted by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., “Editor’s Note.” In Josiah Bunting, III, Ulysses S. Grant (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2004), xviii. [27] Jeremi Suri, The Impossible Presidency: The Rise of Fall of America’s Highest Office (New York: Basic Books, 2017), 297. [28] Suri, Impossible Presidency ix. [29] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 272. [30] For judicious assessments of Presidents Pierce and Buchanan see Michael F. Holt, Franklin Pierce (New York: Times Books, 2010), and Jean H. Baker, James Buchanan (New York: Times Books, 2004). [31] On Tyler, Harding and Coolidge, see especially Gary May, John Tyler (New York: Times Books, 2008) and William E. Leuchtenburg, The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), chapter 3. [32] Jeremi Suri, Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Détente (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003). [33] Jeremi Suri, Henry Kissinger and the American Century (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2009). [34] Jeremi Suri, Liberty’s Surest Guardian: American Nation-Building from the Founders to Obama (New York: Free Press, 2012). [35] Jeremi Suri, The Impossible Presidency: The Rise of Fall of America’s Highest Office (New York: Basic Books, 2017), ix. [36] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 257. [37] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 258. [38] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 46. [39] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 69. [40] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 100. [41] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 135-136. [42] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 177. [43] Rebecca Savransky, “Gallup: Trump’s First Year Job Approval Ten Points Lower than Any Predecessor.” The Hill, January 22, 2018. http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/370154-gallup-trumps-first-year-job-approval-10-points-lower-than-any. [44] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 290-291. [45] Carl L. Becker, “Everyman His Own Historian,” American Historical Review, 37, no. 2 (1931): 221–36. [46] Jeremi Suri, The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America’s Highest Office, (New York: Basic Books, 2017), 189. [47] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 261. [48] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 275. [49] Open Secrets. "Total lobbying spending in the U.S. 1998-2016 | Statistic." Statista. April, 2017. Accessed January 09, 2018. https://www.statista.com/statistics/257337/total-lobbying-spending-in-the-us/. [50] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 276. [51] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 275. [52] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 291-292. [53] Coral Davenport, “Obama to Take Action to Slash Coal Pollution,” New York Times, June 1, 2014. Accessed on January 31, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/02/us/politics/epa-to-seek-30-percent-cut-in-carbon-emissions.html [54] United States. Cong. Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Those Responsible for the Recent Attacks Launched Against the United States. 107th Cong. S.J.Res 23. 115 Stat. 224 (2001). [55] Suri, Impossible Presidency,, 111. [56] See, for example, Ashley Parker, “All the Obama 20-Somethings,” New York Times Magazine, April 29, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/02/magazine/02obamastaff-t.html. [57] Jeremi Suri, The Impossible Presidency: the Rise and Fall of America’s Highest Office (New York: Basic Books, 2017), xi. [58] Suri, Impossible Presidency, 281. [59] Suri, Impossible Presidency, ix. [60] Suri, Impossible Presidency, x. [61] Suri, Impossible Presidency, xi. [62] Joseph Ellis, His Excellency, George Washington (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004). [63] For example, Jefferson fails to meet the criteria adduced by Madison: avoid financial dependence, not live extravagantly, etc., Suri, Impossible Presidency, p 20. [64] Suri, Impossible Presidency, x. [65] For example, Richard Neustadt, Presidential Power (New York: The Free Press, 1990); Scott C. James, “The Evolution of the Presidency: Between the Promise and the Fear,” The Executive Branch, ed. Joel D. Aberbach and Mark A. Peterson (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); George C. Edwards, III, Kenneth R. Mayer, Stephen J. Wayne, Presidential Leadership: Politics and Policy Making, (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018); Fred I. Greenstein, The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to George W. Bush (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004); Morton Halperin and Priscilla Clapp and Arnold Kanter, Bureaucratic Politics and Foreign Policy (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2006). [66] Suri, Impossible Presidency, xvi, and 190-191. [67] Thomas Jefferson, “Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 14,” Jefferson: Political Writings, Joyce Appleby and Terrence Ball, eds., (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought), 259. [68] See Herodotus, The Histories, trans. Robin Waterfield (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998); Sallust, Loeb Classical Library, Number 116, trans. J.C. Rolfe (Cambridge: Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1921). [69] See Ronald Robinson and John Gallagher with Alice Denny, Africa and the Victorians: The Official Mind of Imperialism (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1961); Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (New York: Random House, 1987). ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => Contents [contents] => 1. Introduction, by Celeste Ward Gventer 2. Grading on a Curve: Adjusting Expectations for Presidential Success, by David Adesnik 3. Can the Presidency be Saved? by Derek Chollet 4. It is the Possible Presidency that Should Worry Americans, by Robert Cook 5. Thinking Big About the Biggest Job in the World, by Jeffrey A. Engel 6. The Road to the Impossible Presidency Runs Through Our Dysfunctional National Politics, by Luke Hartig 7. The Possibility of Mediocrity, by Kori Schake 8. Author Response: Smarter and Younger, Not Bigger, by Jeremi Suri ) ) ) [post_count] => 2 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 539 [post_author] => 23 [post_date] => 2018-03-27 14:21:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-27 18:21:36 [post_content] =>

1. Introduction: Civil-Military Relations in the Age of Trump

By Celeste Ward Gventer Intellectual absorption in what is immediately before us, even among historians, is nearly unavoidable. This is not just an American or even a twenty-first century phenomenon. As Adam Gopnik explains in a recent New Yorker piece about the surprising decline of crime in America’s big cities over the last few decades, “in 1858, the pundits and politicians in Britain were obsessing over the British government’s takeover of India from the East India Company and the intentions of Napoleon III, yet the really big thing was the construction … of a sewer system to protect London from its own waste … making cholera epidemics … a thing of the distant past.”[1] As he explains, “Big events go by unseen while we sweat the smaller stuff; things happen underground while we watch the boulevard parades.”[2] And so it is, one suspects, with civil-military relations in America. Snapshots in time are just that — and surface-level events can change quickly. The Trump Administration certainly offers numerous targets of this kind that clamor for one’s immediate attention. The 45th president appointed a recently retired Marine general — James Mattis — as his Secretary of Defense, so close to his removal of the uniform that the legal seven-year “cooling off” period had to be waived by Congress. Another retired marine, John Kelly, became Secretary of Homeland Security, and then White House Chief of Staff. Retired Army general Michael Flynn was appointed national security advisor, only to be quickly replaced by active duty Army general, H.R. McMaster. The president, with no record of foreign policy or public service, seems to thrill at being flanked by “his” generals. Meanwhile, inside the Pentagon, senior civilian positions long went unfilled, while the community rumor held that the uniformed Joint Staff was doing most of the work in “the Building.” These all seemed to be worrying signs that “civilian control” was or is being maintained by the thinnest of margins.[3] Meanwhile, as of this writing, McMaster has left the White House and will reportedly be replaced by a civilian, former Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton. Despite the fact that we are now down one general, it is safe to say that the Trump Administration has given civil-military relations scholars (among others) plenty to worry about. Beyond the staffing issues, there is the unsettling way that Trump talks about his senior military appointees like a gunslinger would the glinting revolvers in his belt holsters. He refers to “my generals” in the same way he does his wife, Melania, as “my supermodel,” as Suzanne Garment pointed out a few months ago.[4] One gets the troubling impression that “the generals” are serving as ornaments, walking symbols of the president’s newfound status as Master of All He Surveys — and reminders that he controls the world’s most potent military and nuclear arsenal. Garment points out that, “Trump regularly asserts that he hired the generals partly because they look the part… nobody is more indubitably alpha male than a general.”[5] Indeed, the president is going to put the trappings of American military might on full display in the nation’s capital this fall, giving the American people a literal “boulevard parade” to watch.[6] If Trump’s firm-handshake adversary, President Emmanuel Macron of France, can roll out the heavy armor onto the streets of Paris on Bastille Day, wait till the world gets a load of America’s equipment.[7] Yet, despite the administration’s seemingly limitless disregard for established norms, making every day Christmas for the cable news channels, it is unclear how lasting are the dynamics associated with Trump’s civil-military arrangements, such as they are. As Suzanne Nielsen and Don Snider point out, “… understanding of U.S. civil-military relations might be distorted by the often narrow focus of the mass media. Rumors of disagreements within the Pentagon, or between the Pentagon and the White House or the Congress, are too often presented as if they were the whole substance of civil-military relations.”[8] They argue that one must look instead at the core “interdependent relationships,” lest we neglect “other dynamics that are more significant or that have long-term ramifications.”[9] In other words, it would be easy to get distracted by the day-to-day, the public brawls, personal takedowns, and court gossip —particularly in this administration — and draw broad conclusions about civil-military relations based on them. But what captures our focus today may not, in fact, be the trends that matter most over the long term. Identifying the Long-Term Effects Texas National Security Review has assembled an outstanding group of civil-military relations experts — Jessica Blankshain, Raphael Cohen, Lindsay Cohn, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Paul Eaton, and Lauren Fish — to illuminate the civil-military issues presented by the Trump Administration and to consider the long-term effects they could have. All of our contributors concede that, only one year into the Trump administration, it is only possible to conclude so much. Yet they also note that, over the last several decades, broader pathologies in American society have developed that may well be leading the nation down the very paths feared by some of the architects of “the national security state” created after the second world war.[10] As Cohen and Blankshain point out, although military officers (active and retired) serving in senior positions is not a new phenomenon, it does tend to be the exception. Even when military officers have served, for example, as national security advisors — Colin Powell and John Poindexter, for example — they were the rare uniform amongst a mostly civilian cabinet and staff. Both Eaton and Fish express concern about the apparent lack of diversity of opinion in the administration. Eaton questions whether three decades of a military career is, in fact, adequate preparation for the full range of foreign policy questions a national security advisor, a White House chief of staff, and even a secretary of defense, may confront. And not only are civilian experts rarer in this administration than is typically the case, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, is also a marine, enjoying decades of association with both Mattis and Kelly. Eaton notes that the Marines are a “small family,” and that having three men (four if you include the Commandant of the Marine Corps, one of the Joint Chiefs) with such similar backgrounds may not offer the president a full range of perspectives on policy choices. The appointment of so many marines also raises questions about service parochialism, or at least the appearance thereof, in the Pentagon. Gone are the days, to say the least, when the Marine Corps feared for its very existence.[11] Civil-military relations experts and observers have noted these issues with concern. Yet, despite all this bending of generally accepted practices, many of them felt some relief that the individuals in question — especially Mattis and McMaster — are true professionals who know what they are doing. If we are going to have a recently retired officer in the E-Ring of the Pentagon, and an active duty one at the White House, the logic went (at least before McMaster exited stage left), the nation could do a lot worse than these two. But, as Cohn points out, perhaps it is precisely that feeling of relief that should give us pause. Shouldn’t it trouble us that we are collectively relying on the nation’s military officers to “save” us from an unpredictable commander in chief? Mehdi Hasan expressed a similar concern last September when he wrote:
This feels like the birth of a militarised presidency. The Associated Press revealed in August that Mattis and Kelly have privately agreed “that one of them should remain in the United States at all times to keep tabs on the orders rapidly emerging from the White House”. Neither Mattis nor Kelly were elected. So what gives them the right to “keep tabs” on an elected president in this way? And what kind of precedent does this set?[12]
For Cohn and Cohen, the apparent willingness of Americans to put their fate in the hands of the military is the heart of the problem. Both authors note the catastrophic decline in confidence in most U.S. institutions in recent years. The military stands alone in its command of the public’s trust — whether compared to the president, the Congress, the Supreme Court, or even business. Cohn and Cohen also see politicians exploiting the public veneration of the military to avoid debating tough issues. More insidious, Cohn notes that some of the nation’s elected leaders seem to imply that only military members deserve respect, health care, and a living wage. Fish, Cohn, and Cohen all recall with chagrin the suggestion by the president’s spokesperson, Sarah Sanders, that arguing with a four-star general (referring to Kelly) would be “inappropriate.”[13] In Whom Do the People Place Their Trust? Indeed, what unites the essays in this roundtable and should be the real source of scholarly and public concern is less the constant spectacle that is the Trump Administration (including the presence of so many generals in his government — good, bad, or otherwise) than the simultaneous loss of public confidence in other institutions and the seemingly mindless reverence for the military. Scholars Roberto Stefan Foa and Yascha Mounk demonstrated in a dispiriting 2016 article that, “(i)n the past three decades, the share of U.S. citizens who think that it would be a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ thing for the ‘army to rule’…has steadily risen. In 1995, just one in sixteen respondents agreed with that position; today, one in six agree.”[14] In some ways, then, the Trump Administration’s lineup makes all the sense in the world. The president is simply doing with “his” generals what he does with so many other issues — playing to the crowd and exploiting the worst instincts of certain segments of the American public. In one of his Letters from America, the famed British journalist and documentarian Alistair Cooke wrote in 1969 about the state of the country, not least the crime and violence problem, and how the American middle class was beginning to respond:
In desperate times, the meekest people show alarming symptoms of defiance. And, in the early races for the autumn elections, I notice that policemen are being elected as the mayors of cities. It should not yet give us cause to splutter … However, it doesn’t seem to me a good thing that the middle class, weary of violence and mockery as it may be, should turn to policemen as rulers, any more than that we should turn the government of the military over to the military …[15]
Are these desperate times? No one really knows why crime declined so precipitously in American cities over the course of a few decades. Most of the attributed causes of the problem went unsolved, yet crime went down anyway. For all of the social science theorizing about the pathologies that led to rampant lawlessness, and the corresponding prescriptions for treating that disease, “the lesson of wise public works,” Gopnik concludes, “is not, truth be told, always about the benefits of foundational analysis or fundamental change.” Instead, it is a “story … about the wisdom of single steps and small sanities.” If that prescription holds here, it is not clear which single steps or small sanities might right the state of American civil-military relations. We have gotten where we are over a long period of time and there do not appear to be deep wells of wisdom on this issue among the nation’s leaders, in the White House, on Capitol Hill, or anywhere else. In any case, like the construction of the London sewer system in the 19th century, the future of our civil-military relations may well be determined by events that are flying below the news cycle radar. Nevertheless, as our authors suggest, even if it is not yet time to splutter, some unhealthy trends are becoming increasingly visible to those who are looking.[16]   Celeste Ward Gventer is an Associate Editor of the Texas National Security Review, a National Security Fellow at the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas, and an adjunct analyst for the RAND Corporation. She currently consults widely with governments in Europe and the Middle East on defense organization and reform and is based in Amberg, Germany. As a Ph.D. student in history at the University of Texas, she is writing a dissertation on Eisenhower’s 1953 and 1958 Department of Defense reforms, inter-service rivalry, and the New Look strategy. She was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush Administration and served two tours in Iraq as a civilian. In mid-April 2018 she will launch a new entrepreneurial venture, Grant Patton (www.grantpatton.com), which will produce and sell elegant, military-themed accessories, beginning with men’s ties.

