Biden Endorses Female Generals Whose Promotions Were Delayed Over Fears of Trump’s Reaction

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The disclosure last month that the Pentagon senior leadership had held back the nominations to protect the careers of the two officers from Mr. Trump prompted a lively debate in military journals and on social media.

Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, who left the military last summer after his own entanglement with the White House, argued in the national security blog Lawfare that Mr. Esper and General Milley should have fought it out with Mr. Trump.

“Upholding good order and discipline within the military does not mean dodging difficult debates with the commander in chief,” Colonel Vindman wrote.

But defenders of Mr. Esper and General Milley’s strategy say that Colonel Vindman’s argument ignores the civil-military crisis between Mr. Trump and the senior Pentagon leaders in the fall. Mr. Trump, furious that they had stood up to him when he wanted to use active-duty troops to battle Black Lives Matter protesters, was openly disparaging of Mr. Esper to his aides and to the public.

Mr. Trump was also countermanding the Pentagon at seemingly every turn, especially on social issues.

When General Milley and senior Army officials sought to set up a commission to look into renaming bases that were named after Confederate generals, Mr. Trump took to Twitter, vowing that “my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.”

Lloyd J. Austin III, the new defense secretary, declined last month to comment on the lengths to which Mr. Esper and General Milley went to ensure that General Van Ovost and General Richardson received their command assignments. “I would just say that I’ve seen the records of both of these women,” he said. “They are outstanding.”

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