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Republicans Let The Fox In The Henhouse

Republicans should remember how they enabled Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley's rise.

U.S. Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley participates in a news briefing at the Pentagon July 21, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump once again defended his phone call with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky as “perfectly within the duties and responsibilities.” Oh, my apologies, those weren’t the words of Trump defending his decision to temporarily withhold military aid to Ukraine in exchange of aiding possible investigations. These words were uttered by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley to the Associated Press to justify telling a top Chinese general he’d tip China off in the event of an American attack.

In an upcoming book titled Peril, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa claim Milley called Gen. Li Zuocheng, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s top general, and said, “you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.” Woodward, since his reporting on the Watergate scandal, has had a loose relationship with the truth. Shockingly, however, Milley was dumb enough to substantiate Woodward’s claims to the Associated Press. 

On second thought, maybe it wasn’t so moronic, given the uni-party praise he’s received for essentially laying the groundwork for a military junta by violating the chain of command, consulting with the then-president’s political enemies, and demanding allegiance from senior military officers one by one in a private meeting—much less his oath to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies.”

As my colleague Declan Leary mockingly wrote Tuesday, “Listen. Sometimes, the only way to stop a coup is for the senior officer of the armed forces to usurp the powers of the constitutionally elected head of state.”

Trump, who, if memory serves me correct, was actually impeached by Democrats over the aforementioned phone call (which he did defend at the time as “perfect”), derided Milley in a statement Tuesday and claimed Milley could be guilty of “TREASON.”

“If the story of ‘Dumbass’ General Mark Milley, the same failed leader who engineered the worst withdrawal from a country, Afghanistan, in U.S. history, leaving behind many dead and wounded soldiers, many American citizens, and $85 Billion worth of the newest and most sophisticated Military equipment in the world, and our Country’s reputation, is true, then I assume he would be tried for TREASON in that he would have been dealing with his Chinese counterpart behind the President’s back and telling China that he would be giving them notification ‘of an attack.’ Can’t do that!”

Now, Republicans in Congress want answers, too.

On Thursday, the Daily Caller published a letter signed by nearly 30 Republicans addressed to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to launch a formal AR 15-6 investigation into Milley’s actions.

The effort, led by Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry, who formerly served as a brigadier general and has nearly four decades of U.S. Army service under his belt, seeks to hold Milley accountable for “disregard[ing] the concept of civilian control of the military, and g[iving] aid and comfort to America’s principal adversary, the Chinese Communist Party.”

Such an investigation is unlikely because President Joe Biden has publicly reaffirmed his “great confidence” in Milley.

However, Republicans do have other avenues of attempting to get to the bottom of this fiasco. Namely, the investigative powers delegated to Congress. Republicans from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee also wrote a letter to Austin, demanding the full transcripts of the phone calls, which allegedly took place on Oct. 30, 2020 and Jan. 8, 2021, between Milley and Li.

The letter, also obtained by the Daily Caller and published Friday, said, “These calls raise serious national security concerns implicating the ability of the U.S. to effectively counter threats posed by China. They also call into question Gen. Milley’s conduct with respect to the military chain of command and his respect for and compliance with the paramount principle of civilian control over the military.”

Beyond the transcripts of the calls, Republicans on the Oversight Committee want “a list of all participants in the telephone calls” and “any notes taken in preparation or contemporaneous” by Oct. 1 at the latest.

On account of the president’s word, Milley’s job seems secure for now, but, Milley and Austin are scheduled to testify together in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Sept. 28. Mark your calendars, because while the hearing is intended to get to the bottom of where the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan went awry, Milley will likely have to answer probing questions from Republicans as to the nature of these phone calls. Milley appears to be gearing up for this fight, telling the AP, “I’ll go into any level of detail Congress wants to go into in a couple of weeks.”

If Woodward and Costa’s account of these calls are proven true, then, yes, those of us on the right who have held the deep state, the military industrial complex, and the mainstream media in contempt will feel vindicated. But, let’s not forget how Milley got the power he so bashfully wields now. Trump nominated Milley as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2018, and was confirmed with overwhelming Republican (and Democratic) support in July of 2019.

Shortly after the 2020 election, Rachel Bovard, senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute, reminded us of Morton Blackwell’s 26th Law of the Public Policy Process, “personnel is policy,” in her must-read TAC piece, “Too Few Of The President’s Men.”

In it, she outlines where, and how, the Trump administration fell short on delivering some of its promises.

“A president can only accomplish his policy objectives if administration personnel are both capable and ideologically aligned, willing and able to engage the machinery of government and to bend it toward implementation of the president’s priorities. This was especially so for President Trump, whose policy priorities either upended his own party’s orthodoxy—from economics and trade to foreign policy—or forcefully engaged on social and cultural issues where Republicans had long emphasized rhetoric over policy substance…

The Trump administration suffered from an abundance of heavyweights, “experts,” and vipers, but a notable lack of loyalty to the president’s agenda. The result was an unwillingness to subordinate D.C. political machinations to a focus on accomplishing the president’s agenda, and long periods of infighting, drift, and internal gridlock that hamstrung the Trump policy agenda in key areas.”

The smoke surrounding Milley has turned to fire. From his opposition to ending the war in Afghanistan to his coziness with the Chinese Communist Party, Milley was clearly one of the “vipers” Bovard warned us about. Don’t let Republicans in office, or aspiring for greater office come 2024, forget that personnel is policy.

about the author

Bradley Devlin is a Staff Reporter for The American Conservative. Previously, he was an Analysis Reporter for the Daily Caller, and has been published in the Daily Wire and the Daily Signal, among other publications that don't include the word "Daily." He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Political Economy. You can follow Bradley on Twitter @bradleydevlin.

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