2. Trump’s Generals: Mattis, McMaster, and Kelly

By Jessica Blankshain In the weeks and months leading up to President Donald Trump’s inauguration, many national security analysts — both academics and practitioners — expressed concern over the number of retired general officers the new president planned to appoint to senior positions.[17] Trump’s original appointees included retired Marine four-star James Mattis as secretary of defense, retired Marine four-star John Kelly as secretary of homeland security, and retired Army three-star Michael Flynn as national security advisor. Of primary concern was that having so many senior individuals with close ties to the military would undermine civilian control (or at the very least, perceptions of civilian control). More specifically, many feared that the prominence of military voices around a president inexperienced in foreign affairs and the armed forces would lead to a further militarization of U.S. foreign policy.[18] These concerns were revived when, a month into the new administration, Trump appointed Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, an active-duty Army officer, to replace Flynn as national security advisor.[19] In July 2017, when the president moved Kelly from the Department of Homeland Security to a traditionally more political role as White House chief of staff, the conversation broadened to more explicitly include the risks of politicizing the military.[20] These fears, however, were balanced by hope that seasoned national security professionals like Mattis, McMaster, and Kelly would be the “grown-ups in the room,” steering the new, inexperienced president toward better decisions and bringing stability to an erratic and impulsive administration.[21] These appointment-related concerns about civil-military relations in the era of Trump can be grouped into two broad categories: concerns related to policymaking within government, and those about the relationship between the military and the society it serves. The perceived risk to policymaking is that Trump’s appointment of, and deference to, senior officials with strong, recent ties to the military would give the military too much influence in foreign policy, harming perceptions of civilian control. This strand of concerns has both a relational component — the prospect of normalizing the privileging of military over civilian views — and a policy content component — a further “militarization” of American foreign policy. Militarization, in this context, does not necessarily mean starting more wars, or using military force more often. Evidence suggests that in general, those with military experience are less likely to want to initiate conflict, but are more likely to use overwhelming force once a conflict has started.[22] Rather, it reflects a concern that the military perspective will dominate a wide range of foreign policy decisions to the exclusion of alternative perspectives, or that every issue will become a problem for the military to solve, whether that is through traditional use of force or not.[23] The other area of apprehension — the relationship between the military and society — centers on the risk that Trump’s use of the military as a political prop would drag it into the political arena, harming its respected status with the American public. Normalizing the use of those connected to the military as political actors risks creating an environment where criticism of the military is completely off limits for some segments of society, while trust in the military is equally as unthinkable in others.[24] Just over one year into the Trump administration, what evidence have observers seen to support or refute these concerns? It is too early for definitive answers, but the evidence thus far suggests that the disquiet over both sets of issues was well-founded. Trump’s generals, as he likes to call them, do seem to be extremely influential in policymaking, and the administration has done little to distance these senior officials from their military backgrounds. Some observers have suggested that the generals have been a moderating influence on the president, steering Trump toward better foreign policy decisions.[25] In a previous Texas National Security Review roundtable, Emma Ashford and Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson argue that the Trump administration’s first year, including its first National Security Strategy (NSS), was far more in keeping with status-quo American foreign policy than the president’s rhetoric would have suggested.[26] But if this is true, it suggests that civilian control may in fact be eroding, at least insofar as enacted policy and strategic documents have been inconsistent with the stated political preferences of the president. Since active or former military officers were so instrumental in policymaking, including the drafting of the NSS, it appears that it is their preferred policies that won the day. Meanwhile, evidence of politicization of the military abounds, although it is difficult to measure how enduring an erosion of social and political norms might be in such a short time span.  While the active and retired military officers in the administration are often discussed as a whole, when it comes to considering the implications for civil-military relations discussed above, it will be helpful to consider each of the most prominent players separately. The three most important generals throughout the full first year of the administration have been Mattis, McMaster, and Kelly. Despite their similarities, these three individuals hold three very different positions that one would expect to have different impacts on civil-military relations. It is useful to examine how each of these individuals has either confirmed or refuted the early anxieties about their appointments. While all three concerns apply to each appointment, each of their positions underscores a different one in particular. In the case of the secretary of defense, the question of civilian political preferences prevailing over military ones, “relational control,” is most at play. Militarization of foreign policy is more of a factor in the case of the national security advisor, while politicization of the military, or at least of one particular former general, is most strongly visible in the case of the White House chief of staff. While McMaster is set to depart the administration in early April, it is still important to consider the impact of his time as national security advisor, and what it might mean for the future of American civil-military relations. Mattis: Ceding Civilian Control James Mattis’ appointment as secretary of defense was one of the first nominations announced by the new administration. The decision was much discussed in particular because the 1947 legislation that created the modern national security establishment, as well as the position of secretary of defense, included a provision that the person filling that position must not have been a member of the military within the previous ten years.[27] America has a long tradition of fearing a large standing Army.[28] When the post-WWII drawdown was limited by the onset of the Cold War, the prospect of maintaining a substantial, permanent force for the foreseeable future raised hackles on the Hill and beyond. Congress viewed a civilian secretary of defense — without recent, close ties to the military — as one of the keys to maintaining civilian control in such an environment. Congress passed a one-time exception to the ten-year rule for George Marshall in 1950, and changed the limit to seven years in 2008.[29] Congress similarly granted a waiver to allow Mattis, who had been retired for fewer than five years, to serve as secretary of defense. Most analysts who worry about a secretary of defense who is too closely tied to the military focus on the question of civilian control. As Peter Feaver points out, this is partially about symbolism: “The secretary of defense is the person in government who embodies civilian control 24-7 … That it is a civilian face, wearing civilian clothes, receiving salutes and courtesies from uniformed personnel, is a powerful visible symbol of civilian control.”[30] But there are also concerns about what such an appointment would mean for the military’s influence over policy. As a Cabinet-level political appointee, the secretary is supposed to be the president’s representative, overseeing the Department of Defense and the military, working to further administration policy objectives, and ensuring compliance with administration directives. A defense secretary who is too closely linked to the military might be susceptible to serving the military’s interests more than the president’s interests. One can already see indications that the president is happy to defer to Mattis’s military expertise. To begin with, Trump backed down from his campaign-trail support for “enhanced interrogation” after learning that Mattis didn’t support it.[31] By most accounts, Mattis (with support from McMaster) convinced the president to support an increased troop presence in Afghanistan, despite the president’s campaigning against protracted military interventions around the world.[32] The answer from the Pentagon, populated by many senior officers who have enormous personal and professional investment in that conflict, was to keep American troops there.  Feaver raises an additional concern: 
[I]f recently retired as a four-star, that means the individual has reached the pinnacle of their individual service and so has developed exceptionally strong service loyalties and ties. It will be harder for such a person to then move into an honest broker position that is supposed to be above service rivalry.[33]
In Mattis’ case, there is some early evidence that this phenomenon has not, in fact, occurred. The public version of the 2018 National Defense Strategy represented Mattis’ first chance to make a public statement of his priorities for the Department of Defense. In it, he emphasizes preparing for a future of great power rivalry — a priority that has been pushed by the Air Force and the Navy in recent years — over counterinsurgency and counterterrorism missions in the Middle East, both of which have been led primarily by the Army and the Marine Corps.  Of course, Mattis’ appointment did not only rouse concerns. In the current administration, the possibility that he would stand up to the president and prevent him from enacting some of his more radical policies seemed to be precisely why many outside observers critical of the new president were optimistic about Mattis’ appointment. Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin recently wrote a column celebrating Mattis’s service in this respect: 
The country should be immensely grateful that Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is there—not only because he is a steady hand and speed bump on President Trump’s rash decisions, but because every week he demonstrates how one can serve without degrading one’s self in this administration.[34]
Perceptions of Mattis’ pushback on presidential directives may be more important than the actual substance of his influence. It has been suggested that Mattis has explicitly resisted some of the president’s policy changes, such as the proposed ban on transgender troops. But these tales of pushback have, at times, been exaggerated or misleading. For example, some claimed that Mattis went against the president’s order on the transgender ban, when Mattis was in fact drafting a memo implementing the policy.[35] Other reports suggested that the Department of Defense was refusing to enact a presidential order when it was, in fact, simply complying with court orders.[36] Still others have asserted that Mattis’ close relationship with the current service chiefs, and especially with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine general Joseph Dunford, have allowed them to take liberties in resisting the president’s agenda that they wouldn’t otherwise take.  Philip Carter names this new stance “respectful disobedience,” and uses the label to describe what he sees as senior military pushback with respect to the transgender troop ban and the president’s statements after the deadly rally and counter-protest in Charlottesville, VA. Carter argues:
It’s clear that military leaders have found a formula for saluting their commander in chief while keeping his worst excesses at bay. In this, they are probably aided by a secretary of defense and White House chief of staff who have literally worn their shoes … [Mattis and Kelly] almost certainly provide cover for senior military leaders behind closed doors, where they can explain to the president why the generals are behaving a certain way.[37]
An interesting question is what this “disobedience” will mean for long-term civil-military norms if Mattis’ pushback on the administration is seen as military insubordination in a way that it wouldn’t be with a truly civilian secretary of defense. On the surface, Mattis’ performance thus far would seem to be reassuring for those concerned about his appointment. He has proven more capable of separating himself from the politics of the administration than perhaps any other official serving in it. Mattis also appears to have been a moderating force on a range of policy issues, from torture to openly transgender service members. But the idea that the president’s deference to senior military leaders, even recently retired ones, is saving the country is precisely what concerns many scholars of civil-military relations. Through no fault of his own — simply by doing the job he was asked to do — Mattis may subtly undermine long-standing civil-military norms, precisely as feared.  McMaster: Militarization of Foreign Policy H.R. McMaster presented a different set of concerns. Much of the discussion in civil-military relations circles surrounding his appointment as national security advisor centered on the fact that he was still an active-duty Army officer. While he was certainly not the first active-duty officer to hold the position — he joins John Poindexter and Colin Powell — these individuals have been the exception, not the rule.[38] There are many reasons to regard this kind of appointment with caution. First, being national security advisor requires a military officer to stray “outside their lane,” advising the president on issues far afield from their core military expertise. The national security advisor is supposed to help the president integrate all levers of American power — economics, information, diplomacy, and law enforcement — most of which are well outside the core experience and education of a senior military officer. Second, making an active-duty officer a visible representative of administration policy potentially turns that officer from a defender of the constitution to a defender of a political administration. This phenomenon was underscored when McMaster authored (with Gary Cohn, now-former Director of the National Economic Council) a Wall Street Journal op-ed in support of Trump’s America First foreign policy.[39] This would be an unremarkable thing for a national security advisor to do, but it is quite uncommon for an active-duty military officer to publicly argue in support of a broad administration policy of this nature. Moreover, the symbolism to the rest of the world matters — the primary source of advice to the president on overall national security is coming from someone wearing a uniform. In many analyses of the administration’s 2017 National Security Strategy, observers have noted that they could see a tension between Trump’s “America First” approach and the more traditional approach of McMaster and the National Security Council senior director for strategy, Nadia Schadlow. Kori Schake, writing of the strategy, applauded Schadlow and McMaster “for pulling the president’s well-known views that far into reasonable territory.”[40] McMaster also reportedly clashed with then-White House strategist Steve Bannon over Afghanistan policy, siding with Mattis on keeping troops in that country. One wonders whether the president would have been inclined to listen to civilians in either position arguing for a 16-year war that shows no signs of ending, particularly when the president campaigned against it, as Bannon and even Attorney General Jeff Sessions were eager to remind him.[41] Whatever the content of McMaster’s views, it seems clear that he was working an agenda that was not wholly consistent with the stated aims of the president. It is very difficult to judge whether H.R. McMaster contributed to the militarization of foreign policy, as it isn’t always clear what the “military” view of a policy would be. But he does seem to have been instrumental in pushing the president to send additional troops to Afghanistan, and in keeping the administration on high alert with respect to North Korea. While some level of politicization is inherent in the position, it isn’t clear that this has bled over to the military more generally in McMaster’s case. McMaster’s imminent replacement by John Bolton will remove this visible source of military influence from the White House (although it should be noted that the current deputy national security advisor is Ricky Waddell, an Army Reserve two-star general). But McMaster’s tenure as national security advisor may yet have long-lasting impacts on civil-military norms. Much will depend on what McMaster chooses to do in retirement — whether he speaks publicly about his time in the White House, and whether he remains a political figure.  John Kelly: Politicization of the Military Whatever concerns may exist about Mattis and McMaster, they are modest compared to those surrounding White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. When he was appointed as secretary of homeland security, the most significant issue from a civil-military relations point of view was not the appointment itself but that Kelly would be the third recently-retired general, two of them Marines, serving at high levels in the administration. This risked limiting the views the president was exposed to and creating the perception that a military junta was running the show. When he was appointed chief of staff, however, the potential for politicization of the military seemed a far greater danger. In his new role, it would be difficult for Gen. Kelly (as most would continue to call him) to avoid identification with the administration’s policy agenda and political actions. Furthermore, the justification for putting Kelly in such a position was less clear than the rationale for putting him, a recent commander of Southern Command, in charge of the Department of Homeland Security. The chief of staff is an explicitly political position with no clear need for military expertise. While many hoped Kelly’s military background would allow him to bring order to a chaotic White House, chiefs of staff are more often selected for their political acumen. Kelly has entered the political arena to a far greater degree than the other two generals discussed above have, thus raising much greater concerns about civil-military relations. Since becoming chief of staff, he has made multiple statements that effectively widened the civil-military divide, further separating the military from, and elevating it over, the civilian public it is intended to serve. For example, when Kelly took the podium in the White House briefing room to defend the president’s handling of a phone call to the wife of an American soldier killed in Niger he said,
