Civilian hawks push U.S. to brink of war after Trump’s generals depart

Tuesday, May 21, 2019
By Paul Martin

By Ben Wolfgang
The Washington Times
Monday, May 20, 2019

TAMPA, Fla. — President Trump’s brain trust of retired military officers has disappeared just as tensions with Iran, Venezuela and North Korea heat up — and critics say the White House is in danger of rushing to the brink of war under a mostly civilian and increasingly hawkish leadership team.

The cadre of officers who once surrounded the president — which Mr. Trump early in his term proudly referred to as “my generals” — made its final exit Jan. 1 when retired Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis handed the reins of the Pentagon to Patrick M. Shanahan, a 30-year corporate executive from defense contractor Boeing. The departure followed that of White House National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster and White House Chief of Staff Gen. John F. Kelly, replaced by foreign policy firebrand John R. Bolton and former Republican lawmaker Mick Mulvaney, respectively.

Amid reports of tensions between the White House and Pentagon on rising Middle East tensions and increasingly belligerent rhetoric on both sides, the makeover of the White House national security team and its impact on U.S. foreign policy are expected to be a major focus of conversation this week as leading defense companies, technology firms and military leaders from around the world gather for the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference.

Mr. Trump still has the regular counsel of military officials such as Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, but observers and military insiders say the end of the generals era in the White House could not have come at a worse time as the administration grapples with increasingly combustible crises in South America, Asia and the Middle East.

“I think it’s now pretty clear that all the hand-wringing about Trump being ‘surrounded by generals’ early in the administration was much overblown,” said retired Air Force Gen. Charles Dunlap, now executive director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University. “I believe that history will show that the nation was very well served by each of these retired officers.

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