We’ve had high-ranking military men serve in high-ranking offices in our government since the beginning of the country, starting right off with George Washington through Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Colin Powell. But it’s beginning to look like Trump is surrounding himself with an awful lot of them, and some of them seem to have had issues with both their temperament and civil liberties. Not unlike the man who is hiring them.
Greg Sargent at the Washington Post:
Donald Trump has chosen retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly to run the Department of Homeland Security, a post that will have great consequence in a Trump administration, given Trump’s vow of a much tougher approach to combating illegal immigration and internal terrorist threats, both areas that DHS oversees.
In that context, there is a quote that Kelly delivered in 2010 that libertarians and civil liberties experts see as troubling, and in need of further clarification. The Post account describes it this way:
Kelly learned firsthand the pain and loss suffered by many military families. His son, 2nd Lt. Robert M. Kelly, died in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban in 2010. Four days later, the general delivered a passionate and at times angry speech about the military’s sacrifices and its troops’ growing sense of isolation from society.
“Their struggle is your struggle,” he told a crowd of former Marines and business people in St. Louis. “If anyone thinks you can somehow thank them for their service, and not support the cause for which they fight — our country — these people are lying to themselves. … More important, they are slighting our warriors and mocking their commitment to this nation.”
That quote, which was about members of the military fighting against the terrorist enemy, seems to suggest that one cannot criticize a war without being seen as anti-troops. That said, it could also mean that one cannot criticize the broader act of defending this nation without being anti-troops.
Gen. Kelly is just the latest; as TPM notes, he joins Gen. James Mattis at Defense and Gen. Michael Flynn — he of the “fake news” inflammation — as the national security advisor, and possibly Gen. David Petraeus at State. There’s enough brass there to make an army of spittoons.
There are a couple of reasons why this is just a bit disturbing. First, based on some of the statements and actions these men have made and done, I’m not sure we’re getting the best the corps have to offer. Second, it makes you wonder why a president with no military experience but a history of authoritarianism and a disregard for civil rights would be so eager to enlist from a profession where authority is never questioned and surrendering civil rights is a part of the deal.
There’s some kind of envy going on there.