We don’t look down upon those of you who that haven’t served. In fact, in a way we’re a little bit sorry because you’ll have never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our service men and women do — not for any other reason than they love this country. So just think of that.[42]
At the same press conference, Kelly only took questions from reporters with a connection to a gold star family. The next day, when a reporter asked press secretary Sarah Sanders about Kelly’s accusations against a member of Congress, Sanders responded, “If you want to go after Gen. Kelly, that's up to you, but I think that if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that's something highly inappropriate.”[43] This is precisely the type of statement that worries scholars of American civil-military relations — the assertion that as a recently retired four-star general, the president’s chief of staff, is above reproach. This is particularly worrisome when that military credibility is attached to a particular administration. Kelly has also made controversial comments on topics unrelated to the military. When asked about the debate over Confederate monuments, Kelly argued that “the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War.”[44] This led many to ask what, exactly, Kelly believed the two sides should have compromised about. Kelly also drew criticism based on a discussion of why the number of registered Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (known as DACA) participants was lower than the number eligible: “The difference between 690 and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn’t sign up.”[45] Kelly had already established himself as an immigration hard-liner during his time at the Department of Homeland Security, but this indelicate statement certainly underscored those views.[46] Most recently, Kelly was criticized for protecting White House staff secretary Rob Porter when credible allegations that Porter had abused two ex-wives prevented him from obtaining a security clearance. Kelly reportedly offered to resign over the incident, but, as of the writing of this piece, had not been asked to do so.[47] The incident rekindled discussions of the Marine Corps’ handling of domestic violence, sexual assault, and harassment cases, with some arguing that Kelly was a product and perpetuator of a Marine Corps culture that protects abusers.[48]  In these ways, Kelly seems to have gone above and beyond the initial concerns about his role as chief of staff. It was always going to be a difficult role for a retired military officer, but Kelly has become more involved in White House politics and scandals than anyone initially predicted. If he, and the administration, continue to use his military service as a political shield, the broader military may eventually find itself dragged into the fray as well. Conclusion It seems clear that “Trump’s Generals” — Mattis, McMaster, and Kelly—have had a significant influence on this administration’s policymaking, as one would expect from any secretary of defense, national security advisor, and chief of staff. But what role do their positions as retired or active military officers play in that influence? The picture is unclear. All three seem to have held considerable sway in the administration, in large part due to their military credentials. Mattis and McMaster have clearly been able to pursue policy preferences in a way that civilians may not have, although we cannot know for certain what policies civilians in these roles would have advocated. In that sense, concerns about military influence over policy, if not fully realized, are not to be fully dismissed either. Both McMaster and Kelly have entered the political arena, the latter to a much greater degree. Has this politicized the military? It has certainly politicized those two individuals. What larger effect this might have is not yet clear. Kori Schake has suggested a potential upside to the politicization, and public failings of, military officers. In a tweet about Mike Flynn, Schake argued that Flynn was “making fast progress getting Americans to take military leaders off pedestals and treat as regular citizens when politically active.”[49] The military, like any other large group, contains individuals of all types, some of who will act dishonestly, commit crimes, or hold controversial political views. While this may decrease public respect for the military from its recent lofty heights, if accompanied by a decrease in unquestioning deference, the change might not be all bad. The first year of the Trump administration does not seem to have changed the public’s generally high regard for the U.S. military. In October 2016, a Pew Research Center survey found that 79 percent of U.S. adults reported having “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of confidence in the military “to act in the best interests of the public.” This was compared to 27% having similar confidence in elected officials.[50] A January 2018 poll by NPR/PBS News Hour/Marist found that “The only institution that Americans have overwhelming faith in is the military — 87 percent say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the military.” This was compared to 51 percent reporting the same levels of confidence in the courts, 43 percent in the presidency, and 25 percent in Congress.[51] The polls are not directly comparable, but they do suggest that confidence in the military has not declined in the first year of the Trump administration, and may even have increased.  While a first-year assessment is useful, two of the primary concerns associated with these appointments — the normalization of civilian policymakers deferring to military experts and the increased politicization of the military — are about trust relationships and societal norms, things that change slowly over time. We have certainly seen evidence of shifts and cracks, but it is too soon to tell whether these will lead to seismic changes. With respect to the concern about militarization, policy can shift more quickly than norms, but it is difficult to determine what “militarization” really means. We will need more studies on how military policy preferences and world views differ from those of civilians, and how much these differences remain when a military officer retires. The somewhat peculiar character of this administration, which has already challenged American political norms of all varieties, makes judging the impact of any short-term trends in civil-military relations especially difficult. After all, concerns about the health of the civil-military relationship were alive and well in other recent administrations, from Clinton to Obama, but never resulted in catastrophe. Still, it is important that scholars and observers continue to keep a close eye on the role men and women in (or recently out of) uniform play in policymaking, and on their relationship with society more broadly. The effects of the president’s approach to staffing his administration, and relating to the military, may last long beyond the tenure of any particular appointee. A true crisis in civil-military relations may be slow to develop. But if it arrives, it will be extremely difficult to reverse.    All views are the author’s own and do not represent the views of the United States Government, Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or U.S. Naval War College   Jessica Blankshain is an Assistant Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College.   

3. An Effect Rather than a Cause for Concern: The State of Civil-Military Relations in the Trump Administration

By Raphael S. Cohen Generals in American politics are nothing new.[52] George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses Grant, and Dwight Eisenhower all rode successful military careers to the White House. Others, most recently Wesley Clark in 2004, tried and failed to capture the office. All recent administrations have, to varying degrees, turned to former generals to serve in senior civilian positions. President George W. Bush chose Colin Powell as his Secretary of State and Michael Hayden as his Director of Central Intelligence. President Barack Obama similarly picked James Jones as his National Security Advisor, David Petraeus as his Director of Central Intelligence, and James Clapper as his Director of National Intelligence. Retired general officers have routinely endorsed presidential candidates since at least Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign.[53] Given the established history of military or former military serving in senior positions in government, President Donald Trump’s choice of current and former generals as his cabinet secretaries, his chief of staff, his first two national security advisors, and a host of subcabinet positions is a change in degree, although perhaps not a change in kind, from the past. And yet, the Trump administration’s decision to fill its senior ranks with military officers is nevertheless troubling, for reasons that have little to do with the individuals themselves. One year into the administration, these personnel choices are not the cause of any particular problems (if anything, probably the opposite is true), but reflect a deeper, growing ill within American society. The American public’s increased isolation from and romanticization of the military, combined with an increased skepticism of other American institutions, has left the broader civil-military balance off-kilter. Not the Cause (at Least So Far) of Any Particular Problem… Although many observers eventually concluded that, given the unique present circumstances, they could support the appointment of many general officers to their present posts, civil-military relations scholars gave a host of reasons why presidential administrations should avoid drawing senior political leadership from the ranks of the general officer corps. And yet, a year into the Trump administration, most of these problems have either not materialized, or the evidence supporting them remains inconclusive. Perhaps, the chief concern is the militarization of foreign policy. This seems to lie at the center of Daniel Drezner’s objections to these appointments.[54] Even before the Trump administration, scholars worried about the expanding role of the Department of Defense in U.S. foreign policy.[55] To its critics, the Trump administration exacerbated these concerns when, shortly after taking office, it proposed a so-called “hard power budget” with increases to the Defense Department paid for, in part, by civilian agencies like the State Department.[56] While the Trump administration has emphasized the Department of Defense over the “softer” side of foreign policy, the former generals in the room do not seem to be driving this policy preference. To the contrary, when the administration announced the budget, 121 former flag officers took the unusual step of writing an open letter to congressional leadership advocating for the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Peace Corps, and other diplomatic and development agencies’ budgets.[57] Similarly, Secretary of Defense James Mattis often emphasized his relationship with former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and highlighted how the two departments work in lockstep.[58] Yet another commonly cited concern is the politicization of the military’s senior ranks. As David Barno and Nora Bensahel argue,
If politicians begin to see generals as political figures (or even future political opponents), the vital trust that exists between the nation’s elected leadership and its uniformed military will be lost. As a result, future presidents and other elected leaders may well keep suspect military leaders out of the room when major decisions are made, even on military issues.[59]
The authors argue these dangers are particularly acute if former general officers serve in “unremittingly political” senior positions like a chief of staff (but presumably there are others as well), rather than in national security-related positions.[60] Barno and Bensahel are certainly correct that if currently serving military officers are painted with a partisan brush, it could jeopardize the civil-military dialogue. That said, it is less clear what effects, if any, former military officers serving political positions today will have on politicians’ perceptions of the military in the future. Moreover, the authors’ argument is more applicable in the context of generals running for political office — directly challenging politicians for their jobs — than serving as senior political appointees, even in highly partisan roles like chief of staff. Even this latter phenomenon has occurred occasionally in American history, without catastrophic results. For example, Gen. George McClellan challenged his former commander-in-chief, Abraham Lincoln, for the presidency, but still, the civil-military balance did not break. And so, while generals serving as political appointees likely does not help promote continued trust between generals and politicians, it may not sound its death knell either. A third objection examines the practical considerations of appointing former flag officers to senior civilian posts. Eliot Cohen warned that selecting the Secretary of Defense from among its uniformed ranks comes with a host of potential management challenges — from a perceived bias towards their own services to risk of favoritism among the general officer corps. He notes, “Even the appearance of such biases, let alone their reality, would make effective leadership of the Department of Defense difficult or impossible.”[61] Not until the archives open decades from now will future historians be able to fully assess the inner workings of Mattis’ Pentagon. It is similarly too early to judge whether the prominence of Marine officers in the political ranks of the administration will translate into service bias in resource decisions or in determining plumb general officer assignments. Still, at least from press accounts so far, the Department of Defense is relatively absent from the headlines. Indeed, multiple news accounts refer to Mattis’ “low profile” and the comparative lack of infighting within the Department.[62] And while we still need a few more budget cycles to see how Mattis balances competing service resource needs, it is interesting to note that the only defense investment priority called out by name in the State of the Union address was nuclear modernization — a focus that primarily favors Air Force and Navy budget equities, rather than Marine ones.[63] A fourth objection relates to ensuring that a full range of expertise informs decisions. As Kathleen Hicks has concisely argued, people naturally turn to those with similar backgrounds for counsel — academics to academics, business leaders to fellow business leaders, and military officers to fellow military officers. Sound decision-making, however, requires
guarding against an over-reliance on military viewpoints, just as it relies on ensuring those coming from civilian backgrounds act as respectful and knowledgeable counterparts, with expertise and responsibilities typically distinct from those of their military colleagues and subordinates.[64]
Ultimately, placing former military officers at the head of an already military-dominated national security space may encourage groupthink. Like the aforementioned objections, Hicks’ concern over the loss of diversity of opinion is valid, but only to a point. As noted earlier, the Trump administration chose former flag officers to fill some cabinet-level posts, but also some of the subcabinet ranks and below. The slow pace of filling other civilian political positions in the national security establishment — leaving only the uniformed side of the Pentagon in place — did not help the balance.[65] Still, to their credit, all the former general officers have civilians as their deputies and the Pentagon’s senior leadership today, while including former generals, also features former business executives, Capitol Hill staffers, and appointees with similarly diverse backgrounds. Finally, there are other potential long-term problems with turning to former general officers to fill senior civilian posts — from eroding the American ability to advocate for civilian control of the military abroad,[66] to undermining the very ideals that led to the Declaration of Independence in the first place.[67] The fact that most civil-military relations scholars’ objections have — at least so far — not materialized does not necessarily invalidate their apprehensions. A year is likely an insufficient amount of time to judge the wisdom of these appointments. Moreover, the fact that selecting these particular general officers has not yet yielded the negative consequences does not necessarily invalidate the general rule of balancing civilian and military appointments. Still, whatever the reason, a fair assessment must conclude that the United States has so far avoided most of the pitfalls of drawing leadership from former military ranks. …But Rather the Effect of a Deeper Societal Ill Perhaps, the real lesson of the last year is that overrepresentation of general officers within the civilian political ranks is less a cause for concern and more of an effect of a deeper problem. Politicians place military officers in prominent positions on campaigns and in government because the military remains one of the few institutions that most Americans still respect. And that is a far greater problem than any specific policy issue stemming from who is in what position. According to annual Gallup polling, confidence in the military has grown steadily since Gallup began asking the question — from 58 percent expressing “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in 1975 to 72 percent in 2017. Moreover, those expressing “a great deal” of confidence in the military (the highest rating possible) has risen even more sharply, from 27 percent to 44 percent over the same period.[68] As striking as the actual numbers, however, is the durability of the trend. While there have been some spikes, particularly during key victories, for example, the Gulf War or the start of the 2003 Iraq War, and dips during perceived failures, like during the height of the Iraq War, the trend line for the most part ticks steadily upwards. Americans’ confidence in the military has not been shaken, despite the number of high-profile general officers who have pled guilty to felony crimes or the major scandals that have afflicted the services over the years — from the handling of the nuclear arsenal, to accusations of fraud and corruption, to allegations of widespread sexual harassment.