Sunday, November 24, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He fired his Secretary of the Navy for not taking orders via tweet.

Earlier this month, Trump overturned a demotion issued to Navy E-7 Eddie Gallagher for a war crimes conviction, and pardoned or commuted the sentences of two other servicemembers accused or convicted of war crimes. Gallagher had been convicted of desecration of a corpse for posing for a picture of himself with a dead combatant, and was suspected of killing civilians. The other two were either convicted or awaiting trial for murders committed in Afghanistan. 

The pardons were not popular with veterans or serving troops, and seem to have been designed to change the conversation about Trump's deployment of forces in the Middle East. Trump has forced American troops to break faith with their warfighting allies in Syria, and has increased the number of servicemembers in the region even as he claims to be reducing them.

This week, Trump waded further into the Navy's internal discipline procedures, tweeting—but not ordering—that he would not be expelled from the SEALs. Richard Spencer, Secretary of the Navy, told reporters that he had received no such order from Trump and that the normal disciplinary process would continue until he was told otherwise. He also denied reports that he had threatened to resign in protest if Trump interjected himself into the process and allowed a convicted war criminal were allowed to keep his SEAL pin.

This afternoon, the White House put out a statement agreeing with Spencer's position, saying that the White House would not intervene in the review of Gallagher's status.

Then tonight, Trump fired Spencer and ordered that Gallagher keep his SEAL pin. 

Trump and the White House have put out conflicting stories about exactly why, but the gist of it appears to be that Trump was unhappy that Spencer had failed to shield him from the overwhelming opposition inside the Navy to his actions. 

Why does this matter?

  • The military isn't supposed to be used as a political distraction.
  • The fact that the military has to obey the president's orders doesn't mean those orders aren't stupid or harmful.
  • It's bad if the President of the United States isn't strong enough to be able to hear opinions other than his own.
  • It's a huge problem Eddie Gallagher is Trump's idea of what the military should look like.