Secretary of Defense

Jim and the Buried Lede (Mattis Matters for America)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President-elect Donald Trump shakes hands with retired United States Marine Corps general James Mattis after their meeting at Trump International Golf Club, 19 November 2016, in Bedminster Township, N.J. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

It seems worth noting that we are actually through a particular looking glass:

One tense moment came last May as officials grew increasingly concerned about aggressive Iranian behavior.

For weeks, Mattis had been resisting requests from the White House to provide military options for Iran. Now Trump made clear that he wanted the Pentagon to deliver a range of plans that included striking Iranian ballistic missile factories or hitting Iranian speedboats that routinely harassed U.S. Navy vessels.

“Why can’t we sink them?” Trump would sometimes ask about the boats.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster and his staff laid out the president’s request for Mattis in a conference call, but the defense secretary refused, according to several U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations. At that point, McMaster took Mattis off speakerphone, cleared his staff from the room and continued the conversation.

“It was clear that the call was not going well,” one official said. In the weeks that followed, the options never arrived.

(Jaffe and Ryan)

Something about buried ledes might go here, but, to be explicit: We are nine months into the period during which the National Security Advisor, a retired Marine Corps general, keeps the peace by refusing or ignoring the president.

(more…)

Swamp Gas (Farting Contest)

#DrainTheSwamp | #WhatTheyVotedFor

The White House (Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Standing up for, well, someone, #NeverTrump consultant J. G. Collins tries an institutional twist:

The president should clarify the tone of U.S. trade policy and insist that his staff carry it out to ensure U.S. intentions and policies with respect to trade are clear to the world. Reports that Navarro’s influence is on the wane, should deeply trouble the Trump voters. It would mean that the nationalist “drain the swamp” “free but fair” trade rhetoric of the Trump campaign had become “just more of the same” trade policy in the Trump administration.

Let’s hope the latter is not true. It’s not what Americans voted for.

While there are plenty who will harrumph and remind that President Donald Trump is “not what Americans voted for”, that point is a distraction.

(more…)

Something About Alfalfa

This is something that has been bugging me, and the question doesn’t seem to want to calm down.

To the one, the infamous Yemen raid is all the more notorious for being the first military action of President Donald Trump’s new administration. To the other, Rachel Maddow spoke with a Colin Kahl, formerly a national security advisor to Vice President Joe Biden:

MADDOW: In terms of how President Trump did run this process, we don’t know very much about it. We are told in terms of the timeline that his National Security Advisor briefed him on the plans for the operation one day. The next day, at dinner with his senior strategist Steve Bannon and with his son in law Jared Kushner, and with Secretary of Defense and some other principal-level personnel, he made the decision around the dinner table that it would happen, and then it was launched immediately. That seems like a remarkably informal, small, quick process. Is that totally out of keeping with the kinds of processes that you’ve seen around potentially deadly raids like this, in the past?

KAHL: Well, it is unusual, especially in a context where a raid like this represents a significant escalation in the nature of our actions in Yemen. So it’s not just the raid itself, it’s that there’s a broader set of authorities that are behind that, that deserve deliberation, and what I mean by that is you need to have not just the Defense Department around the table. You also need your intelligence professionals, so that they can vet the intelligence to make sure that they agree with the risk assessment the Pentagon is making. You also need the State Department at the table, so that they can go through the political implications; what happens if civilians die, what are the implications for tribal relations in Yemen, or diplomatic relations? You need the communicators in the room so that you know that you’re on message and you can coordinate with your allies. You also need the legislative team in the room so that you can notify Congress. This is a deliberate process that you owe the president a holistic assessment, and the problem is even if you’ve got a bunch of smart capable people around the table at dinner―like Secretary Mattis, who I think the world of, and Joe Dunford, our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who’s an amazing man―you need a fuller picture than those two general can provide so the president to make a decision of this gravity.

Quite the question; quite the answer. Nor should we look past the rest of it but for the moment, well, the words “significant escalation” stand out. And it’s just one more reason.

