Tensions mount in Trump’s relationship with the Pentagon

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — From a presidential pardon to soldiers sentenced for war crimes to the refusal of transgender soldiers to withdraw from Syria, Army Chief Donald Trump’s decisions appear to be raising tensions with the Pentagon.

The sacking of the US navy commander on Sunday was the latest example of the president’s troubled relationship with what he called “generals” at the start of his term.

Trump’s amnesty for many soldiers convicted of war crimes has sparked a crisis at the heart of US military justice. When US Navy Commander Richard Spencer wanted to repair it, he failed and lost his job.

Spencer proposed a secret deal with Trump without informing Defense Secretary Mark Asper, who felt betrayed and sacked him. But the defense secretary was forced to comply when President Trump ordered him to pardon one of the soldiers, Edward Gallagher, who was defended by conservative Fox News.

“Trump is weakening the military judiciary in order to advance his political interests,” said Caitlin Talmage, a defense expert at Georgetown University. She added that the US president, who praises dictatorial leaders, “flattery those who violate the laws of war.”

Though Trump appears to have some support from soldiers who applaud him for visits to military bases, the first tension emerged quickly when he announced in the summer of 2018 that he intended to prevent the US military from employing transgender people, a new policy that has been implemented.

The president also surprised the Defense Ministry by announcing that military personnel were sent to the border with Mexico to contain illegal immigration.

– “dysfunctional” administration –

There was also the issue of the military parade that Trump wanted and upset the US military who did not like to show their strength to an elected official.

There are also the president’s repeated declarations of a US withdrawal from Syria, which the US military has strongly opposed.

The first unilateral withdrawal in December 2018 was behind the resignation of former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Former Marine General Trump, in particular, recalled Washington’s duty to its allies.

In a sign of continuing tensions in the two men, Trump recently described Matisse as “the most over-valued general in the world,” and Matisse replied: “He proved his value on the battlefield (while Trump proved his value with a doctor’s testimony.”

Trump has repeatedly been accused of politicizing the military, especially in June 2019 when the White House asked Japan to keep a missile launcher named after Senator John McCain, who hates him, out of sight.

The White House has recently publicly questioned an honored military loyalty, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Findman, the main witness to the investigation into Trump’s dismissal.

“There will always be skirmishes in the relationship between civilians and the military,” said Peter Pfeiffer, an expert at the armed forces at Duke University. But he added that although the president’s interventions to overturn military judgments “fall within his powers, they do not show wisdom.”

Democratic Sen. Jack Reed, a Democrat, went further as such interventions as “shameful and irresponsible,” denouncing Trump’s “dysfunctional” administration.


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