Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Two thoughts on Trump and defense

As of today, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn and Newt Gingrich are probably the two most influential voices in national security.

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First, I am struck by the extraordinary turn in the career of Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He was ousted, pushed out, or something, by the Barack Obama administration. This year he tied his fate to that of Donald Trump, and looked to be headed to oblivion.

Instead, as of today, he and Newt Gingrich are probably the two most influential voices in national security. I can’t think of another general since the Civil War who has made such a comeback. Based on a conversation I had with him some 15 or so years ago, I think Gingrich will have a voice in national security but will be more interested in deconstructing Obamacare.

Second, it will be interesting to see how Trump gets along with the generals he has condemned as losers and Obama cronies. Being the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will be one of the toughest jobs around. Second toughest: Being the legal advisor to the chairman. Imagine the exchanges:

First, I am struck by the extraordinary turn in the career of Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He was ousted, pushed out, or something, by the Barack Obama administration. This year he tied his fate to that of Donald Trump, and looked to be headed to oblivion.

Instead, as of today, he and Newt Gingrich are probably the two most influential voices in national security. I can’t think of another general since the Civil War who has made such a comeback. Based on a conversation I had with him some 15 or so years ago, I think Gingrich will have a voice in national security but will be more interested in deconstructing Obamacare.

Second, it will be interesting to see how Trump gets along with the generals he has condemned as losers and Obama cronies. Being the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will be one of the toughest jobs around. Second toughest: Being the legal advisor to the chairman. Imagine the exchanges:

President Trump: “That’s an order.”

General: “Sir, my JAG tells me that’s an illegal order.”

President Trump: “OK, your JAG is fired. Now find someone who will help me, not throw obstacles in my way.”

Trump also might find nettlesome the generals who say things like, “OK, if we do that, what happens after that? What’s the next step?” The Obama administration didn’t like that when General Mattis did in that in discussions of Iran, and Trump will like it even less.

Photo credit: Defense Intelligence Agency/Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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