By Eric Vandenbroeck
One of America’s preeminent national security journalists, Peter Bergen, who produced the first television interview with Osama bin Laden in 1997, came out with a fascinating new book titled: Trump and His Generals: The Cost of Chaos.
The book is based on around one hundred insider interviews, and it starts off with referring to Bannon obsessed by the long-term threat posed by China. He drew a diagram on a piece of paper for Mattis and his staff showing how China posed a rising challenge to American global supremacy-the solution, Bannon said, was to build up "the Quad," which was an emerging alliance between the democratic Pacific powers: Australia, India, Japan, and the United States.
Covering subjects like "Assad and ISIS" "House of Saud" one of its more exciting chapters covers a planned attack (a topic I myself have covered) on N.Korea when Peter Bergen among others detailed that Trump asked the families of US service members in South Korea to be evacuated.
Coincidentally Bergen’s book was published at a time when friction between Washington and Pyongyang is once more on the rise, after more than 18 months of detente and summitry, the North Korean leadership is threatening a resumption of missile tests, and a war of words between Trump and Kim Jong-un is simmering once more.
Trump had been repeatedly told that US freedom of action against North Korea was constrained by the fact that the regime’s artillery could demolish the South Korean capital in retaliation for any attack, inflicting mass casualties on its population of 25 million.
“They have to move,” Trump said, according to Bergen, who adds that his officials were initially unsure if the president was joking. But Trump then repeated the line. “They have to move!”
One of the scenes in the book is Vice President Pence and the national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, wanted to do a war game in Camp David in the fall of 2017 about presenting options to President Trump about what could be done there.
According to Bergen part of the problem here is that both N.Korea and the US have different views about what denuclearization means. For the United States, it means they get rid of their nuclear weapons; for the North Koreans, it means the United States withdraws from the South Korean Peninsula, takes nuclear weapons out of the region. And that's two very different meanings for the same word.
As for Afghanistan, invited by Steve Bannon, who was then the chief strategist for the president invited Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, to come to the White House. Prince wanted to outsource Afghanistan to private contractors through his company that would be on long-term assignments overseen by America, and these would be retired special-ops soldiers, also spoke to H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser at the time. H.R. McMaster, who was a serving Army lieutenant general, basically said you know, this plan makes no sense. And that was really the view of the Pentagon, which is, we're not going to have contractors running around Afghanistan, you know, killing people just, I mean, including, they wouldn't just be American contractors. They would be from other Western countries.
Trump, in the end, chose not for the CIA to run the war and not to withdraw but basically to surge in 4,000 new troops and also to make a long-term public commitment to Afghanistan.
As for Iran the title of the chapter in the book covering that subject is the planes were leaving.
This title is in reference to Trump tweeting that he had stopped a U.S. airstrike against Iran 10 minutes before it was supposed to launch and that he called it off because he thought it was an inappropriate response to an attack on an unmanned drone, whereas our attack risked killing about 150 people if it had proceeded. And when Bergen talked to an American official, and he said, you know, the planes were leaving.
What the book, in the end, portray's is that over time, what was initially a competent war cabinet Trump got rid of these whereby along the way Bergen mention Bannon's kooky theories of “The Fourth Turning,” and Kellyanne Conway’s invocation of the Bowling Green massacre. As for the generals, Bergen writes that already in the very beginning Bannon had warned McMaster before he took the job as a national security adviser, "Whatever you do don't be professorial. Trump is a game-day player. Trump is a guy who never went to class. Never got the syllabus. Never bought a book. Never took a note. He basically comes in the night before the final exams after partying all night, puts on a pot of coffee, takes your notes, memorizes what he's got to memorize. Walks in at eight o'clock in the morning and gets whatever grade he needs. That's the reason he doesn't like professors. He doesn't like being lectured to."
Bergen also illustrates some of the ways Trump has been good to the Pentagon, showering it with bigger budgets and granting field commanders greater leeway. Yet recently things have taken an ugly turn, with the president surprising military leaders by abandoning the Kurds in northern Syria. Even more concerning, in echoes of McCarthy-era attacks on the Army, Trump and his family have promoted conspiracies questioning the loyalty of a senior military officer who serves in the White House. And Trump has championed the cause of Special Forces troops accused of war crimes, upending the military criminal justice system to shield some of them from punishment and leading to the firing of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer.