by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Victor Davis Hanson‘s latest column at National Review Online explores the criticism President-elect Donald Trump has faced for nominating multiple military men for top government positions.
Most of the criticism of the Flynn, Mattis, and Kelly nominations is politically created hysteria, like past contrived bouts of partisan frenzy over subjects such as the “war on women” or the “climate of hate.”
Why, after reaching a high military rank before retirement, should a nominee earn more scrutiny than an ex-banker, ex-politician or ex-lawyer?
Did anyone complain when Barack Obama appointed five retired generals and one retired admiral to either Cabinet posts or high-ranking positions in his administration? In fact, Flynn and Petraeus were first appointed to high office by Obama. …
… The chief complaint about Trump’s appointments is that too many generals will mean too great a likelihood of war. Historical evidence points to the opposite conclusion. Generals were not the proverbial “best and brightest” who argued for military intervention in Vietnam, the invasion of Iraq in 2003, or the bombing of Libya in 2011.
In a famous example of a civilian-military paradox, President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to the United Nations, Madeline Albright, scolded Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell in 1993 for not being more eager to send troops into the Balkans. “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” Albright asked Powell.
Traditionally, retired generals and flag officers have no desire to see their own troops killed in what they see as optional wars abroad. Their occasional harangues about building up military power are predicated on notions of peace-through-strength deterrence: The more powerful the military is perceived abroad, the less likely it will be need to be used.
Far more worrisome is the tired presidential custom of relying on ex-senators and politicians with law degrees to fill important executive positions despite their lack of outside-the-Beltway administrative experience.