Best Defense

Flynn out, Kellogg in: Annals of a presidency operating on very thin ice

General Michael Flynn is out as national security advisor, with General Keith Kellogg as his acting replacement.

Major General Joseph K. Kellogg Jr., USA (uncovered)
Major General Joseph K. Kellogg Jr., USA (uncovered)

General Michael Flynn is out as national security advisor, with General Keith Kellogg as his acting replacement. This gives Flynn the distinction of being the sole person on the planet to have been booted by both Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

Kellogg is an old school 82nd Airborne infantryman who also spent time in special forces. If I recall correctly, he got in hot water in the early 1990s when as a colonel in Europe he went into Bosnia, studied the situation, and then wrote a memorandum recommending that the United States prepare to intervene in the conflict. His reasoning was that American intervention was inevitable, so it might as well come sooner, before tens of thousands of additional people died. As I recall, he got called on the carpet by Gen. Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who chewed him out partly on substance (your recommendation is wrong) but mainly on process (don’t put stuff like that on paper because it is then reachable by Congress).

Kellogg is interesting in that in the Army he was a hooah commander, but in retirement got first into homeland security issues, and later worked for Ambassador Paul Bremer in Baghdad during the Coalition Provisional Authority days.

I do have to wonder what goes through the head of a two-tour, Silver Star, Vietnam vet like Kellogg when he looks at Trump.

Personal note: The oddity here, for me, is that both generals invited me to come in and speak to their people while they were in command — Kellogg at 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, Flynn at the Defense Intelligence Agency. That may not seem like much, but I was pretty radioactive with some defense secretaries and Joint Chiefs chairmen, so I think it showed courage on their parts.

I also see the name of retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward being discussed as a possible successor. He’s a tough old SEAL who served under James Mattis at Central Command, where he was in charge of planning a war against Iran.

In other news, I think Flynn’s ouster doesn’t end the Trump/Russia story, but rather gives it legs. Trump tweeted a complaint about leaks this morning. I don’t think he has seen anything yet. And I think the tweet reflects his fear of what might emerge.

Photo credit: 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 @tomricks1

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