The Military Is Not a Political Prop

For at least the past seven presidential election cycles, candidates on both sides have sought to use veterans, military leaders and the military itself to validate their credentials as potential commanders in chief.

In 1992, Bill Clinton received the endorsement of retired Adm. William Crowe, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Each election cycle has escalated this use of veterans as stage props, or useful attackers, such as in 2004 with the deployment of Swift boat veterans to attack John Kerry. To some extent, this politicization of the military has carried forward into office, with presidents from each party carefully using military audiences or imagery to frame policy statements or political activities.

.. In a public speech shortly after his inauguration, Mr. Trump delivered a blistering attack on the press before an audience of intelligence officers at the C.I.A. headquarters.

.. Seven days later, Mr. Trump used the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis standing by, to sign his controversial travel ban. Last February, he politicked before a crowd of troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., the home of the military’s headquarters for Middle East operations and special operations. In July of last year, during the commissioning of the aircraft carrier Gerald Ford, Mr. Trump told the assembled sailors that “I don’t mind getting a little hand, so call that congressman and call that senator and make sure you get it,” referring to his budget, adding, “And by the way, you can also call those senators to make sure you get health care.”

.. Vice President Mike Pence followed the president’s lead last month in a speech before American troops in Jordan, on the border with Syria, attacking Democrats in the middle of a budget fight that caused a brief government shutdown.

.. Mr. Trump’s proposed parade fits this pattern of politicizing the military and using it to further his political interests — not those of the military or the nation.

.. But beyond the costs and distraction of a parade, we should be wary of its long-term corrosive effects on our military, which must continue to serve and defend our country long after the Trump presidency ends.

Top U.S. Military Commander to Meet Russian Counterpart

U.S.-Russia meeting in Azerbaijan will mark first such face-to-face since in 2014

The meeting between Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Russian Gen. Valery Gerasimov

.. senior military officials at the Pentagon are pushing to elevate communication and coordination between the two militaries. Under a Pentagon proposal, three-star generals at the Pentagon would routinely discuss operations over Syria with Russian counterparts.

.. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has expressed a harder line on Russia than other members of the Trump administration. During his confirmation hearing last month, Mr. Mattis said the U.S. must recognize that Russian President Vladimir Putin “is trying to break the North Atlantic alliance.” He classified Russia among the principal threats to the U.S.

.. During a congressional hearing last September, he classified Russia as potentially the most significant threat to U.S. national interests and said the American military had no intention of sharing intelligence with Russian counterparts.

.. “I believe that we should maintain military-to-military communications and relationships in the worst of times,” Gen. Dunford said early last year. “We did it throughout the Cold War, and we should do it now.”
.. Gen. Gerasimov is a figure who looms large in Washington. His 2013 article in a professional Russian military journal is widely viewed in Washington as the blueprint for Russian hybrid and information warfare initiatives—sometimes referred to as the Gerasimov doctrine.
.. The meeting also comes amid accusations that Russia is violating a Cold War-era pact, known as the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF Treaty, which bans Washington and Moscow from producing, maintaining or testing medium-range missiles.

What Trump’s Changes Mean for the National Security Council

President Trump announced on Monday that he would add the director of the Central Intelligence Agency to the National Security Council after critics questioned a memorandum released last weekend that also gave a seat to his chief political strategist.

.. The memo did not stipulate that the director of national intelligence or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would automatically attend those meetings, and raised concerns about the influence Mr. Bannon would exert over national security.

.. The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, insisted on Monday that the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, were welcome to attend any meetings of the committee on subjects relevant to their portfolios. And he noted that Mr. Trump was adding the C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, to the list.

.. “The president has such respect for director Pompeo and the men and women of the C.I.A. that today, the president is announcing he will amend the memo to add C.I.A. back into the N.S.C.,” Mr. Spicer said.

.. Who did the job of national security adviser best?

In Washington, this is the kind of argument people have in bars. (Well, some people.) But on this issue, there is fairly widespread bipartisan consensus: Brent Scowcroft, who served as President George H. W. Bush’s national security adviser, “is widely viewed as one of the most effective people who has ever held that job,”

.. During the Obama administration, David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s chief political adviser, often sat in on council meetings. But he was never a formal member. Susan E. Rice, who was national security adviser until 11 days ago, called the decision to downgrade the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the director of national intelligence “stone cold crazy.”