Chickens coming home to roost: What Tom Donilon and Ben Rhodes hath wrought at the Obama White House
Thinking last night about how Trump is picking especially generals dissed by the Obama White House, it occurred to me that what we might be seeing is a national security establishment built in precise reaction to Tom Donilon and Ben Rhodes.
Thinking last night about how Donald Trump is especially picking generals dissed by the Barack Obama White House, it occurred to me that what we might be seeing is a national security establishment built in precise reaction to Tom Donilon and Ben Rhodes. I am sure they are nice guys, but they also strike me as a semi-competent hack (Donilon) and an arrogant youth (Rhodes). And so we are seeing a bevy of ousted generals appointed to top positions as the Trumpist response.
I don’t really blame this on Donilon and Rhodes. They were simply tools. I blame this on Obama, and on his propensity to turn foreign policy over to Biden’s posse of ill-informed, narrow-minded, militarily ignorant hacks. I’m all for civilian control, but I also want civilians who don’t fire generals for speaking their minds privately. That’s what you want: dissent inside the meetings to explore differences and examine assumptions. That is how good policy is made.
I confess that the 1930s have been on my mind a lot this week. While writing my current book, on Winston Churchill and George Orwell, I have been wondering how people could have been so stupid as to appease Hitler or to cozy up to Stalin.
Yet here I find myself this week having serious talks with friends who have been approached to work for Trump in national security positions. (Apparently you have to swear that you didn’t sign a “Never Trump” letter, and also maybe promise not to spill beans after you leave.) It’s a surprisingly hard decision. They have friends who are still in uniform and can’t just leave the military. What do you do? You can’t just abandon the people who are stuck.
Even worse are people in the government who would like to leave but feel they can’t, with mortgages pending in Fairfax or Annapolis and kids in college. As one guy wrote to me this week, “I am sorry but I can’t afford to live up to my principles.” What a soul-crushing thought.
No, these guys didn’t create the election results. But they did line up the generals that Trump is now lunching with. See those birds? That’s chickens coming home to roost.
Photo credits: White House/Wikimedia Commons