President Trump’s nominee for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, went out of his way this morning to praise US allies – including the Kurds in Syria – and the alliance-based strategy of former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
“The Army has aligned itself with Secretary Mattis’s National Defense Strategy, which we will not walk away from,” Gen. Milley told an Association of the US Army breakfast. “It’s a solid strategy, it’s written in history, it’s written in the blood of generations past, and we subscribe to it.”
A retired four-star himself, Mattis resigned in protest over Trump’s surprise announcement of a rapid US withdrawal from Syria, which could leave US-backed Kurdish forces at the mercy of their longtime adversary, Turkey. Turkey, coincidentally or not, was not among the regional allies Milley mentioned this morning.
Milley, who currently serves on the Joint Chiefs as the Army’s Chief of Staff, also offered a defense of “disciplined disobedience” — the idea that, in chaotic battlefield conditions, subordinates might serve their superiors best by disregarding the letter of their orders and following the spirit, if conditions had changed and there was no chance to confer. Now, Milley started talking about this idea early in his term, before the 2016 election, and he’s always talked about it in purely tactical terms, as a matter of what’s called “mission command” doctrine between military superiors and subordinates…. but we can’t help but wonder if the idea would inform his approach to Trump, whose own staff are already infamous for trying to redirect their often-impulsive boss.