Wesley Clark, the retired NATO commander from Little Rock, writes critically today in the Washington Post about Donald Trump as commander in chief.
It’s an epic list of Trump actions large and small that indicate bullying, insensitivity or simple lack of understanding of the rituals of military service.
But if Trump struggles with his role’s rites and rituals, there are deeper issues with his command. His blustering and combative diplomacy on Korea, cozying up with a potential adversary who has consistently worked to undermine the United States, and his pattern of insulting friends and disrupting allies are all deeply unsettling to the middle-grade and senior officers who plan and execute U.S. policy. They need steady, consistent, reliable leadership. The bobbing and weaving may work in a small family office, but he is now leading one of the largest, most structured organizations in the world — and certainly the most powerful. It needs a steady hand, not just at secretary of defense, but also at the very top.
What actually drives Trump’s policies and actions as commander in chief? On what basis does he make the decisions that could separate us from our families, and send us to war? By all reports he doesn’t like to read, doesn’t suffer long briefings, doesn’t want to study, doesn’t seem to want much of the experience of the generals closest to him.
We honor the chain of command, so we trust him with the most central issues of our time — war, peace, the nuclear button. But Russia is still bullying, North Korea is still polishing up its nuclear force, China is strengthening its position in the South China Sea, and Iran and the Islamic State are still there in the Middle East, while our oldest allies are cringing and disheartened.
In his campaign, Trump promised that only he knew how to lead America. In the field of national security the jury is still out.