“It’s just insane!” he declared this morning, mid-rant. “This is a party that is now attacking generals, the FBI, the CIA, the Intel community. The very people who keep us safe. It’s crazy.”
Was Milley “keeping us safe” if — big if — Bob Woodward’s account of his calls with his Chinese counterpart are true? Woodward drops two bombshells in his book:
1. Milley supposedly warned the Chinese general that he’d tip him off if Trump gave an order to attack China.
2. Milley reminded the nuclear command to follow proper protocols in launching nuclear weapons, which sounds suspiciously like he was warning them not to carry out any attacks ordered by Trump even though the president has sole authority in that realm. Allegedly he told Pelosi, “the nuclear triggers are secure and we’re not going to do — we’re not going to allow anything crazy, illegal, immoral or unethical to happen.”
The argument that Milley was “keeping us safe” by granting himself a veto over any nuclear orders given by Trump is straightforward, albeit grossly unconstitutional. If he thought the president was capable of launching a nuclear war that might end civilization because he was unhinged over his election defeat, and he further thought (correctly) that Congress wouldn’t be able to muster bipartisan support to remove the president in order to avert that possibility, he may have decided that saving the world by having the military take control of the nuclear arsenal if it came to that was worth a court-martial.
But it’s harder to argue that Milley was “keeping us safe” if he told China that he’d warn them if Trump ordered an attack. That would have signaled to Beijing that Trump was viewed as so belligerent and/or unstable by his own military command that America’s top general would sooner aid the enemy by passing along intelligence in hopes of minimizing any conflict than carry out an ambush that might be effective but launch a wider war. With U.S. leadership seemingly in disarray, China might have taken Milley’s pledge as a sign that it was an opportune moment to attack Taiwan, Japan, or some U.S. territory. The pledge might have backfired completely.
Which wouldn’t be “keeping us safe.” Rather the opposite.
Scarborough is pissed off because he sees the Republican rush to oust Milley as partly a matter of axe-grinding over unrelated political grievances, which is true. If Milley had sneered at the idea of Critical Race Theory instead of admitting to an interest in it, if he hadn’t apologized last year for letting himself be drafted into Trump’s obnoxious photo op in Lafayette Park or opposed the president on invoking the Insurrection Act against protesters, righties might have given him more of a benefit of the doubt (like Tom Cotton has) with respect to Woodward’s allegations. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have good reason to be alarmed about what Milley’s accused of. Watch, via the Hill Reporter, then read on:
Did Milley warn China’s general that he’d tip him off if an attack was coming or, as has been alleged, did he do something more mundane, like reassuring him that Chinese intelligence about an impending U.S. attack was wrong and therefore China needn’t lash out in the mistaken belief that it was preempting an attack? We’d need a transcript of the call to know. But CNN reporter Jim Sciutto pointed out this morning that there was nothing new about U.S. officials warning foreign counterparts who sought assurances about American policy that Trump was unpredictable and therefore it could change at any moment. Milley may have feared, not unreasonably, that the Chinese would be mindful of that when digesting the bad intel about a looming U.S. sneak attack, especially during the post-election “stop the steal” period when Trump was less predictable than usual. That wouldn’t excuse Milley for promising to tip off China if an attack order were given but it would explain why he wanted to assure the Chinese that no attack was coming.
As for the prospect of him refusing to carry out certain orders given by Trump, Sciutto filed a report last summer claiming that U.S. officials had already done that at points during his presidency because they feared he was a loose cannon whose wishes could turn on a dime.
Yun recalled that during the worsening standoff with North Korea in 2017, the Pentagon hesitated to give the President a broad range of military options, concerned that he might indeed order a major military attack on the North.
“You had to be careful what options you gave him,” he said. “We were being very cautious, because any options you put out there, he could use them.”
A year later, after Iranian-backed militias fired some mortars at the Green Zone in Baghdad, Trump apparently requested a full menu of military options against Iran and the NSC sent out the word to the Pentagon:
Pentagon officials were dumbfounded. On a conference call with the White House, which included the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul Selva, and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood, Selva muted the line on the Pentagon’s end and turned to his colleagues in disbelief.
“He said, ‘Is this a joke? They really want us to propose direct military action into Iran, against Iran, based on this?'” the same former senior US official told me.” And I said, ‘No, we’ve been dealing with this all morning. Have they spent any time in Iraq?’ This is a constant thing.”
When they got off the call, General Selva and Secretary Rood made it clear to their colleagues they would not be providing the White House with any military options unless directed explicitly by the President himself.
That was insubordination, but it’s also further evidence that Trump’s own commanders viewed him as recklessly, and potentially dangerously, impetuous. “I think both allies and enemies realize that his decision process was unpredictable even to those advising him up to and including the secretary of defense and national security adviser,” said one former official to Sciutto. That sounds like “the madman theory” of foreign policy followed by Richard Nixon, in which Nixon feigned recklessness strategically in order to frighten rival powers. The official made clear to Sciutto, though, that it wasn’t strategic in Trump’s case. When military officers and diplomats told their foreign counterparts that they didn’t know what Trump might do next or what he was capable of, it wasn’t a strategic ploy. It was because they genuinely couldn’t make assurances about the direction of U.S. policy or military action because they thought Trump was a loose cannon. That’s what Milley was dealing with on January 8 when he called China.
Here’s Marco Rubio laying into Milley and alleging, falsely, that Milley told the Chinese general that Trump was unstable. That’s not what Woodward’s book claims. Rather the opposite, that Milley was trying to assure the Chinese that everything was fine and business-as-usual here in the USA notwithstanding that little incident at the Capitol that had happened two days before. Exit question via Erick Erickson: Did Milley exaggerate his own role in this saga in leaking to Woodward? It’d be ironic if he ended up losing his job because he couldn’t resist falsely portraying himself as the hero who singlehandedly saved democracy?
If Gen.Milley calling his Chinese counterpart was just a normal & regular communication then why are those calls now newsworthy?
If the account of those calls in a new book is accurate these calls were neither regular nor heroic.
They were treacherous and dangerous. pic.twitter.com/7SCD6llO5a
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) September 15, 2021