[69] At the end of the day, roughly three-quarters of Americans still place their confidence in the military. Such staunch confidence would not be concerning — and might even be a positive development — if it were not for the erosion of Americans’ trust in the civilian institutions of democracy over the same period. The same Gallup polls that show the growth in confidence in the military also show that Americans’ confidence in the other American institutions — be it Congress, the presidency or the Supreme Court — has declined sharply. In 2017, only 40 percent of Americans expressed “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the Supreme Court, 32 percent in the presidency and a mere 12 percent in Congress. [70] A recent RAND Corporation report on “truth decay” reached a similar conclusion. Comparing today with previous periods in American history, it found a “lack of trust across the board — in government, media, and financial institutions — and a far lower absolute level of trust in these institutions than in previous eras.”[71] This decline in trust, in turn, contributed to a variety of other problems in American society, from “political paralysis,” to “the erosion of civil discourse,” and ultimately to the “alienation and disengagement of individuals from political and civic institutions.”[72] Indeed, a series of surveys suggest that substantial numbers of Americans are questioning democracy itself. An October 2017, a Pew study found that 17 percent of Americans would consider rule by the military “a good way to the govern the country,” 22 percent said the same of “a strong leader,” and 40 percent believed that of “experts.”[73] A separate Washington Post and University of Maryland study, also published in October of 2017, found a steep decline in Americans’ pride in how democracy functions in the United States compared to similar surveys taken over the last two decades. The same study also found that 71 percent of Americans believe that politics has reached a “dangerous low point.”[74] Why then in this era of cynicism has the confidence in the military remained so high? Perhaps, it is because, thanks to the end of the draft in 1973 and the decline in the overall end-strength after the Cold War, fewer Americans have any direct connection to the military. In 1980, about 18 percent of the American adult population were veterans, but by 2016, the proportion stood at less than half that number — roughly 7 percent.[75] The percentage of American men who have served has declined even more dramatically, from around 37 percent of the population in 1980 to 16 percent in 2014.[76] Finally, the decline of veterans among American political elites has been the most precipitous of all. At its peak between the late 1960s and early 1970s, some three-quarters of the House of Representatives and 80 percent of the Senate had military experience. By 2017, the number for both chambers of Congress stood at about one in five.[77] This isolation has led to a romanticization of the military. Without direct experience, for many Americans, military service becomes a caricature, the subject more of Hollywood than reality. Americans paint the military as a paragon of patriotism, selflessness, and efficiency, even if in reality the military attracts all types of individuals for a range of motives — good, bad, and otherwise. This overly romanticized vision of military service creates a host of perverse incentives. It incentivizes politicians to hide behind the uniforms, by placing them in front of key policy decisions. As one political figure recently quipped, “If you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that's something highly inappropriate.”[78] Such adulation also inhibits a clear-eyed valuation of military pay and benefits, a crucial component of any fiscally sound defense policy, and promotes the idea that servicemembers are somehow superior to the citizens they serve. Above all, it encourages Americans to turn to the military for solutions, rather than fixing the problems in the civilian institutions of their democracy. The American public’s continued isolation from and idealization of military service combined with increased skepticism about its other institutions, arguably, should be the real focus of civil-military relations concerns today. The prominence of current and former military officers in senior civilian positions is symptomatic of this more general societal ill and could profoundly impact American democracy. After all, this trend extends beyond any particular policy decision or policymaker and will continue long after the present administration leaves office. It is not a problem that’s easily fixed. What Is to Be Done If the root cause of the United States’ civil-military problem were simply a matter of how the Pentagon is run or who serves in what position, it would be relatively easy to fix. Indeed, many of the concerns about military appointments may dissipate now that the national security advisor position will soon be filled by John Bolton, a civilian. The problem will be further mitigated if other high profile general officers leave the administration, as is rumored, for example, about John Kelly.[79] Not so for broader societal problems. Restoring the balance between Americans’ trust in the military versus their trust in civilian institutions runs headlong into a fundamental endogeneity problem. Americans may not trust the media because they perceive it as biased, but they look for news that caters to their own ideological preferences. They may not trust Washington because of its political gridlock, but then back politicians who cater to the far ends of the political spectrum. In sum, Americans do not trust their institutions because they are dysfunctional, but those institutions are dysfunctional in part because Americans do not trust them. The answer here is not simply to increase public skepticism of the military. While excessive admiration of the military is an unhealthy dynamic, a situation where Americans lack confidence in any of their institutions — military or civilian — is just as bad. And there is much to admire about the military, even if servicemembers and their leaders are not always the heroes Americans tend to typecast them as. If there is a solution, it lies with civic education — teaching Americans to see civilian institutions for what they are, with all their strengths and weaknesses. After all, American democracy has never run with military-like efficiency, nor did the founders intend for it to function that way. And while it is easy to lose faith in American institutions by focusing in on the problems of the moment, if Americans could take the longer view, they would see this system — with all its inherent ugliness — can still produce remarkable accomplishments. At the same time, Americans also need to better understand their military. Absent a catastrophe on par with another world war, ever smaller percentages of the American population will serve in uniform. Even if there was the political will to return to conscription (which there is not), modern warfare — with its emphasis on high technology rather than manpower — simply does not require vast numbers of soldiers. The assiduous study of strategic issues and of the military as an institution can partially compensate for this lack of firsthand knowledge. The key then is for Americans to regain a sense of historical perspective on their government and their institutions. And in a small way, this starts by recognizing the number of current and former military officers at the senior rung of civilian office for what they are: less as a cause for concern, and more the effect of a deeply troubling trend. But perhaps not an insurmountable one.   A former active Army officer and Iraq veteran, Raphael S. Cohen is a political scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation, and an adjunct professor of Security Studies in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program.

4. Civil-Military Relations One Year In

By Lindsay P. Cohn  
“The perpetual menacings of danger oblige [a] government to be always prepared to repel it; its armies must be numerous enough for instant defense. The continual necessity for their services enhances the importance of the soldier ... The military state becomes elevated above the civil … by degrees the people are brought to consider the soldiery not only as their protectors, but as their superiors. The transition from this disposition to that of considering them masters, is neither remote nor difficult ...”

Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 8

  Civil-military relations scholars were aflutter after the national conventions of the two major parties in 2016, in which each side deployed a recently-retired general officer to demonstrate … Credibility? Expertise? Patriotism? It was not entirely clear. The buzz picked up again concerning the number of recently-retired or still active senior general officers/flag officers (GOFOs) that Donald Trump had tapped for his administration — retired general James Mattis for defense secretary, retired general John Kelly for secretary of homeland security and then White House chief of staff, and first retired general Michael Flynn and then active-duty three-star general, H.R. McMaster, for national security advisor (who will soon leave his position). There has been further chatter about Trump’s own avoidance of military service, juxtaposed with an almost excessive admiration of all things military (Could he have tanks for his inaugural parade? Can we have a military parade for Veterans’ Day?). Others have reacted with concern about his administration’s military personnel initiatives — including how to deal with transgender servicemembers and whether the Marine Corps will be allowed to keep the combat ban on women — as well as about Trump’s own tendency to push both decision-making and ultimate responsibility down to field-level commanders. Take, for example, when he said that “the generals … lost [the Navy SEAL killed in Yemen].”[80] More recently, the apparent ramping-up of the U.S. military presence in Syria, Afghanistan, and parts of Africa has continued apace, while lacking a clear and consistent strategic narrative about what this is supposed to accomplish. There is no shortage of things for observers and scholars to worry about when it comes to civil-military relations. While these concerns are legitimate and bear keeping an eye on, they are not the most pernicious issue. Instead, it is the development of almost unthinking veneration of service members by the public as well as many elites and politicians. This is a two-tiered problem: At the highest levels of national decision making, there is a pervasive narrative that the current and former military officers serving this administration are the “adults in the room”,[81] and that they will “save” us from the erratic and potentially dangerous behavior of the president through their wisdom, prudence, and, if necessary, disobedience. More broadly, the reverence for the military has come to distort and manipulate public discourse. The military enjoys an outsized level of public trust, confidence, and approval — significantly higher than all other public institutions.[82] It is the one institution that most Americans feel united in supporting (unlike, say, the police, the church, schools, or the court system). But the elevation of “the troops” to a level of sacrosanctity in public discourse is unhealthy for servicemembers,[83] the general public, and the practice of governance in this country. Save Us, Adults It is undeniable that someone with over 30 years of military experience has great insight into national security matters. The views of such individuals are critical to developing the full range of perspectives and options for a president. That said, such expertise is not necessarily the most relevant to the broadest questions of national security, and especially not to questions of trade, international law, or other forms of coordinated international policy, such as addressing climate issues. “Military expertise” does not consist of a special or unique understanding of how to keep the territory and people of the United States safe and prosperous. These individuals are experts at what the U.S. military organization can do, how quickly and for how long it can do it, how many people and what kind of equipment is required, and, to some extent, how much it is all likely to cost. Many senior officers may also have specific experience or expertise that would be helpful in particular circumstances — for example, experience dealing with a particular adversary, or expertise in cyber operations — but the most important asset they bring is the ability to help policymakers understand the military tools that they have at their disposal. But competent statecraft considers and employs other tools beyond military ones, from diplomacy to sanctions, trade, international law, and international institutions. Experts in these areas must also be part of the policy conversation. Even when the issue at hand is war, economic expertise is critical to determining how to sustain our efforts over time, how to undermine the adversary’s ability to resource its military, and how to weaken an opponent before things come to blows. Experience in diplomacy and international relations can help to evaluate whether other points of leverage can be used to trade for peace, whether we can avoid an armed confrontation, which allies would stand with us, and how we can limit the ability of others to threaten us with armed confrontations. Domestic politics is always a factor as well: What will different plans of action cost us in terms of overall national goals? What are the policy trade-offs? On what matters can we gain agreement from other government actors? While scholars of civil-military relations openly worried about the precedent and the dynamics of having so many recently retired GOFOs in the cabinet, they still, almost to a person, expressed relief about the presence of Mattis, McMaster, and Kelly.[84] So many foreign policy experts — including a large number of conservatives and Republicans[85] — had concerns about the new president’s lack of foreign policy experience, that most were willing to tolerate the break with norms, because the officers involved were at least competent and qualified. While the president might well have done far worse than Mattis or McMaster (the Flynn flameout is a case in point), accepting these choices may be creating a new and undesirable status quo. Moreover, it helps to validate a narrative in which uniformed general officers are seen as more competent and trustworthy policymakers than elected or appointed civilians. Most in the national security community are simply hoping that the current situation is an exception to an important rule, not the beginning of the new normal. According to some, the senior officers on Trump’s national security team (active and retired) have already devised a method to avoid following orders from the president that they consider inappropriate. Phillip Carter of the Center for a New American Security has termed it “respectful disobedience,” by which he means that “military leaders have found a formula for saluting their commander in chief while keeping his worst excesses at bay.”[86] As evidence of this phenomenon, Carter points in particular to Trump’s attempt to overturn the Obama administration decision to allow transgender individuals to serve in the military. Carter may not have this particular decision quite right: There are other plausible interpretations for the slow-down in implementing the ban that do not imply that the military leadership deliberately shirked the president’s policy. One possibility, for example, is that Mattis and Kelly engaged Trump to explain the logistical and organizational difficulties that would be involved with an outright ban on transgender personnel and got him to issue the eventual memo tasking the Secretary of Defense with studying the issue, which Mattis then did. But Carter may nevertheless turn out to be prophetic as time goes on, and this could set a dangerous precedent. Is civilian control not eroded when senior officers simply decide not to implement decisions they disagree with?[87] Even if many agree that this particular president’s excesses need to be curbed, surely it is unhealthy for our democracy when the military can pick and choose which president, and which policies to heed. Furthermore, even when top military officials are not disobeying, some commentators may be tempted to spin the narrative that way. This places an extra burden onto military officers to try to keep up with the political optics of everything they say and do. Our Men and Women in Uniform Another sign that the civilian-military relationship has gone awry is a concerning trend among politicians, pundits, and the public, of using people’s respect for veterans and servicemembers to undercut political debate on non-military matters. This is bad both for the attitude of Americans toward their military and for the actual conduct of politics and governance. It could also harm the armed forces themselves by further politicizing budget debates or relationships with top policymakers. One example includes the NFL kneeling protests, where an appeal to the troops was deployed to dismiss the concerns of the protestors. Another is the debate over a shutdown and near shutdown of the government in January and February 2018, during which lawmakers argued that it was unfair to the troops and their families to have a shutdown over lack of agreement on other political issues. Yet another example can be seen in the proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or “food stamps”), where it was argued that the United States should not impose such indignity on military families who rely on SNAP. And this is only in the last six months or so.[88] Each of these cases has followed a well-worn pattern: A political point is raised, followed by one or both sides arguing for or against the point on the basis of how it affects servicemembers, veterans, or both. It is of course valid to be concerned about how policies, budgets, or public debates affect the people who have served this country in uniform. The problem is that this “appeal to the troops” bypasses a discussion about genuine disagreements that require political solutions. Instead of engaging in debates about whether the United States is fulfilling its promises for all its people, how the government should be funded and what it ought to spend money on, or how the state should be involved in helping the poor buy food, this tactic instead accuses dissenters of “not supporting the troops” — an unanswerable attack. Any attempt to argue that the concerns of other members of society merit as much attention as those of the military is denounced as further evidence of a lack of respect for servicemembers and veterans. What’s more, this line of argument suggests that servicemembers and veterans (and their families) matter more than other members of society. It is a perilous way of thinking because it renders unimportant things like poverty or the proper running and funding of government, except in so far as they impact servicemembers and their families. Ultimately, this implies that the only way to merit basic respect and dignity is to have served in the military or be a dependent of someone who has. Such cynical political use of American popular support for the military undermines the conduct of politics and governance. The long-term danger is two-fold: First, the longer this pattern continues, the more likely some civilians are to resent military members. If this tactic is used too often, some people may start questioning whether they do, in fact, support the troops, if doing so means they must concede on all of their political claims. Second, the more this approach proves useful, the more some people will become reactively and uncritically supportive of anything that has “the troops” attached to it, making it easier for politicians to manipulate them. Of course veterans and military personnel deserve things like health care, job security, funding for their programs, and aggressive poverty assistance. On the other hand, the broader issues of budgets, pay, and benefits of military service members cannot simply be declared off limits. So long as the conditions of every other American’s life are up for debate ­— taxes, minimum wage, unemployment protection, labor protection, disability — why should only military service members be protected from the debate? It is absolutely clear why members of the military and veterans deserve societal respect and care. It is not clear why they are the only ones who do.