Is treason no longer punishable?
Once upon a time, the sole motivation for joining the armed forces was patriotism. The fervor for the well-being of the nation was such that individuals were willing to make supreme sacrifices, including laying down their lives.
Now for the General Mark Milley story that hit headlines a day ago. The following is an extract from Bob Woodward's recent book, Peril:
Twice in the final months of the Trump administration, the country's top military officer was so fearful that the president's actions might spark a war with China that he moved urgently to avert armed conflict. In a pair of secret phone calls, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assured his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People's Liberation Army, that the United States would not strike. ... One call took place on Oct. 30, 2020, four days before the election ... and the other on Jan. 8, 2021, two days after the Capitol siege[.] ...
Milley went so far as to pledge he would alert his counterpart in the event of a U.S. attack, stressing the rapport they'd established through a backchannel. "General Li, 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." ... In the second call, placed to address Chinese fears about the events of Jan. 6, Li wasn't as easily assuaged, even after Milley promised him, "We are 100 percent steady. Everything's fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes." Li remained rattled, and Milley, who did not relay the conversation to Trump, ... understood why. The chairman ... believed the president had suffered a mental decline after the election ... a view he communicated to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ... on Jan. 8. He agreed with her evaluation that Trump was unstable. ... Believing that China could lash out if it felt at risk from an unpredictable and vengeful American president, Milley took action.
The same day, he called the admiral overseeing the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, the military unit responsible for Asia and the Pacific region, and recommended postponing the military exercises. ... The admiral complied.
Milley also summoned senior officers to review the procedures for launching nuclear weapons, saying the president alone could give the order — but, crucially, that he, Milley, also had to be involved. Looking each in the eye, Milley asked the officers to affirm that they had understood, the authors write, in what he considered an "oath."
President Donald Trump's secretary of defense, Christopher Miller, said he did not sign off on a call from Milley to his Chinese counterpart. Miller added that Milley's action "represents a disgraceful and unprecedented act of insubordination by the nation's top military officer."
We go back to the basics. The main function of all personnel of the armed forces is not devising military strategies or fighting wars; it is to defend and maintain democracy within the country.
Since 300 million–plus people cannot all run the country, they lend power to an individual through their votes. A duly elected president is hence authorized to conceive, plan, and implement the policies that he has the mandate for.
The armed forces must always function as a watchdog who is on the alert for even the slightest attempts to subvert democracy
A military officer must always be loyal to the president and assiduously follow orders. If circumstances arise where a military officer has a vehement difference with his commander-in-chief, he must voice his opinion and expound his reasons for disagreement, which perhaps changes the commander-in-chief's mind.
If, however, the nature of the disagreement is so strong that the military officer feels he will not be able to follow orders, he has no option but to resign. The military officer can inform his superiors in civilian leadership if he senses the possibility of a crisis.
He can always voice his differences later, provided no state secrets are divulged. He can always join politics, run for office, and become a policymaker himself.
But under no circumstances does a military officer have the right to circumvent civilian leadership and act according to what he deems right.
George Bernard Shaw once said, "I never expect a soldier to think."
This may sound like a derisive remark, but Shaw is absolutely right in this situation. The job of each and every individual in the armed forces is to follow orders from their commander-in-chief.
Reacting to the news in a written statement, Milley's spokesman, Col. Dave Butler, said Milley acted within his authority as the most senior uniformed adviser to the president and to the secretary of defense.
Despite Woodward's dubious record, his account of Milley appears to be factual, else Milley would have issued a detailed denial.
This leaves us with two open questions:
- Why did Milley feel empowered to go rogue and even warn a foreign adversary?
- Why was Milley so confident about his anti-democratic actions that he would talk about the matter to Woodward?
The fault here lies within the Washington swamp. Over decades, the swamp has grown to the extent that it no longer respects the will of the people. In fact, it has disdain for regular people.
It functions solely to serve its own interests and maintain the status quo. To maintain the status quo, its denizens present to the public with myriad candidates from various parties, to create an illusion of variety. Upon election, the individual may move a little to the left or a little to the right, but if they attempt any drastic changes, the swamp will strike back with a vengeance.
The Bushes may sound and appear very different from Bill Clinton, while Barack Obama may sound like an idealist. The public is fooled into thinking real changes are about to occur. But if you scrutinize their policies, there is very little difference. When they leave office, they show their true colors and even sound alike.
The same set of problems remains unresolved for decades, and the same group of people gets paid handsomely to resolve them.
The likes of General Milley, who are the masters of the swamp, are the ones in charge while the elected official is often just a rubber stamp.
When an individual such as President Trump is elected solely due to the will of the people from a grassroots movement, the disapproving swamp places innumerable obstacles to prevent his ability to bring about any major change.
In a functioning democracy, Milley would have been summarily dismissed and be court-martialed for attempting to subvert democracy.
Unsurprisingly, quite the opposite has occurred. The reaction from within the swamp has been an endorsement of Milley's actions. Biden has said he has "great confidence in Milley." Milley obviously knew this would be the case, which gave him to confidence to brag about it.
Therefore, it seems unlikely that Milley will suffer any punishment.
We hence have a new rule: acts bordering on treason are no longer punishable. However, walking down the street without a mask is most certainly a grave offense.
Image: Screen shot from ABC News video via shareable YouTube.
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