Donald Trump was an unprincipled commander in chief

At the crest of the wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, I devoured retired Admiral William McRaven’s book Sea Stories, relishing its numerous anecdotes. One of them concerned Abu Ghadiya, a terrorist mastermind responsible for the highest number of American and Iraqi deaths, notably at the hands of suicide bombers. At a crucial moment, the US Army received intelligence on his whereabouts in Syria, giving them the possibility of neutralizing him. President George W. Bush’s approval was necessary to conduct the operation.

To make a fascinating story short, Admiral McRaven was tasked with briefing President George W. Bush about the sensitive mission. During the briefing, the commander-in-chief, who didn’t have a strong reputation as an intellectual or a man of detail, asked a very pointed question about the ordnance proposed to conduct the mission. “He was so well versed on the missions and the nomenclature of the specific ordnance that he understood that using a precision-guided five-hundred-pound GBU-31 was in fact the right munition for the job. I was momentarily taken aback by the question.”

In Countdown bin Laden, Chris Wallace says much the same about President Barack Obama during the quest to neutralize Osama bin Laden. “He was a president who carefully analyzed everything before making a decision”, observed the veteran journalist.

Unsurprisingly, things took a turn for the worst when Donald Trump arrived in the Oval Office. In a very insightful – yet scary memoir – former Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper paints the portrait of “[…] an idiosyncratic, unpredictable, and unprincipled commander in chief” and a man as despicable as one can be.

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