[89] When politicians deflect discussion by hiding behind a sacred cow, nothing gets resolved. When grievances remain unresolved, aggrieved parties become resentful. Where to From Here? Civil-military relations scholars are right to worry: A political arena in which the military is deployed as a political shield has potentially dangerous consequences. When “military expertise” is seen as supreme or is allowed to go largely unquestioned — either because no one dares to question it or because there is no one with any other expertise in a position to balance it — it can have devastating implications for U.S. policy both foreign and domestic. While we are not yet at a point of crisis, left unchecked the current path might well lead us there. It is good and healthy for uniformed servicemembers to enjoy the respect and gratitude of society, but not for a society to treat uniformed servicemembers as paragons of virtue whose opinions are always valid and whose claims on society are unlimited. What, then, can be done? First, scholars, journalists, pundits, politicians, and the engaged public should call out these trends rather than allow them to become part of the status quo. It should not be normal to expect military officers to “save us” from corrupt or inept politicians. Citizens should fight the corruption and ineptitude themselves — by engaging in the debate and by holding their elected officials in Congress accountable, for example — rather than place the burden on the military. Second, American society must learn to talk with and about servicemembers and veterans without putting them either in the “hero” category or the “broken” category. Servicemembers and veterans are diverse groups of people with extremely diverse experiences, and they deserve to be taken as they are rather than stereotyped or mythologized. Above all, they should not be used by politicians as a way to win political arguments. Third, scholars, policymakers, and military professionals must develop a new set of civil-military norms. Otherwise, “respectful disobedience” may fill the vacuum left by the crumbling model proposed by Samuel Huntington. He argued that military officers ought to be completely apolitical, focusing only on their technical expertise as “managers of violence.”[90] This was predicated on a presumption, however, that a thick bright line could be drawn between “political” problems and decisions, and “military” problems and decisions, and that this bright line could allow both policymakers and military personnel to clearly understand their remit and the limits thereof. Most experts now agree that that distinction is not realistic, leaving us without a roadmap for the future of civil-military relations.[91] Eliot Cohen has proposed the concept of an “Unequal Dialogue” to clarify both the need for military and political actors to engage in discussion with one another and develop some mutual understanding, as well as the need for the military to remain subordinate in that relationship.[92] Peter Feaver has argued that civilian policymakers have the “right to be wrong,” that is, the right to make policy decisions that are opposed by their military advisors, even if they turn out to be wrong, because it is the elected officials who have the moral and legal authority to make such judgments. Feaver has also noted, however, the civilian policymaker’s “right to be right,” which acknowledges that military advisors may not in fact have the best plan or understand the full picture as well as the policymaker.[93] But standing in the way of a truly new set of civil-military norms is a common line of thinking that leads both politicians and military leaders to believe that, as long as we can “let the military win the war,” everything will turn out well. As Americans should understand from repeated experiences, military victory does not automatically or necessarily achieve the desired political outcomes. Until we can reach a generalized understanding of how to use force as a bargaining tool, and how the political and military competencies must intermingle, there will be a dysfunctional relationship at the top of the political system, a distorted public dialogue about American interests and America’s role in the world, and a tendency to start fights that do us no good and seem never to end. New frameworks for civil-military relations in the post-post-9/11 era are still evolving, as they have each time there have been major changes in the strategic environment. Yet, irrespective of the particular challenges the country faces, we all have a role to play in ensuring healthy civil-military relations in the United States. The public must hold their elected officials accountable and not allow them to hide behind uniforms and exploit the high regard in which the military is held. Military professionals, politicians, and policymakers must devote time and effort to understanding and respecting their different competencies and responsibilities. Only through vigilance and the building of effective relationships can the nation avoid the scenario Alexander Hamilton warned of more than two centuries ago.   The views expressed in this piece are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of the U.S. Naval War College, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.   Lindsay P. Cohn is Associate Professor in the National Security Affairs Department at the U.S. Naval War College. Her research focuses on civil-military relations — particularly personnel issues, public opinion, and democratic theory. Before joining the Naval War College, she spent a year at the Pentagon as a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow and was an Assistant Professor at the University of Northern Iowa. She comes from a long line of combat veterans, and is the proud daughter and sister of Marines.

5. Trump and His Generals: An Unfolding Crisis in Civil-Military Relations

By Maj. Gen. (ret.) Paul Eaton Over the last seventeen years, successive American presidents have concentrated extraordinary powers in the executive branch. Congressional passivity, gridlock, and dysfunction have resulted in a legislative branch of government that is missing in action. During the Obama administration, the Republican party’s leadership in both houses demonstrated an inability to govern, focusing their energies instead on their stated intent to frustrate the president’s initiatives, particularly on domestic policy.[94] This left Obama little choice but to govern by executive order. In foreign policy matters, Congress has been content to stand idly by for nearly two decades now, ignoring its duty to decide when and where America wages war. This does not bode well for how the Congress might perform in a crisis.[95] If the nation cannot count on its elected representatives or many other U.S. institutions to provide leadership, where is America to turn? As the only institution that retains much trust among the American people, the military might seem to be a natural answer.[96] Senior officers have signed an oath to support and to defend the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies, foreign and domestic. They have the extraordinary duty and privilege to do the right thing for the nation and their troops. There is no more noble charge. But this route is fraught with danger. The prominence of recently retired or active duty military men in the Trump administration, such as James Mattis as secretary of defense and John Kelly as White House chief of staff, should concern Americans — certainly more than it appears to — for a number of reasons. First, the training of a military officer does not necessarily prepare him or her to make difficult, strategic trade-off decisions for the nation. These men and women have a strongly ingrained tendency to fight for their position but, if they lose the argument, ultimately salute and execute. In the past, our military officers have not always been forthcoming with the bad news when it comes to calling out questionable decisions or policies the military cannot execute. President Trump therefore presents the current and former officers serving in his administration with a conundrum: carry out his policies, whether or not they consider them wise, in keeping with a lifelong deference to civilian control, or buck those decisions and fail to fall into line with their commander in chief. A civilian may face similar dilemmas, but disagreement is easier to express when you have not spent thirty years yielding to “civilian control.” Second, the Trump Administration’s staffing choices raise the question of whether so many senior officers, regardless of their personal qualities, should occupy critical leadership positions in government and thus be in the policy-making business. This is not only important from the perspective of appearances — the “militarization of American foreign policy” has been a concern of observers for some time. But it is particularly relevant when the other elements of national power, such as the State Department, are being systematically dismantled, leaving only military voices to evaluate complex issues that range well beyond their traditional areas of expertise.[97] Third, the common background of these officers — the prominence of Marines, for example — is concerning from the perspective of whether the president is receiving a sufficiently diverse set of viewpoints. However well-intentioned (and well-qualified) the individuals in question are, their shared background will limit the diversity of opinion they offer up to the president. The Cultural Gap Military officers are not trained to tell their leaders they cannot do something. An abiding “can do” spirit is inculcated early and often in their careers, which is usually a virtue. But in the realm of national policy, sometimes a chief executive must be told that what they wish to happen cannot be achieved or cannot be done without prohibitive cost. A brief look at some examples of this trait in action helps illustrate the point. Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, in his superb book, Dereliction of Duty, describes how the very conflicted Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Harold K. Johnson, seriously considered resigning from his post after a study of the ongoing Vietnam War revealed victory was unlikely at best.[98] And yet, Gen. Johnson, as well as the rest of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, failed in the end to do the right thing. They instead allowed the report to be hidden away and a futile war to grind on. The conflict continued to take the lives of many thousands more young Americans.[99] Years later, America’s four-star officers failed again in a similar way. In the face of the decision to attack Iraq in 2003, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki was the only person to oppose Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his decision to under-resource that war.[100] The seeds of the current situation in Iraq were sown in early 2003 when the Combatant Commander of Central Command, Tommy Franks, and all but one of our senior generals, failed to insist on properly planning for the inevitable occupation.[101] There are also significant differences between the culture and leadership styles in military organizations and civilian ones. Some individuals can cross the boundary smoothly, but these people are rare. Kelly perhaps best exemplifies the difficulty many officers would and do experience in shedding a lifetime of military habits. Perhaps unwittingly, he has managed to become one of the more politicized former generals in recent memory. In previous months, he has insulted young immigrants, a gold star mother, a Congresswoman, and joked when Trump was given a ceremonial sword that he could use it on the press.[102] This is not to suggest such behavior is condoned in the military, but rather that speaking carefully and diplomatically to the press is not a core competency among many general officers. No less an authority than former Secretary of Defense and former Director of the CIA Leon Panetta said of Kelly, “John is a great Marine … but he is not a politician, and one thing he lacks is the ability to look at the big political picture and understand what you should and shouldn’t say as chief of staff.”[103] To borrow from a trusted friend and advisor, “Kelly doesn’t know how to civilian.” Policymakers or Policy Executors? Certainly, civilians can be — and have been — wrong as well. But four-star generals and admirals operate at the interface between policy direction and policy execution, and in recent months that boundary has shifted in surprising ways, with more uniformed or recently uniformed people being placed in positions to actually make policy. However skilled and sophisticated these men and women may be, their background does not necessarily prepare them for the roles they are in. At a minimum, they may turn to the military to solve problems that arise, rather than employing other elements of national power. The appointment of so many military men to key leadership positions has also given the appearance of a “militarization” of the American government. Enhancing this sense of militarization is the systematic emasculation of a once great Department of State — all the more dramatic not only with the replacement of Secretary Rex Tillerson, but the manner in which he was fired.[104] The State Department is now a lonely place that has suffered an epic loss of talented career men and women, diplomats and bureaucrats who were mentored by the most successful in the department.[105] It is impossible to overstate how difficult rebuilding the department will be. We have only to look at how hard it was to rebuild the U.S. Army after Vietnam to see the challenges that lie ahead. If it seemed that the administration’s military appointees were managing, the concerns above notwithstanding, then perhaps one might step back and declare the current situation an important exception. However, the administration’s handling of its first real national security crisis — the rise of a nuclear-capable North Korea — has been stunningly inept, revealing a national security team either unprepared for the real world or incapable of managing a Twitter-empowered, rogue president. The upcoming summit between North Korea, South Korea, and the United States is emblematic of a failure to understand sophisticated and difficult foreign policy negotiations. The summit should be the final step in the process in which those nations’ leaders approve the extraordinary work of our best and brightest in hammering out the details of a negotiated deal. A summit ought to be the end, not the beginning of the negotiation.[106] Diversity of Views Mattis possesses a remarkable intellect, steadiness, and ability to speak plainly. His Marines loved him, as did and do his peers. But it is inevitable that, on some level, Mattis is still a Marine, and the Marine Corps is a small family. Mattis and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joe Dunford, have known each other for decades. This is also the case with Kelly and the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller. At the highest levels of the American government sit critical players who emerged from the same, close-knit family. It is worth asking whether the perspectives they have to offer the president are sufficiently diverse and whether the dialogue that occurs in policymaking is brutally honest, as it ought to be. These military men and women have strong bonds rooted in years of service together. The risk is that these individuals will seek consensus with one another rather than face the uncomfortableness of disagreeing with former “family.” The result is that the president may not be getting the best and most wide-ranging analysis from his top appointees. With the recent appointment of CIA Director and former Army officer Mike Pompeo to Secretary of State, the problem of the militarization of our foreign policy and the lack of diversity of thought and analysis has grown further. Notwithstanding the departure of H.R. McMaster and his replacement by a civilian, the primary sources of advice and input to the National Security apparatus are now largely military — active, retired, and former. This is not what our founding fathers envisioned. Duty, Honor, Country Among scholars of civil-military relations, “politicization” of the military is a perennial concern.[107] With a president in office who suggests that Democrats who failed to applaud for him at his State of the Union address might be considered treasonous,[108] fulfilling the task our retired and active generals in government doubtless have set out for themselves — to protect the nation and curb the worst excesses of a mercurial commander in chief — is doubtless more challenging than ever. For his part, Kelly appears to have the most difficult task. I can only commend to these individuals the quote by Brevet Major William Jenkins Worth that every West Point plebe is required to memorize:
But an officer on duty knows no one — to be partial is to dishonor both himself and the object of his ill-advised favor. What will be thought of him who exacts of his friends that which disgraces him? Look at him who winks at and overlooks offenses in one, which he causes to be punished in another, and contrast him with the inflexible soldier who does his duty faithfully, notwithstanding it occasionally wars with his private feelings. The conduct of one will be venerated and emulated, the other detested as a satire upon soldiership and honor.[109]
The Trump Administration has certainly made life more difficult for our senior officers. Their challenge is to hold themselves and their organizations to a higher standard than Trump has so far set for his Administration. And they should also be prepared to take the blame should anything go wrong, from a Commander in Chief with a proven track record of shirking all responsibility when a crisis arises.   Maj. Gen. (ret.) Paul Eaton retired from the U.S. Army after thirty-three years service in Germany, Somalia, Bosnia and Iraq. He served as Chief of Infantry for the Army and commanded the effort to rebuild Iraq’s Armed Forces immediately after the fall of Baghdad. He now manages a non-profit, 501(c)(3) foundation, the Vet Voice Foundation and advises VoteVets.

