Amidst the multitudinous scary, dismaying and hurtful actions we have seen across the length and breadth of the first six months or so of the Trump Administration, there is one set of actions attached specifically to the President which have not appeared to generate the very serious concern they deserve. These actions, each made directly by Mr. Trump, deal with a President’s role and responsibilities as Commander in Chief and our national security.
In his first days as President, Trump appointed a man to head his National Security Council who it now appears the President knew was a security risk based on ties with Russia and Turkey. In short order the appointee was forced out of his job, but the idea that the President knowingly appointed a person to head his Security Council who was so severely compromised is certainly troubling.
Next, in a meeting with representatives of the Russian Government, including its Foreign Minister, Trump, in a rather off hand manner, provided his guests with information about a highly classified piece of information that Russia probably did not have, and did so in such a way as to allow a sophisticated espionage office such as Russia’s to figure out who provided this intelligence and perhaps who the original source was.
Following up on this disturbing, off hand, declassification of intelligence information, Trump then told the President of the Philippines, a man not noted for calm and rational action, who has proclaimed his intention to strengthen his ties with China (North Korea’s only ally in the region) that the US had two nuclear submarines cruising in waters off the Korean peninsula.
I have a friend who serves on nuclear subs in the far east and I know he does not talk about his cruises with anyone: not his friends, not his spouse, no one. The location and cruise patterns for our nuclear submarines with their nuclear warheads rests among the more real secrets we need to keep. For the President to give up such sensitive information about military activities in such a volatile area in a childish verbal game of one upmanship with a compromised former ally is not just appalling, it is dangerous to lives of sailors serving in those ships. Sailors moving into harms way have their lives endangered for no reason other than braggadocio by their Commander in Chief.
The icing on the cake for this pattern of Presidential behavior is the news that the President has told our military leadership that they should go ahead and do what they deem necessary and not worry about him. Like Pontius Pilate he is washing his hands of his responsibility as Commander in Chief, apparently believing that if something goes wrong he can say it is not his fault. Tell it to Harry Truman.
Under our constitution there is no more important and daunting responsibility than the President’s role as Commander in Chief of our military establishment. The importance of civilian over site to make sure that strategic and in some cases tactical military decisions are not made in a political and human impact vacuum simply cannot be overstated. An American President should listen closely to the advice and options he receives from the military and its leaders. More often than not the suggestions he gets will be good ones. The President should allow his military leaders sufficient latitude in their actions to make decisions as circumstances change after boots hit the ground, but he must never abdicate his responsibility, nay his duty, to know before hand what is planned and to challenge plans that while perhaps militarily sound, are politically dicey or whose human impact is simply to great to allow. A President who fails in this responsibility puts all of us in great danger.
President Trump has established a disturbing pattern in his actions surrounding his responsibility for military over site and disclosure of at least sensitive and in some cases highly classified information concerning our national security and military preparedness that should scare us all. How long will it be before a Marine serving in Afghanistan is killed because his Commander in Chief has no concept of military security and cannot keep his mouth shut? What will Trump do when some rogue General decides he can harm ISIS by bombing some small city into rubble to kill three of four if its leaders, but neglecting to factor in the lives of the several hundred children that live there?
The pattern of behavior Trump has established with these and other similar actions based on his inability to keep his mouth shut when appropriate will not change. The actions are based on who he is, not what he may or may not know. Some day in the next three and one half years in his abdication of his responsibility to provide civilian, political over site to our military or his pathological need to run off at the mouth about something the result will be a horrendous loss of human life or a military debacle of massive proportion. I find it hard to believe that anyone knowingly voted to create this real danger to our country.