In the debate over whether a recently retired military man, Gen. Lloyd Austin, should be secretary of defense, the New York Times published an editorialyesterday emphasizing the importance of “civilian control” over the military.
How quaint! Never mind that Times, by its own admission, endorsed President Trump’s nominee for secretary of defense, Gen. James Mattis. The Times now says that two times in a row would be too much because civilian control of the military is so vitally important in America.
What nonsense. The fact is that the national-security establishment, which consists of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA, has long been in charge of the levers of power within the federal government. Anybody who becomes secretary of defense, military or civilian, is going to be taking orders, not giving them.
But we have to cling to our myths and lies — you know, like the one that holds that American servicemen died in America’s many foreign wars to protect our “freedom.” As long as we cling to such falsehoods, myths, and unrealities, everything will be fine, or so the argument goes.
But everything isn’t fine. Just look around. Look at the ever-increasing numbers of young people committing suicide. Is that normal? That’s the surest sign yet of what clinging to lies and myths and selling them as reality can do to a nation. Add to those suicides the suicides of veterans and the massive drug addition, alcoholism, and other self-destructive behavior and all the irrational killings and other acts of violence that pervade American society.
Yep, just look around. It’s not hard to see that America is a very unhealthy society.
There is one book that captures perfectly what has happened to the United States: National Security and Double Government by Michael J. Glennon. Glennon’s thesis is a simple one: It is the national-security establishment that is in charge of the federal government.
Oh, yes, I know, everyone thinks that the other parts of the federal government — the president, the Congress, and the Supreme Court are in charge. That’s because they are inculcated with that notion in their public school civics classes or at the state-supported colleges they attended. As Glennon points out, that notion is false. The real power and control lies with the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA. They permit the other parts of the federal government to maintain the veneer of power. That doesn’t matter to them. What matters is that they are in charge and that the other three branches defer to them on critical matters, such as who is going to be secretary of defense,
And just in case you’re wondering, Glennon is not some sort of crackpot author, which makes his book so dangerous to the national-security establishment. Since 2002, he has been a professor of law at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He also served three years as counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He also was a professor of law at the University of California and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International School for Scholars. Glennon is an author to be reckoned with.
Recall that when Trump was running for president, he was making bold statements against the deep state and its “forever wars.” This was one of the big reasons so many people voted for him. Not since Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy had a president stood up to the “military industrial complex.”
And then look at what happened, almost immediately. Look at what the national-security establishment did to Donald Trump. At the very start of his administration, they defanged him and rendered him impotent. Trump surrounded himself with generals. He even appointed one to be his secretary of defense. Now nearing the the end of his four year term, he failed to end his “forever wars,” as he promised to do. Just as bad, he tried his best to start new ones, like in Iran, Yemen, Syria, and Somalia.
One of the biggest signs that Trump caved was with respect to the long-secret JFK records of the national-security establishment. Just think — almost 60 years of secrecy based on the ridiculous notion of “national security.” Early on, Trump declared openly that he was gong to release the records, as mandated by Congress 25 years before in the JFK Records Act. And then at the last minute, Trump surrendered to the will of the CIA, agreeing to its demands for more years of secrecy.
Moreover, at the risk of belaboring the obvious, the mainstream press didn’t issue a peep of protest over the continue secrecy of the records. Continued secrecy of decades-old records relating to the supposed lone-nut assassination of a president is treated as something completely normal. It’s just one more example of the weird dysfunction that pervades American life, not to mention the control that the national-security establishment wields over the mainstream press, especially when it comes to the Kennedy assassination.
Why did Donald Trump cave on the JFK records, the forever wars, and the deep state, knowing that he was inevitably going to disappoint his millions of supporters? I don’t think we can eliminate the possibility that Trump got “Hooverized” — that is, that the national-security establishment may have employed the same tactic mastered by former FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover — use secrets of a person’s personal life to acquire mastery of his public life.
With Joe Biden, they don’t need to do that. Given Biden’s lifetime of public subserviency to the Washington, D.C. establishment, he’s going to bow to whatever the national-security establishment wants. In fact, I don’t think we can eliminate the idea that the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA rejected Biden’s choice for secretary of defense, another deep state lackey named Michèle Flournoy, and chose Gen. Austin instead. But hey, at least Austin’s appointment would reflect the reality of who’s in charge of the federal government.
This column first appeared on FFF.
This post was originally published on Radio Free.