(more…)

A Post About Tim Kaine (Kinda Sorta)

Democratic vice presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, speaks at a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Florida International University in Miami, Saturday, 23 July 2016. (Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP Photo)

In this strangest of electoral seasons it’s almost as if Tim Kaine … well, it’s not quite like he doesn’t exist, but, you know, when the coverage is like Max Knoblauch’s “let’s make up some random stupid stuff so we have an excuse to post something about Tim Kaine” fluffenkrust, what, really can we say? Part of Sen. Kaine’s role is to be not quite invisible.

Still, though, what passes for comedy humor content at Mashable somehow manages to exceed The Hill by some manner of leagues what happens when the reputable Beltway watchers lend column space to the likes of Dan Schneider and Larry Hart:

Tim Kaine’s 0% ACU rating ranks him the most extreme liberal in all of Congress, but the bigger difference between Kaine and his liberal allies is not in their political philosophy. The more significant difference is that the others can be trusted to mean what they say; the same cannot be said of Tim Kaine. He’s the perfect running mate for Hillary Clinton.

At best, the terrible twosome from the American Conservative Union might make some Bernie backers feel a bit better about bucking up to vote for Hillary Clinton in November, but for anyone else the only thing wrong with that article is everything.

(more…)

A Good Day (Defense and Dignity Edition)

Then Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Ashton Carter testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee 19 May 2011, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“Discrimination of any kind has no place in America’s armed forces.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter

yeah, and don’t get me started on the word meritocracy ....

Huh? Oh.

Raise a glass to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Tuesday that gay and lesbian troops for the first time will be protected from discrimination by the same equal opportunity policy that protects other servicemembers.

Carter announced the change at the Pentagon’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Pride event.

The change ensures that gay and lesbian troops’ complaints about discrimination based on sexual orientation will be investigated by the Military Equal Opportunity program, the same office that handles complaints based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

“Discrimination of any kind has no place in America’s armed forces,” Carter said.

(Vanden Brook)

I admit that after I outgrew childhood dreams of glory it really did become difficult to comprehend why anybody would want to be a soldier. Just sayin’. I mean, there are all sorts of jokes over the years; what was that one Doonesbury about signing up for the college benefits, not for a war? You know, that sort of thing. And it’s also true I have known families in which military service is traditional. But still, I don’t get it. What, would I join the military but only if I got to stay home and do paperwork instead of go fight and kill and maybe die?Transgender sign

Never mind. That’s me, and my own damn problem.

Reality, after all, doesn’t give a damn about what I wonder. People still apparently want to join the military.

We can certainly continue to fret about our estimated fifteen thousand transgendered service personnel; the armed forces can still kick them out for (ahem!) “health” reasons. But at the same time, a periodic policy review is underway, the Secretary seems to want to end the policy, and the services themselvs―including the Air Force―are leading the way by adding extra steps and requiring higher approval for those discharge processes.

That review is going to take a while; it is unfair to expect more good news next week, or next month. Maybe we can hope for substantive answers and substantial policy revisions next year, but in any question involving such bureaucracies, I certainly won’t be holding my breath.

But, you know. They’re on it.

And today was a good day.

Today brought something real and substantial.

Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

____________________

Image note: 19 May 2011: Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Ashton Carter testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Vanden Brook, Tom. “Gay and lesbian troops will be protected by new Pentagon policy”. USA Today. 9 June 2015.

Your Morning Misty Memory

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. (Photo: Dennis Cook/AP)

This is just for the hell of it, because I had cause to think of it the other day. Never mind.

Hart Seely for Slate, circa 2003:

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is an accomplished man. Not only is he guiding the war in Iraq, he has been a pilot, a congressman, an ambassador, a businessman, and a civil servant. But few Americans know that he is also a poet.

Until now, the secretary’s poetry has found only a small and skeptical audience: the Pentagon press corps. Every day, Rumsfeld regales reporters with his jazzy, impromptu riffs. Few of them seem to appreciate it.

But we should all be listening. Rumsfeld’s poetry is paradoxical: It uses playful language to address the most somber subjects: war, terrorism, mortality. Much of it is about indirection and evasion: He never faces his subjects head on but weaves away, letting inversions and repetitions confuse and beguile. His work, with its dedication to the fractured rhythms of the plainspoken vernacular, is reminiscent of William Carlos Williams’. Some readers may find that Rumsfeld’s gift for offhand, quotidian pronouncements is as entrancing as Frank O’Hara’s.

(more…)

A Test, of Sorts

And very possibly true, at that.