6. The Lack of Diverse Viewpoints on Trump’s National Security Team and its Long-Term Consequences

By Lauren Fish President Donald Trump has been in office for over a year, and while many key staffers have departed and been replaced already, there are a few clear trends in his staffing decisions. First, the president has relied heavily on active-duty or retired military to fill crucial national security roles, going as far as to regularly refer to them as “my generals,” including when traveling abroad.[110],[111] Second, when staffing the Pentagon, he has tapped many defense industry executives to fill senior roles, against the preferences of the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John McCain, who has threatened not to confirm them on at least two occasions, saying “we’ve had a couple, and that’s okay, but I don’t want [more of] them.”[112],[113] Perhaps most significantly, these selections have collectively been made to the exclusion of other, civilian, policy professionals. The Trump administration has not only eschewed individuals deemed insufficiently loyal during Trump’s campaign, but also those who, even privately, do not wholly endorse all of the administration’s policy predilections.[114] The implications of these staffing decisions are difficult to see day-to-day. They are more likely to manifest themselves as opportunity costs — roads not taken, insights not provided, contributions not considered. However, reducing the number of qualified voices and minimizing diverse perspectives on a team often does result in suboptimal decisions.[115] While it is not uncommon or inappropriate to include retired officers or defense industry executives in an administration, such individuals usually feature among a broader cohort that includes policy analysts, academics, and other experts. It is the lack of diverse voices and perspectives in the staffing decisions of the current administration that should be the cause for greatest concern. The relevance of this phenomenon for civil-military relations is that military views are likely to be privileged over those of civilian policy experts who are simply not invited to the table. The power balance in the Pentagon between and among civilians, the military services, and the Joint Staff has been adjusted since the creation of the Department of Defense — whether by legislation, regulation, or practice — and maintaining that power balance has traditionally been viewed as a mechanism for ensuring strong civilian control.[116] This balance was arguably lost in the early days of the Trump administration by its failure to fully staff the civilian, policy-making side of the Pentagon, which left the Service and Joint Staffs empowered and at the helm. Staffing the Administration The staffing of any administration begins long before an election. Policy experts seeking future positions align with a candidate early in the hopes that they have bet on the right horse. Those who align with the party’s nominee and ultimate electoral victor might even find their way into their dream jobs. Others who chose poorly have to settle for the positions still available after campaign staff have taken first pick. In general, political parties tend to seek reconciliation as the task turns to governing, which means hiring advisors who worked for rival campaigns. Those whose experience and policy insight can build a legacy for the administration are valued, despite whose campaign they worked on during the primaries. Yet none of the usual rules have applied when it comes to staffing for the Trump administration. During the campaign, the Trump team was notoriously staffed by only a skeleton crew of largely unknowns.[117] Many of the most well-known Republican experts had concerns about then-candidate Trump’s policies and statements and therefore chose not to support his candidacy. Some signed letters, such as the one published on War on the Rocks[118] or the follow-on released in the New York Times,[119] while others endorsed other primary candidates, Hillary Clinton, or write-in Republican favorites, like 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Instead of bringing those individuals into the fold after the election, as would normally be the case, Trump and his closest advisors instead rejected many of them, regarding them as disloyal. In fact, it is rumored that the administration maintains a list of letter-signers, which constitutes an automatic rejection for a job in government.[120] Needless to say, this decision has severely limited the pool of experienced national security hands available to guide the administration, including those from the civilian policy world. This is unfortunate because policy professionals working in think tanks and academia are able to offer unique and valuable insights that help to layout the options available for the nation’s leaders. They tend to focus less on specific operational, technical, or process details (though some are also experts in such areas) and more on the desired end states or outcomes for the nation. Policy experts then theoretically join up with experts in other areas — those who bring deep tactical proficiency about how military operators use equipment on the ground, masters of technical and scientific detail, or defense industry veterans who have survived the acquisition gauntlet, for example — to produce a fully informed set of options for leaders to consider. And yet, since most of the Republican national security establishment disagreed vocally with Trump on his stated policies during the campaign, the policy expertise side of this equation has, thus far, been anemic or non-existent. The Need for Civilian Policy Professionals It is a truism that experience shapes perceptions and is the foundation of a person’s knowledge base. It would be too simple to say that those with military experience inevitably approach every problem with a military solution. However, it is arguable that such individuals will be less familiar with the nuances of the diplomatic or economic options available to resolve foreign policy challenges, and will be unlikely to see their own organizations and their attendant pathologies from the perspective of an outsider. While not in uniform, those from the defense industry do not bring purely civilian perspectives either. Senior executives have financial incentives for the sales of certain equipment, and while they are required to divest of financial holdings that could create a conflict of interest with their government duties, Sen. McCain, for one, has recognized that these risks persist. He kept the issue front and center during the confirmation process of the Department of Defense’s civilian leaders.[121] The Trump administration, however, has not just challenged norms by hiring primarily senior military officers or defense industry professionals. Those staffing decisions have also excluded people who disagree, even privately, with the administration’s policy preferences. Rather than seeking educated and experienced thinkers who could offer dissenting views, the Trump team has rejected anyone suspected of holding even slightly divergent opinions. For example, the administration recently rejected the immensely qualified and widely lauded Victor Cha after he privately shared concerns about its North Korea strategy.[122] In response, Cha drafted an articulation of the risks of the Trump administration’s dangerous “bloody nose” gamble.[123] By not including countervailing views in its policy and strategy deliberations, the Trump administration narrows its options and limits its analysis of particular policy decisions. So much for a “team of rivals.” There is clear business literature that discusses the benefits of assembling a diverse team. Such teams tend to review facts in more depth, rather than relying on shared assumptions, and are often more innovative.[124] Bringing alternative viewpoints together means that group members expect to argue their case, rather than assume minimum push back, refining and increasing the value and persuasiveness of their positions.[125] The increased friction that occurs when convening people of different backgrounds ultimately improves analysis and decisions.[126] Furthermore, there is evidence from senior military officers themselves that leadership styles beyond the conventional military model are needed when countering modern adversaries. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, when he led Joint Special Operations Command, realized that al-Qaeda’s leadership was nimbler than the military’s cumbersome, hierarchical decision-making processes. In response, he rebuilt his command to produce faster responses and enabled smaller units, which he describes in his book Team of Teams.[127] Diverse viewpoints in national security will also help ensure that none of the military Services or other entities receive special treatment. It’s hard to dismantle an organization that one helped build or that propelled one’s career. Outsiders naturally find it easier to identify inefficiencies and are less sentimental about taking a hatchet to an organizational chart. This principle holds true for our military institutions. For example, many, including current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, have suggested the need for reform of the combatant commands.[128] Secretary Mattis’ final post was as the combatant commander of Central Command, raising concerns that he might be more likely to shun reform of his former command. The Boiling Frog Given the staffing decisions made within Trump’s administration, the president inevitably receives a disproportionate number of opinions from current and former military officers, as well as from defense industry insiders. His staff also hints that the American people should not question the choices of such distinguished officers, curbing debate.[129] Trump does not appear to hear perspectives from individuals with other backgrounds, those who bring different kinds of expertise to the table, such as regional knowledge, experience in economic development and trade, or those trained in the subtleties of diplomacy. Such lack of diversity in background can easily result in groupthink. The consequences of the Trump administration’s staffing choices are not yet clear. Like the proverbial boiling frog, small changes often go unnoticed until they have resulted in wholesale transformation. The American people may rebuff these centralized voices, but they also may not. The insidious part of this lack of diverse viewpoints is that its effects can best be measured in the opportunity costs of options never even contemplated, the outcomes of which will manifest themselves somewhere down the road. At that point, changing course may be more difficult or even impossible. Lauren Fish is a Research Associate for Defense Strategies & Assessments at the Center for a New American Security. Image: Department of Defense [post_title] => Policy Roundtable: Civil-Military Relations Now and Tomorrow [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => policy-roundtable-civil-military-relations-now-tomorrow [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-03-28 16:56:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-03-28 20:56:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?post_type=roundtable&p=539 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => roundtable [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => Given the number of current and former generals who have been appointed to the Trump administration, TNSR asked a group of experts to share their thoughts on the impact this is having on civil-military relations in America. [pubinfo] => [issue] => [quotes] => [style] => roundtable [type] => Policy [style_label] => Roundtable [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 23 [1] => 159 [2] => 158 [3] => 157 [4] => 156 [5] => 160 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Adam Gopnik, “The Great Crime Decline,” New Yorker, Feb. 12, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/02/12/the-great-crime-decline. [2] Gopnik, “Great Crime.” [3] While the jobs have slowly been filled, some vacancies persist, including about ten that require Senate confirmation, such as the Assistant Secretary for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities, and numerous other senior jobs that do not require confirmation. See: “Presidential Appointee Tracker,” Partnership for Public Service, accessed Mar. 24, 2018, https://ourpublicservice.org/issues/presidential-transition/political-appointee-tracker.php. Observers noted as early as last November, however, “The unusually long absence of Senate-approved Pentagon officials has led Mattis to rely more heavily on uniformed members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, rather than civilians temporarily filling high-level positions. That has caused some concern over the civilian-military balance in an administration already stocked with current and former generals inside the White House and other agencies.” Paul McLeary, “Here Comes Trump’s Pentagon – Finally.” Foreign Policy, Nov. 2, 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/11/02/here-comes-the-trump-pentagon-finally/. [4] Suzanne Garment, “Trump surrounds himself with generals who are masculine — but also obedient.” NBC News, Dec. 10, 2017, https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/trump-surrounds-himself-generals-who-are-masculine-also-obedient-ncna827476. [5] Garment, “Trump surrounds.” [6] Michael D. Shear, “Trump Envisions a Parade Showing Off America’s Military Might,” New York Times, Sept. 18, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/18/us/politics/trump-4th-of-july-military-parade.html. [7] “Macron: Awkward Trump handshake a 'moment of truth',” BBC News, May 28, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-40077241. [8] Suzanne C. Nielsen and Don M. Snider, “Introduction,” in American Civil-Military Relations: The Soldier and the State in a New Era, ed. Suzanne C. Nielsen and Don M. Snider (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), 2. [9] Those five relationships are those between civilian elites and military leaders; military institutions and American society; military leaders and their professions; among civilian elites; and between civilian elites and American society. Nielsen and Snider, 3. [10] In his influential article, “The Garrison State,” Harold Lasswell warned of “a world in which the specialists on violence are the most powerful group in society.” Harold D. Lasswell, “The Garrison State,” American Journal of Sociology 46, No. 4 (January 1941): 455-468. [11] Alan Rems, “Semper Fidelis: Defending the Marine Corps,” Naval History Magazine 31, No. 3 (June 2017), https://www.usni.org/magazines/navalhistory/2017-06/semper-fidelis-defending-marine-corps. [12] Mehdi Hasan, “Why we should worry that the only restraint on Trump is three unelected generals,” The New Statesman, Sept. 8, 2017, https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/observations/2017/09/why-we-should-worry-only-restraint-trump-three-unelected-generals. [13] John Wagner, “White House press secretary: It's ‘highly inappropriate’ to question a 4-star Marine general,” The Washington Post, Oct. 20, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/10/20/white-house-press-secretary-its-highly-inappropriate-to-question-a-4-star-marine-general/?utm_term=.176845f1e4c6. [14] Roberto Stefan Foa and Yascha Mouk, “The Danger of Deconsolidation: The Democratic Disconnect.” Journal of Democracy 27, No. 3 (July 2016): 12. [15] Alistair Cooke, “‘Eternal Vigilance’ – by Whom? 19 October 1969,” in Letter from America, 1946-2004 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 186. [16] Andrew Bacevich pointed out some of these same trends some five years ago. See: Andrew J. Bacevich, Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2013). [17] See, for example, Mark Landler and Helene Cooper, “Trump’s Focus on Generals for Top Jobs Stirs Worries Over Military’s Sway,” New York Times, Nov. 21, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/21/us/politics/donald-trump-national-security-military.html ; Carol Giacomo, “Why Donald Trump Shouldn’t Fill the Cabinet with Generals,” New York Times, Nov. 30, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/30/opinion/why-donald-trump-shouldnt-fill-the-cabinet-with-generals.html ; David A. Graham, “All the President Elect’s Generals,” The Atlantic, Dec. 8, 2016, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/12/all-the-president-elects-generals/509873/ [18] See, for example, Bryan Bender, “Is Trump hiring too many generals?” Politico, Dec. 2, 2016, https://www.politico.com/story/2016/12/trump-transition-generals-232148 [19] David Barno and Nora Bensahel, “An Active-Duty National Security Advisor: Myths and Concerns,” War on the Rocks, Feb. 28, 2017, https://warontherocks.com/2017/02/an-active-duty-national-security-advisor-myths-and-concerns/ [20] Elliot Kaufman, “Against John Kelly as White House Chief of Staff,” National Review, Aug. 1, 2017, https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/08/john-kelly-wrong-man-white-house-chief-staff-civilian-control-military/ [21] Jonathan Stevenson, “The Generals Can’t Save Us From Trump,” New York Times, July 28, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/28/opinion/sunday/mattis-mcmaster-foreign-policy-trump.html [22] Gelpi, Christopher, and Peter D. Feaver. "Speak softly and carry a big stick? Veterans in the political elite and the American use of force." American Political Science Review 96, no. 4 (December 2002): 779–793. [23] See, for example, Rosa Brooks, How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2017). [24] For evidence of the effect of partisanship and ideology on confidence in the military, see David T. Burbach. "Partisan Dimensions of Confidence in the US Military, 1973–2016," Armed Forces & Society (January 2018), http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0095327X17747205?journalCode=afsa. [25] See, for example, James Kitfield, “Trump’s Generals Are Trying to Save the World. Starting with the White House,” Politico, Aug. 4, 2017, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/08/04/donald-trump-generals-mattis-mcmaster-kelly-flynn-215455. [26] Emma Ashford and Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson, “Trump’s National Security Strategy: A Critic’s Dream,” Texas National Security Review, Dec. 21, 2017, https://tnsr.org/roundtable/policy-roundtable-make-trumps-national-security-strategy/#essay2. [27] National Security Act of 1947, p. 500 http://legisworks.org/congress/80/publaw-253.pdf. [28] See the Federalist Papers, especially 8 and 24–29, available at https://www.congress.gov/resources/display/content/The+Federalist+Papers and Anti-Federalist Papers, especially 23–25, available at http://resources.utulsa.edu/law/classes/rice/Constitutional/AntiFederalist/antifed.htm. [29] Peter Feaver, “Mattis’ Appointment Would Require Special Approval from Congress,” interview by Michel Martin, All Things Considered, NPR, Dec. 3, 2016, https://www.npr.org/2016/12/03/504274577/mattis-appointment-would-require-special-approval-from-congress [30] Peter Feaver, “A General to Be Secretary of Defense? A Good Choice for Civil-Military Relations,” Foreign Policy, Dec. 2, 2016, http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/12/02/a-general-to-be-secretary-of-defense-a-good-choice-for-civil-military-relations/. [31] Sheri Fink and Helene Cooper, “Inside Trump Defense Secretary Pick’s Efforts to Halt Torture,” New York Times, Jan 2, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/02/us/politics/james-mattis-defense-secretary-trump.html. [32] Michael R. Gordon, Eric Schmitt, and Maggie Haberman, “Trump Settles on Afghan Strategy Expected to Raise Troop Levels,” New York Times, Aug. 20, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/20/world/asia/trump-afghanistan-strategy-mattis.html. [33] Feaver, “A General to Be Secretary of Defense?” [34] Jennifer Rubin, “Distinguished Person of the Week: He Deftly Defies Trump,” Washington Post, Feb. 11, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2018/02/11/distinguished-person-of-the-week-he-deftly-defies-trump/. [35] Fred Barbash and Derek Hawkins, “Mattis Hailed as ‘Hero’ for ‘Defying’ Trump on Transgender Policy. But Did He?” Washington Post, Aug. 30, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/08/30/mattis-hailed-as-hero-for-defying-trump-on-transgender-policy-but-did-he/. [36] Dan Lamothe and Ann Marimow, “In Defiance of Trump Ban, Pentagon Releases Detailed Policy for Recruiting Transgender Troops,” Chicago Tribune, Dec. 20, 2017, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-pentagon-recruiting-transgender-policy-20171220-story.html. [38] David Barno and Nora Bensahel, “An Active-Duty National Security Advisor: Myths and Concerns,” War on the Rocks, Feb. 28, 2017, https://warontherocks.com/2017/02/an-active-duty-national-security-advisor-myths-and-concerns/. [39] H.R. McMaster and Gary D. Cohn, “America First Doesn’t Mean America Alone,” Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/america-first-doesnt-mean-america-alone-1496187426; discussed in Carter “U.S. Military Chiefs Respond to Trump’s Decisions with Respectful Disobedience.” [40] See, for example, Kori Schake, “How to Grade Trump’s National Security Strategy on a Curve,” Foreign Policy, Dec. 19, 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/12/19/how-to-grade-trumps-national-security-strategy-on-a-curve/. [41] Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, “‘It’s a Hard Problem’: Inside Trump’s Decision to Send More Troops to Afghanistan,” Washington Post, Aug. 21, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/its-a-hard-problem-inside-trumps-decision-to-send-more-troops-to-afghanistan/2017/08/21/14dcb126-868b-11e7-a94f-3139abce39f5_story.html?utm_term=.a9ebe72f93ad. [42] Transcript, John F. Kelly remarks in the White House briefing room, New York Times, Oct. 19, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/19/us/politics/statement-kelly-gold-star.html. [43] Callum Borchers, “The White House’s ‘Highly Inappropriate’ Response to a Fact-Check Reveals an Authoritarian Mindset,” Washington Post, Oct. 20 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/10/20/white-house-to-media-its-highly-inappropriate-to-question-john-kelly-because-hes-a-4-star-general/. [44] Maggie Astor, “John Kelly Pins Civil War on a ‘Lack of Ability to Compromise,’” Washington Post, Oct. 31, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/31/us/john-kelly-civil-war.html. [45] Miriam Valverde, “In Context: John Kelly’s Remarks on ‘Lazy’ Immigrants and DACA,” Politifact, Feb. 7, 2018, http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2018/feb/07/context-john-kellys-remarks-lazy-immigrants-daca/. [46] Jonathan Blitzer, “Evaluating John Kelly’s Record at Homeland Security,” The New Yorker, Aug. 1, 2017, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/evaluating-john-kellys-record-at-homeland-security. [47] Maggie Haberman, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, and Michael S. Schmidt. “Kelly Says He’s Willing To Resign as Abuse Scandal Roils the White House,” New York Times, Feb. 9, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/09/us/politics/trump-porter-abuse.html. [48] Don Christensen, “John Kelly and the ‘Good Soldier’ Defense,” The Atlantic, Feb. 26, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/john-kelly-rob-porter/554177/ ; Joanne Lipman, “Surprised John Kelly Would Overlook Abuse? The Military that Bred Him is Rife with It,” USA Today, Feb. 13, 2018, https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/02/13/john-kelly-rob-porter-donald-trump-overlooking-abuse-military-culture-column/328994002/. [49] Kori Schake (@Kori Schake) “Flynn making fast progress getting Americans to take military leaders off pedestals and treat as regular citizens when politically active,” Twitter, Dec. 5, 2016, https://twitter.com/KoriSchake/status/805949423050059780. [50] Brian Kennedy, “Most Americans Trust the Military and Scientists to Act in the Public’s Interest,” Pew Research Center, Oct. 18 2016  http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/10/18/most-americans-trust-the-military-and-scientists-to-act-in-the-publics-interest/. [51] Domenico Montanaro, “Here's Just How Little Confidence Americans Have in Political Institutions.” All Things Considered, NPR, Jan. 17, 2018, https://www.npr.org/2018/01/17/578422668/heres-just-how-little-confidence-americans-have-in-political-institutions. [52] This essay draws from an earlier article on a similar topic. See Raphael S. Cohen, “Minding the Gap: The Military, Politics and American Democracy,” Lawfare, Dec. 17, 2017, https://lawfareblog.com/minding-gap-military-politics-and-american-democracy. [53] Edwin Chen, “Clinton Backed by 21 Former Military Leaders,” Los Angeles Times, Oct. 13, 1992, http://articles.latimes.com/1992-10-13/news/mn-92_1_military-leaders. [54] Daniel Drezner, “My Concern with Trump's Team of Generals,” Washington Post, Dec. 5, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/12/05/my-concern-with-trumps-team-of-generals/?utm_term=.039055228e89. [55] For example, see Rosa Brooks, How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster 2016). [56] Hael A. Memoli and Noah Bierman, “Trump's 'Hard Power' Budget Makes Sweeping Cuts to EPA and State Department, Boosts Defense Spending,” Los Angeles Times, Mar. 16, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-pol-trump-budget-20170316-story.html. [57] U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, “Over 120 Retired Generals, Admirals on State and USAID Budget: ‘Now is not the time to retreat,’” Feb. 17, 2017, http://www.usglc.org/newsroom/over-120-retired-generals-admirals-on-state-and-usaid-budget-now-is-not-the-time-to-retreat/ [58] For example, see Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis, “Remarks by Secretary Mattis on the National Defense Strategy,” Department of Defense, Jan. 19, 2018, https://www.defense.gov/News/Transcripts/Transcript-View/Article/1420042/remarks-by-secretary-mattis-on-the-national-defense-strategy/. [59] David Barno and Nora Bensahel, “Why No General Should Serve as White House Chief of Staff,” War on the Rocks, Sept. 12, 2017, https://warontherocks.com/2017/09/why-no-general-should-serve-as-white-house-chief-of-staff/. [60] Barno and Bensahel, “No General Should Serve.” [61] Eliot A. Cohen, “Civilian Control of the Armed Forces,” Senate Armed Services Committee, Jan. 10, 2017, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Cohen_01-10-17.pdf. [62] For example, Jacqueline Klimas and Wesley Morgan, “Mattis Delegates Down and Manages Up in Tricky Trump Relationship,” Politico, Dec. 30, 2017, https://www.politico.com/story/2017/12/30/new-documents-reveal-mattis-influence-on-trump-white-house-247743; and David Welna, “Defense Secretary James Mattis Keeps Low Profile amid White House Controversy,” All Things Considered, NPR, June 15, 2017, https://www.npr.org/2017/06/15/533102578/defense-secretary-james-mattis-keeps-low-profile-amid-white-house-controversy. [63] “President Donald J. Trump’s State of the Union Address,” The White House, Jan. 30, 2018, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trumps-state-union-address/. [64] Kathleen H. Hicks, “Civilian Control of the Armed Forces,” Senate Armed Services Committee, Jan. 10, 2017, https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Hicks_01-10-17.pdf. [65] Joe Gould, “Top Pentagon Posts 74 Percent Vacant as Congress Returns,” Defense News, Aug. 20, 2017, https://www.defensenews.com/congress/2017/08/20/top-pentagon-posts-74-percent-vacant-as-congress-returns/. [66] Hicks, “Civilian Control of the Armed Forces.” [67] Cohen, “Civilian Control of the Armed Forces.” [68] Gallup News, “Confidence in Institutions,” 2017, http://news.gallup.com/poll/1597/confidence-institutions.aspx. [69] For example, see Craigh Whitlock and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “More High-Ranking Officers Being Charged with Sex Crimes Against Subordinates,” Washington Post, Mar. 19, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/more-high-ranking-officers-being-charged-with-sex-crimes-against-subordinates/2016/03/19/3910352a-e616-11e5-a6f3-21ccdbc5f74e_story.html?utm_term=.8dcb434cf961; and Ann Scott Tyson and Josh White, “Top Two Air Force Officials Ousted,” Washington Post, June 6, 2008, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/05/AR2008060501908.html on March 10. [70] Gallup News, “Confidence in Institutions.” [71]Jennifer Kavanagh and Michael D. Rich, Truth Decay: An Initial Exploration of the Diminishing Role of Facts and Analysis in American Public Life (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 2018), xiii. [72] Kavanagh and Rich, Truth Decay, xvi. [73] Richard Wike, Katie Simmons, Bruce Stokes and Janell Fetterolf, “Globally, Broad Support for Representative and Direct Democracy: But Many Also Endorse Nondemocratic Alternatives,” Pew Foundation, Oct. 16, 2017, http://www.pewglobal.org/2017/10/16/globally-broad-support-for-representative-and-direct-democracy/. [74] John Wagner and Scott Clement, “‘It’s Just Messed Up’: Most Think Political Divisions as Bad as Vietnam Era, New Poll Shows,” Washington Post, Oct. 28, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/national/democracy-poll/?utm_term=.ee38300d3f5b. [75] Kristen Bialik, “The Changing Face of America’s Veteran Population,” Pew Foundation, Nov. 10, 2017, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/11/10/the-changing-face-of-americas-veteran-population/. [76] Gretchen Livingston, “Profile of U.S. Veterans is Changing Dramatically as Their Ranks Decline,” Pew Foundation, Nov. 11, 2016, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/11/profile-of-u-s-veterans-is-changing-dramatically-as-their-ranks-decline/. [77] Bialik, “America’s Veteran Population.” [78] John Wagner, “White House Press Secretary: It’s ‘Highly Inappropriate’ to Question a 4-star Marine General,” Washington Post, Oct. 20, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/10/20/white-house-press-secretary-its-highly-inappropriate-to-question-a-4-star-marine-general/?utm_term=.35ff816b6ce1. [79] Samuel Chamberlain, “McMaster, Shulkin and Kelly Could be Next to Go in White House, Sources Say,” Fox News, Mar. 14, 2017, http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/03/14/mcmaster-shulkin-and-kelly-could-be-next-to-go-in-white-house-bloodbath-sources-say.html. [80] See Cynthia McFadden, William M. Arkin, and Tim Uehlinger, “How the Trump Team’s First Raid in Yemen Went Wrong,” NBC News, Oct, 2, 2017, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/how-trump-team-s-first-military-raid-went-wrong-n806246. [81] For a good round-up of this trope, see James Mann, “The Adults in the Room,” New York Review of Books, Oct. 26, 2017, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/10/26/trump-adult-supervision/. [82] Pew Research Center, “The Military-Civilian Gap: War and Sacrifice in the Post-9/11 Era” (2011), especially p. 61., http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/10/05/chapter-5-the-public-and-the-military/. [83] See Peter Lucier, “Not your Messiah,” The Revealer, Sep. 8, 2017. https://wp.nyu.edu/therevealer/2017/09/08/not-your-messiah/. [84] See Mark Perry, “Are Trump’s Generals in Over Their Heads?” Politico Magazine, Oct. 25, 2017. