The Generals’ President: How a Praetorian Pentagon Rolled a Gullible Trump

The Generals’ President: How a Praetorian Pentagon Rolled a Gullible Trump
President Donald Trump during a briefing with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Washington, Oct. 5, 2017 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

Much was made in the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency of “Trump’s generals,” the retired and active flag officers who made up his Cabinet and White House staff. Retired generals James Mattis and John Kelly, acting as defense secretary and then-homeland security chief respectively, and active-duty Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, were seen as experienced national security hands who would, it was hoped, create a buffer between America’s vital interests and a new president who wasn’t just inexperienced but often reckless and incendiary.

From the outset, there were misgivings about such an outsized role for military officers in the executive branch. Some of those misgivings seem to be borne out by the White House’s defense budget request for 2019, released this week, and recent national security strategy documents released by the Pentagon over the past two months. Together, they suggest that Trump’s generals have turned the tables on him: It would be more accurate these days to speak of the generals’ president.

The administration’s proposed defense budget reads like the Pentagon’s wish list. As the headline of Greg Jaffe’s write-up at The Washington Post put it, “Trump’s budget promises the Pentagon more of everything.”

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