First, I should say that I knew, liked, and admired Admiral William McRaven and still do, very much so.
We first met in the 1990s when I was a contract lecturer on information warfare for the Joint Military Intelligence Training Center mobile training team assigned to his command in Coronado, California.
Later, I met with then-Captain McRaven and another colleague, the late Colonel Jeff Jones of the United States Army, while both were serving at the National Security Council, again to discuss information warfare and the revolution in military affairs. In 2014, the Pentagon’s director of Net Assessment sent Admiral McRaven, then head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, a letter regarding the effectiveness of a prototype virtual unit of which I was progenitor.
But in reading Admiral McRaven’s recent Times’ op-ed, my reaction was, “Geez, Bill! You ascribe all this stuff to President Trump like a choir boy who is shocked to learn that Jesus had a friend named Mary Magdalene.”
Admiral McRaven professes to be shocked by the president’s “assault on institutions.” Really? What about all the other presidents before him, who could equally be blamed for “assaults on the institutions?”
Explain Abraham Lincoln suspending habeas corpus.
Explain Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s attempt to pack the Supreme Court.
Explain Richard Nixon’s IRS “enemies list.”
Explain Barack Obama’s IRS “enemies list.”
He seems shocked by the president “standing behind despots and strongmen.”
How about FDR and Joseph Stalin?
How about Harry Truman and Stalin?
How about Jimmy Carter and Panama’s Omar Torrijos?
How about Dwight Eisenhower and Cuba’s Fulgencio Batista?
He seems shocked that President Trump “abandoned our allies and heard shouts of betrayal from the battlefield.”
How about Truman and the “Nightingale” anti-Communist partisans of Ukraine? Recall, they were former Nazis (including members of the SS) who fought Communists on America’s behalf.
How about John F. Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs fiasco?
How about JFK and the secret quid pro quo of the Cuban Missiles Crisis that removed not only 15 nuclear missiles from Turkey but another 30 from Italy?
How about Gerald Ford’s mismanagement of the U.S. withdrawal from South Vietnam?
How about Carter abandoning the Shah of Iran?
How about Obama and the Syrian “red line”?
Here, I hope I may be forgiven for addressing the admiral personally.
Bill, I heartily agree with you that we are the most powerful nation in the world because we try to be the good guys. We are the most powerful nation in the world because our ideals of universal freedom and equality have been backed up by our belief that we were champions of justice, and protectors of the less fortunate.
But, in the words of Benjamin Disraeli, “we have no permanent friends, we have no permanent enemies, we just have permanent interests.” Thus, our allies are now Japan and Germany and our opponents are Russia and China. And then we have “frenemies” like Saudi Arabia.
So, Bill, I would point out that your opinion does not accurately reflect long-term U.S. history or the sometimes-fluid nature of American foreign policy. It is more about your personal, visceral dislike for the president of the United States. Which is fine!
In fact, you are not the first four-star officer who had a similar distaste for the sitting president and his policies. General Douglas McArthur got fired by Truman for it. General George B. McClellan also thought little of his commander-in-chief, and said of President Lincoln: “The President is no more than a well-meaning baboon. I went to the White House directly after tea, where I found ‘The Original Gorilla,’ about as intelligent as ever. What a specimen to be at the head of our affairs now.”
And while McClellan was insulting, your phrase, “…it is time for a new person in the oval office …the sooner, the better,” is something one would expect from Herman Wouk’s character, Lt. Tom Keefer.
So, like your historical (but straight-leg) antecedent, if you don’t like the president or his policies, then do what McClellan did: Make your bed, stop whining, and run for president—with either party. At present, the Democrats seem to need an actual candidate who has a belief in Americanism as acutely strident as mine and yours.
And I might just vote for you. In 2024.