Milley, Joint Chiefs Of Staff, General Milley discussed on The Lawfare Podcast
What does regular order look like. That's what we're going to follow him. And so i don't think there was anything untoward in general milley said in that episode. I'm david preece. And this is the law fair podcast. September twenty first two thousand twenty one a forthcoming book by bob woodward and robert costa contains reporting about several controversial actions by chairman of the joint chiefs of staff mark. Milley in late two thousand and early two thousand twenty one regarding conversations with his chinese counterparts his discussion with senior military officers about following standard nuclear procedures. If need be and reaching out to others like the cia and nsa directors to remind them to watch everything closely where each of these reported actions proper for chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. And why and what about all of this coming out in books to talk through it all. I gathered the team on civil military relations. I peter feaver who is a civil military relations expert at duke university where he also serves as director of the triangle institute for security studies. He served in national security council staff positions in both the bill. Clinton and george w bush administration's he'll so had the misfortune of being on my dissertation committee back in the day. Corey shockey is the director of foreign and defense policy at the american enterprise institute who has worked in the joint staff j five in the office of the secretary of defense and in the national security council staff as well as the state department's policy planning staff during bush. Forty three's administration. She has also researched and written extensively on civil military relations. And alex bandmann is law fares pritzker military fellow and a visiting fellow at perry world house. His government experience includes multiple. Us army assignments and time inside the office of the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and in the national security council staff. It's the law fair podcast. September twenty first milly trump and civil military relations with peter. Feaver cordy schalke and alexander vitamin peter. Let's start off with the facts of the case as they are known that is and that may be a funny word to use here facts because what we have from what general milley supposedly said did is is filtered through the words in this new book as as written up so we're not sure exactly what happened but let's take the reporting at face value. What is it that general milley is said to have done well. What woodward win and cost to claim that general milley basically took over control of key policy decisions to protect the nation. Because millie believed that the president and the people around him might be inclined to do really reckless things and so that was in the very last days of the administration milly was overstepping his role but perhaps doing so because he had to quote unquote saves the country. That's the allegation. And whether that was in fact what generally was doing depends very much on the precise wording and accuracy of woodward's reporting. I know from previous work that that woodward is very good about getting verbatim quotes from what people told him many months after the event and of course he's very good at getting schedule and the calendar and megan contemporaneous notes. But in this case what really matters is the precise details in so we can't be completely sure what happened. Well let's break that down into the two elements that are getting the most attention one of them is that general milley reached out to his counterpart in china and essentially reassured him. That things are a little bit crazy over here right now but. Don't worry things are fine. Don't get concerned. Don't get trigger happy because of something happening here. Give us a little context for that because some people are reacting to that saying and literally some people use word. Treason saying that. This is insane that he was talking to the chinese military at a time of some domestic political dispute in the united states. Many other people who have worked within the national security structure and have analyzed it for years. Say this is completely normal and what you expect someone at that senior most position to be doing on a regular basis. Talk through that a little bit. Well i provide to deeper points context. And that is that. If you're in evaluating general milley you have to view him as an olympic diver and evaluate him on the difficulty of the dive. He was being asked to conduct. And if you just take from june one. Twenty twenty through the inauguration those six plus months that was the most difficult time for any chairman of the joint chiefs of staff from civil military relations point of view. The most difficult time of our professional lives so he being asked to execute some of the most difficult olympic dives ever and that weighs in as we evaluate his performance. The second piece of context is to recognize that even by the summer of twenty twenty the process of the inner agency process a national security policy making policy implementation process of the trump administration a process. That never was very clean was breaking down and then after the election so from the election to the inauguration it completely broke down altogether and it was the messy est national security policy making implementation process again of our professional lives in those last several weeks so those are two important pieces of context to keep in mind as we discuss specific charges now to the specific charge of talking to the chinese. That's actually part of milley's regular job. He supposed to develop mil to mil relationships with other senior military leaders both in our allied partners and in our adversaries so that in times of crisis if we need a back channel. We have such a backchannel military-to-military so he is supposed to talk to the chinese and that is not unusual that he was doing so point. One point two is. He was doing so in the october call. According to woodward's reporting he was doing so at the direction of expert. Right the secretary of defense so he had top cover. Now we could ask. Was there adequate coordination between aspirin me on the one hand and the white house on the other hand maybe not but that just points to the my earlier context point regarding how process was breaking down in inside the trump administration. We should say the spokesperson of the joint staff did issue a statement saying that the chairman as you just said the chairman of the joint chiefs regularly communicates with chiefs of defence around the world including with china and russia and that his calls with the chinese and others in october were in keeping with these duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability the specific context for the october call is precisely when a duty duty-bound to make the call that is according to reporting the united states had reason to believe that the chinese were miss understanding what was going on and were believing that the us might be planning a sneak attack and they were taking steps in accordance with that fear that was not what the us policy was was president. Trump himself said no. I had no plans to conduct a sneak attack. And therefore when general milley is reassuring the chinese about what. Us policy actually was he was merely conveying. What was president. Trump's actual policy. Which was. I'm not about to conduct a sneak attack and so this kind of reassurance confidence building measures is best practice in crisis management and best practice in civil military relations and is not problematic however the precise wording of what he said to the chinese as reported by woodward and kosta. You could raise some questions about that. And so i would imagine when generally does his testimony before congress and a couple of weeks. They'll ask him about the precise wording and he'll clarify whether he said exactly what would claims. He sat or whether he said something else. That is perhaps less problematic. In what would cross the line from a sieve. Mill perspective from this is not only acceptable for a chairman to do but it is precisely what the chairman should do at some direction from the secretary of defense the civilian authority here. What would cross the line. If he said to the chinese you would say. He has exceeded his authority done. Something that is inappropriate. If he made a blanket promise that forever and into the future that the united states will never attack china without general milley. First alerting the chinese that would go beyond his retirement. But i doubt that he made such a blanket. Promise i think more likely what he says..