By appointing James Mattis (secretary of defense), H.R. McMaster (national-security adviser), and John Kelly (secretary of homeland security)—each of whom is an accomplished general—Donald Trump has already recalibrated America’s defenses, writes Victor Davis Hanson in NRO.
- Illegal immigration at home is down by some 70 percent.
- A new policy of principled realism abroad seeks to reestablish deterrence through credible threats of retaliation.
- The generals are repairing old friendships with allies and neutrals while warning traditional enemies not to press their luck.
Critics of President Trump’s three appointments charge that Trump is improperly outsourcing strategic decision-making and its tactical implementation to his generals. Trump, who vowed during his campaign to avoid new ground wars and to not lose those he inherited, pledged to destroy ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism without invading Middle Eastern countries, Mr. Hanson reminds readers. “Those are wide but nonetheless unmistakable parameters.”
Within them, the U.S. military can drop a huge bomb on the Taliban, strike the chemical weapons depots of Syria’s Bashar Assad, or choose the sort of ships it will use to deter North Korean aggression — without Trump poring over a map, or hectoring Mattis or McMaster about what particular move is politically appropriate or might poll well.
Furthermore, Trump, with no formal political or military experience, can only benefit from the wise counsel of veterans, writes Mr. Hanson.
The patriotic duty for men the caliber of these three generals was to step forward and serve their commander-in-chief — and thereby ensure that the country would have proven professionals carrying out the president’s recalibrations.
Mattis, McMaster, and Kelly must know that few other presidents would have taken the heat to entrust three military men to guide national-security policy. And even if another president did, he might not empower them with anything like their present latitude.
In that regard, the three generals are beholden to Trump for a historic opportunity to shape America’s security posture in ways impossible during the last half-century.
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