Unauthorized military discussions with a growing adversary about potential action sends a negative signal to an enemy. It conveys confusion, weakness, and calls into question our ability to control our military forces. It also implies that the military, in fact, calls the shots — not the commander in chief. Any undermining of the civilian control of the military is problematic; this was dangerous.
Moreover, this call was made in the aftermath of a contentious election in the midst of a debilitating pandemic caused and perpetuated by the same country on the other end of the phone. In diplomatic relations, what’s not said often carries as much weight as what is. Milley’s alleged call communicated disarray.
Nothing was further from the truth. I was the longest serving senior national security official in the Trump White House. I was confident then, and confident now, that Trump was a commander in chief that we needed and served us well in multiple crises. You need only look at the fall of Kabul, the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan and our failure to coordinate with our allies, the tragic drone strikes that killed seven children rather than an ISIS-K member, and the French withdrawing their ambassador to see how far we’ve fallen. Peace through strength is more than just a catchphrase.