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/10/25/donald-trump-john-allen-kelly-generals-military-215740; for an exception to this rule, note that Richard Kohn has been outspoken in his reservations: Mary Louise Kelly, “Trump’s Cabinet of Ex-Generals Indicates Focus on National Security,” National Public Radio, Dec. 7, 2016, https://www.npr.org/2016/12/07/504723677/trumps-cabinet-of-ex-generals-indicates-focus-on-national-security. [85] “Open Letter on Donald Trump from GOP National Security Leaders,” War on the Rocks, Mar. 2, 2016, https://warontherocks.com/2016/03/open-letter-on-donald-trump-from-gop-national-security-leaders/. [86] Phillip Carter, “Military Chiefs’ Reluctance to March,” Slate, Dec. 12, 2017, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/12/how_military_leaders_slowed_down_trump_s_transgender_troop_ban.html. It is true that Kelly and Mattis are no longer active duty military officers and therefore not technically required to “obey orders,” but they are widely seen through the lens of their military service (Trump and his spokespersons regularly refer to both as “General”), and the public discussion of their potential disobedience seems to stem directly from a hope that, as military officers, they would have the courage and fortitude to resist what mere civilians could not. Thus, though they are technically no longer on the “military” side of the civil-military relationship, from the public perspective, they might as well be. [87] More to Carter’s point was the situation after the Charlottesville marches and the death of Heather Heyer, when the president made fairly non-critical comments about the white supremacist marchers, and nearly all the service chiefs made public statements soon after, condemning both the violence in general and white supremacy in particular. This was not a policy disagreement, as such, but was seen by many as military pushback against a political narrative they thought might be damaging. [88] On the shutdown debates, see Dan Lamothe, “Amid Government Shutdown, the Military Becomes a Major Front in Political Battle”, Washington Post, Jan. 20, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2018/01/20/amid-government-shutdown-the-military-becomes-a-centerpiece-to-make-political-jabs/?utm_term=.7e4a9eba6cbd; Richard Sisk, “Lawmakers Push Bills to Keep Paying Troops Amid Shutdown”, Military.com, Jan. 20, 2018, https://www.military.com/daily-news/2018/01/20/democrats-republicans-push-bills-keep-paying-troops-shutdown.html; Gregory Hellman and Conor O’Brien, “Troops Caught in Shutdown Crossfire”, Politico, Jan. 21, 2018, https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/21/government-shutdown-military-soldiers-302007; Kayla Tausche and Jacob Pramuk, “Mitch McConnell Says Senate Leaders Have Reached a Major Budget Deal”, CNBC, Feb. 7, 2018, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/07/shutdown-news-senate-seeks-deal-to-raise-military-spending.html. On the NFL protests, see Jennifer Earl, “How NFL National Anthem Protests Have Evolved since Kaepernick”, Fox News, Mar. 6, 2018, http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/03/06/how-nfl-national-anthem-protests-have-evolved-since-kaepernick.html; P.R. Lockhart, “Trump’s Reaction to the NFL Protests Shows How He Fights the Culture War”, Vox, Feb. 4, 2018, https://www.vox.com/identities/2018/2/4/16967902/nfl-protests-patriotism-race-donald-trump-super-bowl. On the Proposed Changes to SNAP, see Amy Bushatz, “How President’s Food Stamp Cuts Would Impact Military Families,” Military.com, Feb. 14, 2018, https://www.military.com/daily-news/2018/02/14/how-presidents-food-stamp-cuts-would-impact-military-families.html; Scott Simon, “Military Families and SNAP Benefits,” Weekend Edition, NPR, Feb. 17, 2018, https://www.npr.org/2018/02/17/586759930/military-families-and-snap-benefits. [89] Lindsay P. Cohn, “How Much is Enough?” Strategic Studies Quarterly 9, no. 3, (Fall 2015): 47-61. [90] Samuel Huntington, The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations (The Belknap Press, 1957). [91] Jim Golby, Lindsay P. Cohn, and Peter Feaver, “Thanks for Your Service: Civilian and Veteran Attitudes After Fifteen Years of War” in Warriors and Citizens: American Views of Our Military, ed. Kori Schake and James Mattis (Hoover Institution Press, 2016), 97-142. [92] Eliot Cohen, Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime (Simon and Schuster, 2012). [93] Peter Feaver, Armed Servants (Cambridge University Press, 2003); Peter Feaver, “The Right to be Right,” International Security 35, no 4 (2011): 87-125. [94] Glenn Kessler, “When did Mitch McConnell Say He Wanted to Make Obama a One Term President,” Washington Post, Jan. 11, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/when-did-mcconnell-say-he-wanted-to-make-obama-a-one-term-president/2012/09/24/79fd5cd8-0696-11e2-afff-d6c7f20a83bf_blog.html. [95] Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, “How the Republicans Broke Congress,” New York Times, Dec. 2, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/02/opinion/sunday/republicans-broke-congress-politics.html. [96] Frank Newport, “U.S. Confidence in Military Reflects Perceived Competency (Americans with a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the military: 78%),” Gallup, July 27, 2017, http://news.gallup.com/poll/214511/high-confidence-military-reflects-perceived-competency.aspx. [97] Nicholas Burns and Ryan C. Crocker, “Dismantling the Foreign Service,” New York Times, Nov. 27, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/27/opinion/dismantling-foreign-service-budget.html. [98] H.R. McMaster, Dereliction of Duty (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997), 300. [99] Among those were my own father, killed flying over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. [100] Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor, Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq (New York: Pantheon Books, 2006), 102. [101] According to Tom Ricks, “Gen. Franks appeared to believe that planning for the end of the war was someone else’s job.” Thomas E. Ricks, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq (New York: The Penguin Press, 2006), 79. [102] CBS News/AP News, “John Kelly Says Some Immigrants Didn’t Sign Up under DACA Because They Were ‘Lazy.’” CBS News/AP News, Feb. 6, 2018, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/john-kelly-says-he-doesnt-think-trump-will-extend-daca-deadline/. Matthew Rozsa, “Here’s What John Kelly is Missing About Trump’s Gold Star Insult,” Salon, Oct. 20, 2017, https://www.salon.com/2017/10/20/heres-what-john-kelly-is-missing-about-trumps-gold-star-insult/. Richard Sisk, “Kelly Jokingly Tells Trump to Use Ceremonial Sword on Media,” Military.com, May 17, 2017, https://www.military.com/daily-news/2017/05/17/kelly-jokingly-tells-trump-use-ceremonial-sword-media.html. [103] David A. Graham, “The Rise and Fall of John Kelly’s Reputation,” Atlantic, Feb. 7, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/john-kelly-rob-porter/552704/. [104] Dan Mangan, “Rex Tillerson Found Out He Was Fired as Secretary of State from President Donald Trump’s Tweet,” CNBC, March 13, 2018, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/13/tillerson-learned-he-was-fired-from-trumps-tweet.html. [105] Robbie Gramer, Dan de Luce, and Colum Lynch, “How the Trump Administration Broke the State Department,” Foreign Policy, July 31, 2017, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/07/31/how-the-trump-administration-broke-the-state-department/. [106] Evans J.R. Revere, “A U.S.-North Korea Summit: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?” Brookings Institution, March 9, 2018, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/03/09/a-u-s-north-korea-summit-what-could-possibly-go-wrong/. [107] Andrew Exum, “The Dangerous Politicization of the Military,” Atlantic, July 24, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/07/the-danger-of-turning-the-us-military-into-a-political-actor/534624/. [108] Jacob Pramuk, “'Un-American' and 'Treasonous': Trump Goes after Democrats Who Didn't Clap during State of the Union,” CNBC, Feb. 5, 2018, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/05/trump-calls-democrats-un-american-and-treasonous.html. [109] United States Military Academy, “Bugle Notes: Learn This!” accessed March 15, 2018, http://www.west-point.org/academy/malo-wa/inspirations/buglenotes.html. [110] Mark Abadi, “Trump Won’t Stop Saying ‘My Generals’ – and the Military Community Isn’t Happy,” Business Insider, Oct. 25, 2017, http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-my-generals-my-military-2017-10. [111] “Trump Thanks Cabinet, ‘My Generals’,” CNN, Jan. 26, 2018, https://edition.cnn.com/videos/politics/2018/01/26/trump-thanks-cabinet-generals-davos-sot.cnn. [112]  Aaron Mehta and Joe Gould, “McCain to White House: No more Defense Industry Nominees,” DefenseNews, July 11, 2017, https://www.defensenews.com/pentagon/2017/07/11/mccain-to-white-house-no-more-defense-industry-nominees/. [113] “McCain Says No More Defense Industry Execs for Top DoD Posts,” ABC News, Nov. 2, 2017,  http://abcnews.go.com/amp/Politics/wireStory/mccain-defense-industry-execs-top-dod-posts-50887220. [114] David Nakamura and Anne Gearan, “Disagreement on North Korea Policy Derails White House Choice for Ambassador to South Korea,” Washington Post, Jan. 30, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/disagreement-on-north-korea-policy-could-derail-white-house-choice-for-ambassador-to-south-korea/2018/01/30/3a21191c-05da-11e8-94e8-e8b8600ade23_story.html?utm_term=.427e2704204a. [115] Justin Fox, “The Computer Models Say That Diversity Helps,” BloombergView, Aug. 21, 2017, https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-08-21/the-computer-models-say-that-diversity-helps. [116] Consider the first line of the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act: “An Act To reorganize the Department of Defense and strengthen civilian authority in the Department of Defense…” Goldwater- Nicholas Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986. Armed Forces. Defense and national security, 10 USC §111. [117] Michael Crowley, “Trump’s Foreign Policy Team Baffles GOP Experts,” Politico, Mar. 21, 2016, https://www.politico.com/story/2016/03/donald-trump-foreign-policy-advisers-221058. [118] WOTR Staff, “Open Letter on Donald Trump From GOP National Security Leaders,” War on the Rocks, Mar. 2, 2016, https://warontherocks.com/2016/03/open-letter-on-donald-trump-from-gop-national-security-leaders/. [119] “A Letter from G.O.P. National Security Officials Opposing Donald Trump,” New York Times, Aug. 8, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/08/08/us/politics/national-security-letter-trump.html. [120]David Nakamura, “‘Never Trump’ National Security Republicans Fear They Have Been Blacklisted,“ Washington Post, Jan. 16, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/never-trump-national-security-republicans-fear-they-have-been-blacklisted/2017/01/16/a2fadf54-d9a3-11e6-b8b2-cb5164beba6b_story.html?utm_term=.813bb7a0a1a1. [121] Phil Stewart, “McCain Warns Trump over Staffing Pentagon with Industry Insiders,” Reuters, Nov. 16, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-pentagon/mccain-warns-trump-over-staffing-pentagon-with-industry-insiders-idUSKBN1DG39N. [122] Nakamura and Gearan, “Disagreement on North Korea Policy.” [123] Victor Cha, “Victor Cha: Giving North Korea a ‘Bloody Nose’ Carries Huge Risk to Americans,” Washington Post, Jan. 30, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/victor-cha-giving-north-korea-a-bloody-nose-carries-a-huge-risk-to-americans/2018/01/30/43981c94-05f7-11e8-8777-2a059f168dd2_story.html?utm_term=.bdb1d1d131bd. [124] David Rock and Heidi Grant, “Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter,” Harvard Business Review, Nov. 4, 2016, https://hbr.org/2016/11/why-diverse-teams-are-smarter. [125] Katherine W. Phillips, “How Diversity Makes Us Smarter,” Scientific American, Oct. 1, 2014, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-diversity-makes-us-smarter/. [126] Katherine W. Phillips, Katie A. Liljenquist, and Margaret A. Neale, “Better Decisions through Diversity,” Kellogg Insight, Oct. 1, 2010, https://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/article/better_decisions_through_diversity. [127] McChrystal Group, “Team of Teams,” accessed Mar. 22, 2018, https://www.mcchrystalgroup.com/insights-old/teamofteams/. [128] Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., “Meeting Today’s Global Security Challenges with General Joseph F. Dunford,” remarks and Q & A, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mar. 29, 2016, https://www.csis.org/events/meeting-todays-global-security-challenges -general-joseph-f-dunford. [129] John Wagner, “White House Press Secretary: It’s ‘Highly Inappropriate’ to Question a 4-star Marine General,” Washington Post, Oct. 20, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/10/20/white-house-press-secretary-its-highly-inappropriate-to-question-a-4-star-marine-general/?utm_term=.64246392f730. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => Contents [contents] => 1. Introduction, Celeste Ward Gventer 2. Trump's Generals: Mattis, McMaster, and Kelly, by Jessica Blankshain 3. An Effect Rather Than a Cause for Concern: The State of Civil-Military Relations in the Trump Administration, by Raphael S. Cohen 4. Civil-Military Relations One Year In, by Lindsay P. Cohn 5. Trump and His Generals: An Unfolding Crisis in Civil-Military Relations, by Paul Eaton 6. The Lack of Diverse Viewpoints on Trump's National Security Team and its Long-Term Consequences, by Lauren Fish ) ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 2 [max_num_pages] => 1 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => 1 [is_category] => [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 931dece50965ddf2aeb56335723723de [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 1 [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )