One reflection of the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the American presidency – is delegation of the Commander in Chief's most basic responsibility

© 2017 Peter Free


20 June 2017



Disclaimer — this is an institutional and cultural critique, not a personal one


President Trump's entrepreneurial business leadership style just makes the systemic glitch more obvious than it was under his predecessors.



Theme — American militarism has overwhelmed the presidency's ability to make geopolitically effective foreign policy


Our institutionalized Military Industrial Complex has removed soundly based morality and competent brain from the nation's strategy-making and implementing processes.



Take Afghanistan — delegating what arguably should not be


Let Secretary of Defense James Mattis do it?



President Trump has given the Pentagon new authority to decide the troop levels in Afghanistan, a U.S. official said Tuesday. The move could lead to a deployment of thousands more troops as commanders decide the way forward in the 15-year-old war.


© 2017 Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Trump gives Pentagon authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan, Washington Post (13 June 2017)





If the Secretary of Defense decides troop strength, he is also deciding where the troops go and what they should do. That's called making strategy.


Thus, Commander in Chief Donald Trump has delegated his Office's constitutionally-based strategy-making responsibility to a subordinate. Which in the President's mind, I assume, allows him to increase institutional efficiency by delegating military responsibility to people better prepared than he is to exercise it.


At the same time, delegation permits him to escape blame for failures in implementation that his more knowledgeable subordinates should (arguably) have foreseen and avoided.


A commanding general who did the same thing would be laughed out of his service.


President Trump's business-oriented mind probably does not recognize that the Commander in Chief is not, constitutionally, like a business executive.


The Constitution's assignment of the civilian president as Commander in Chief was intended to avoid rampant militarism.



Is President Trump to blame?


No. Militarism for militarism's sake has so permeated American culture that even President Trump's less delegating predecessors were captured by it.


For example, when President Obama pretended to wrest ultimate strategic control from his subordinates, he could do so only at the edges of policy. Strategically useless warmongering (with which Obama clearly often agreed) continued.



The nation's war-making mindset


Given that Secretary Mattis, the Pentagon, and every general who has rotated through Central Command (where waging the Afghanistan War is assigned) have not had a clue about how to create an intelligent strategy there (or anywhere else) — we can assume that American leadership is not genuinely interested in winning wars or wisely ending them.


This point is reinforced (in miniature) as we watch US generalship dangerously aggravate Russia in Syria by shooting down a Syrian Air Force jet.


That unnecessarily provocative act was supposedly done to defend the allegedly moderate Islamist fighting groups whom we support. These are "moderate" groups that act pretty much like the ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorists — whom (of course) we officially do not support, except when we indirectly do, via our Saudi Arabia alliance (among others).


The world can reasonably deduce that American culture lacks principle beyond waging nihilistically profitable destruction.



The moral? — President Trump's delegating leadership style more visibly exposes the American system's intellectual and moral vacuity


President Trump's predecessors managed to pretend that Deep State and Military Industrial Complex policies were (for the most part) their own. Trump, in contrast — eager as he is to avoid the appearance of error — broadly delegates. By doing so, visible blame tends to go where in-system errors actually originate. You can bet that no one asked the President for specific permission to shoot down that Syrian jet. Nor did anyone ask him whether continuing the Afghanistan War for another century was in the nation's best interest. That territory all goes with American military psychology. Which, of course, the President laps up. Hence the delegation.


Perhaps we should thank our mercurially entrepreneurial president for his inadvertently open tour of our System's pervasive mental and moral rot.