Chairman of Joint Chiefs goes off-reservation? Good thing?
No military man should contradict his commander in Chief. That said, Milley is 100% right, and Seth (author below) is FOS. Ukraine is completely f-cked. They're getting the sh-t bombed out of them, arent' returning fire inside Russia, have lost ten soldiers for every Russian invader and now go into the winter with their energy spigot about to be turned off (or electric grid bombed into oblivion).
As for Ukraine taking back useless land, the Russians will be back soon with 200,000 newly trained troops to kick the shit out of the Ukraine who have exhausted their supply of soldiers and are running on fumes.
Time to wrap it up!
Mark Milley and the Coming Civil-Military Crisis
His recent comments about the Ukraine war reveal the risks of elevating general officers to positions of political prominence.
By Seth Cropsey, WSJ
Nov. 16, 2022 7:03 pm ET
Gen. Mark Milley apparently thinks Ukraine should negotiate with its Russian aggressors and the U.S. should shift its policy toward Kyiv. That’s the upshot of a New York Times piece, published last week, about remarks the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made at the Economic Club of New York. Such views aren’t merely strategically irrational. They also demonstrate the risks of elevating general officers to positions of political prominence. As partisanship continues to plague American politics, we need a new chairman to repair the military’s fractious relationship with civilian authorities.
The airing of Gen. Milley’s comments isn’t surprising. Since the war began, there have been leaks about intra-White House disputes, particularly over whether to provide Ukraine with long-range weapons. Though Gen. Milley may not have shared all those sentiments, it also shouldn’t be surprising that he is fearful of—and vocal about—escalated conflict with Russia.
Gen. Milley, who became chairman of the Joint Chiefs in October 2019, has a track record of political activity. In September 2021, he admitted that he sought to assure his Chinese counterparts in late 2020 that there was no possibility of a Sino-American war. He took the same approach to Iran in 2020, apparently resisting then-President Trump’s desire to strike the regime in the final months of his term. Never mind that such wartime decisions are the sole constitutional authority of the commander in chief, not senior military officials.
Understanding the folly of his current position requires identifying what negotiation might mean. It isn’t clear what Gen. Milley believes should be offered, but the Times’s quote offers some color. The Ukrainians have “achieved . . . as much as they could reasonably expect . . . before winter sets in,” Gen Milley said. “They should try to cement their gains at the bargaining table.”
This suggests the current territorial balance is a reasonable starting point for negotiations. But that contention is absurd. By retaking the right-bank Kherson region, Ukraine has regained some control over the North Crimea Canal and another major port. But even with such gains, Russia would still be able to regulate Ukrainian trade if the Dnieper divides the two in the south. Russia would keep Ukraine’s most lucrative export locations in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions and establish a commanding position in the Black Sea, securing its long-term ability to pressure the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s eastern flanks. There is no logic in Ukraine’s negotiating before it recaptures at least the Kherson region, thereby providing Kyiv with a minimally viable economic export route in the long term.
Gen. Milley’s comments almost certainly were prompted by fears of a Ukrainian offensive against Crimea and Russian escalation, nuclear or otherwise. But if Ukraine ceded Crimea, President Volodymyr Zelensky would lose credibility. Talks might pre-empt a Ukrainian attempt to establish a cease-fire along pre-Feb. 24 lines, though even that would involve far more territory than Gen. Milley appears to see Ukraine gaining. Regardless, the U.S. has an interest in keeping the Crimea question alive. Doing so increases the pressure on Russia and might allow the U.S. to wrest back Crimea, thereby destroying Russia’s Black Sea position.
U.S. interests would be better served by providing Ukraine with support to retake more territory from Russia and declaring Ukrainian victory the aim of U.S. policy. At some point there might be negotiations in which Russia gains something. Yet these talks should be undertaken only when Ukraine has a superior position.
Though Gen. Milley isn’t the only voice in favor of negotiations, his case is unique. An adept political operator, he survived the Trump administration and fashioned himself into an ostensibly nonpartisan general officer. The U.S. military has become, through no fault of its own, a political football. But there is no reason for officers to join the fray. American flag and general officers—especially service chiefs and the Joint Chiefs chairman—are uniquely powerful, not least because our military is the sole American institution that retains bipartisan trust.
The current civil-military environment makes this a particularly dangerous situation. Civil-military relations have been fractious since the Vietnam War. In 1973, the U.S. Army began a campaign to limit political freedom of action, first by using the National Guard as a hand brake on rapid military deployments. The Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 shifted the bureaucratic environment, creating a powerful Joint Staff to direct the military. The Army then capitalized. It resorted to the actions of the first Joint Chiefs chairman post-Goldwater-Nichols reform, which asserted his bureaucratic power to ensure long-term control over U.S. defense policy. There were exceptions to this creeping civil-military imbalance—such as Donald Rumsfeld’s second tenure at the Pentagon (2001-06)—but strategic miscalculations eliminated any chance of a shift back to civilian control as understood, say, by Harry S. Truman.
The recent proliferation of retired military officers at the highest echelons of government has changed the situation. Mr. Trump’s first two national security advisers were general officers, of whom one (H.R. McMaster) was still serving. Mr. Trump’s first chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, also was a recently retired officer. The most glaring example of civil-military conflation is the Pentagon, where two of the three most recent defense secretaries have been recently retired general officers.
This pattern points neither to intentional political behavior nor to a military officer’s lack of fitness for political roles. Gen. McMaster was a fine national security adviser, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is by all accounts a dedicated soldier. It is to say that it has become normal for high-ranking officers to wield great political power immediately after leaving the service.
The U.S. is at risk of a perfect civil-military storm, in which an empowered Gen. Milley succeeds Secretary Austin or takes another senior role in the Biden administration. Gen. Milley’s strategic instincts are as dim as his political ambition is effulgent. Placing general officers in such critical positions has created the opportunity for a serious civil-military rupture and for partisan inclinations to infect the U.S. military. Decisions about U.S. policy goals in the Ukraine war are—and should be—left to elected officials.
Mr. Cropsey is founder and president of the Yorktown Institute. He served as a naval officer and as deputy undersecretary of the Navy and is author of “Mayday” and “Seablindness.”