In light of the recent lull in political coverage post-debate (both candidates are tirelessly campaigning for a last minute push to raise poll numbers), I thought I would spend some time here to highlight a fascinating article I read several months back and have been wanting to do a post on for a while now. It was published in the Huffington Post side publication “Highline,” which creates in-depth, well researched long form investigative pieces on a variety of topics (some niche, some relevant to top news) that are worth a read. The article was entitled, “Trump At War: How the military is preparing for the possibility of a very different kind of Commander in Chief,” by Andy Kroll, published earlier this year at the height of Trump’s popularity (in other words when he still had a chance of winning), before he had even secured the Republican party nomination.
The article discussed on a micro level what the repercussions of a Trump presidency would be on America’s military and foreign policy, comparing his approach and relationship with current top military/security officials with that of past presidents (Obama, Bush, Clinton, Truman). The article raises a host of important points, but none I feel are as crucial as this one articulated here:
“For even the savviest of presidents, the relationship between a commander in chief and his military is famously fraught, an intricate dance of egos and agendas, worldviews and bureaucracies. A President Trump, however, could usher in a clash of historic proportions. “If you take the man at his word,” said Michael Breen, the president of the Truman National Security Project and a decorated former Army officer, “we have a presidential candidate who seems to have committed himself to triggering what would probably be the greatest crisis in civil-military relations since the American Civil War.”
The article cites Trump’s “unpredictable” nature, penchant for the overly dramatic, flair for brashness and encouragement of a “Darwinian” environment among his subordinates as grounds for dangerous foreign relations disasters. This might be nothing new to anybody who has followed Trump’s campaign from its initial creation (Mexicans are “rapists” speech ring a bell?) to just last week, when he couldn’t even define a coherent plan for how to handle the current crises in the Middle East at the debate. But what really struck me in this article was just how volatile Trump has been viewed by so many top intelligence agencies, to the point where many quoted officials said they would refuse to carry out orders Trump might give as president if they were too extreme or even illegal. Consider this passage here:
“I recently spoke to a 32-year-old Army reservist named John Ford, a captain in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. “I would probably not resign right away” if Trump were elected, he told me. “I would see to what extent Congress can keep him in check.” Ford believed many other servicemen and servicewomen were grappling with this question: “They’re basically thinking to themselves, ‘How do I finesse this? What are the odds I personally would actually be asked to do something illegal or unconscionable?’”
This is vitally important because despite Trump’s almost dismal chances of securing the electoral votes needed to become president, the fact of the matter is that until the recent sexual assault scandal Trump was not only head to head with Clinton but actually leading in many national polls, and it serves to stand that at least a good half of his supporters probably had not considered what his lack of political and governmental experience, while very attractive to many Republicans disillusioned with the establishment, would also prove to be a colossal detriment in his role as commander in chief. Just some food for thought, and a really intriguing study on how past presidents have operated in tandem with the American military.