Thursday, October 28, 2021

General Mark Milley: Whispers to Presidents, Target of Intrigue

WASHINGTON — General Mark Milley has been the target of more political intrigue and debate in his two years as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in four than any of his recent predecessors. One after another, firearms have been ignited all around him—unusual for an officer who whispers to presidents by law and is careful to stay above custom.

From racial injustice and domestic extremism to nuclear weapons and Donald Trump’s fitness as commander in chief, Milley has become embroiled in politically charged issues, regularly bringing him into the news headlines.

Milley could face tough questioning over those and other issues when he testifies with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at Tuesday’s Senate hearing and a House panel on Wednesday. The hearing was originally meant to focus on Afghanistan’s withdrawal and the chaotic evacuation from Kabul airport last month.

But since then, Milley has come under fire from Republicans for his portrayal in a new book, as unusual as – some say illegal – moves against Trump potentially starting a war with China or Iran or The move to order an unprovoked nuclear attack in the final months of his presidency. Millie agreed with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claim that Trump was “crazy” in a phone call in January.

Even during Miley’s swing in Europe last week, headlines haunted her and she was questioned by journalists. Most often he avoided questions or buried them in elaborate historical precedents.

Often sly and square jaws with a bushy slash of eyebrows over the mischievous eye, the met is quick with a pinch and often a curse. His big personality, born of Irish roots in Boston, belies a sharp wit and a penchant for digging deep into military history. The Princeton-educated mille often takes a deep dive into history with simple questions that can reach the Greeks, covering long stretches of both world wars, and expanding on the context and concepts of war.

So when he was faced with accusations of infidelity for the book “Peril” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, reported as an assurance to a Chinese general that he would warn him of a US attack, Milley returned as a soldier. Caught its identity in the one who answers to the civic leaders. He declined to present his side to the media, instead telling reporters that he would give his reply directly to the Congress. His only brief comment has been that calls with the Chinese were routine and within the duties and responsibilities of his job.

“I think it’s best to keep my comments on record until I do so in front of lawmakers who have a legal responsibility to oversee the US military,” Milley said. “I will go into any level of detail Congress wants to go into.”

While some in Congress have accused him of overstepping his authority, President Joe Biden stands with him.

Lauren Thompson, a longtime supervisor of the US defense establishment as chief operating officer of the nonprofit Lexington Institute, says Milley is a victim of Washington’s excessive favoritism and perhaps his own attempts to shape his own public image.

“His thoughts and descriptions of his behavior behind closed doors appear all too often in books like Woodward’s and Costa’s book,” Thompson said. “So maybe Miley has taken a more proactive approach to trying to shape his image, and that hasn’t served him well.”

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Not all of Milley’s controversies are related to Trump. At a House hearing in June, Milley defended the military’s openness to allow young officers to study ideas they may not agree with, such as “critical race theory”, and he noted that He wants to understand “white rage” and their motivations. Who took part in the January 6 riots in the US Capitol.

Presidents of joint chiefs traditionally have a low public profile. Of the 19 that preceded Milley, none were fired, nor does it appear that they will be. Of the recent presidents, only Marine General Peter Pace has served less than four years before the George W. Bush administration tapped him for a two-year term, citing divisions of his involvement with the Iraq War.

The job of the chairman, appointed in 1949, is to advise the President and the Defense Secretary. By law, the Speaker does not give any military orders. The role has risen to public prominence during the two decades of the American war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

During tours in both wars, Milley commanded the troops. The battles where he lost many soldiers helped chart his path as he rose from an Armor Officer in 1980 to Army Chief of Staff 35 years later.

His move to the office of the Speaker on September 30, 2019, came with an unusual twist.

Almost a year before he was sworn in and just days before James Mattis resigned as Secretary of Defense, Trump announced that he had the choice to succeed General Joseph Dunford as president. The timing was unusually early in Dunford’s tenure, and it may have as much to do with Trump’s opposition to Mattis as with his belief that Milley was right for the job.

This is how Trump described it when he attacked Milley this summer, following reports that Milley feared last year that Trump might use the military in a coup. Trump said he chose him as president despite Mattis, whom he believed did not like Milley. In fact, Mattis had recommended the top Air Force general for the job, not met.

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