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Questions about ‘myths’ of war according to Army Gen. Mark Milley

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After a mostly uneventful Senate hearing, Army General Mark A. Milley was confirmed as the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) in an overwhelmingly bipartisan 89-1 vote on July 25th.

However, for reasons I can’t quite fathom, about two weeks after Milley’s confirmation hearing, the Department of Defense (DoD) published a story about several “myths” Milley imagines Americans believe. Decide for yourself, but to me the article raises a myriad of questions.

Background:

Milley will take over as CJCS from retiring Marine General Joe Dunford on September 30th. According to law, the CJCS is “the principal military adviser to the President, the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense.”

However, what is not as well known is that while the CJCS outranks all other officers, the law dictates that he “ may not exercise military command over the Joint Chiefs of Staff or any of the armed forces.” By design, the US military has no single, uniformed commander; instead, the Constitution makes the president the commander-in-chief. The CJCS is an adviser; he commands no one.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, left, and others at a welcoming ceremony for Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at the Pentagon, July 25, 2019
Associated Press

Although General Milley has a quite impressive biography and many admirers, media reports indicate that he was not the choice of either General Dunford or, perhaps more importantly, former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. They wanted Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein, and when President Trump selected Milley over Goldfein it was, as the Washington Post put it, “ a final ‘stake in the heart’ for Mattis” who soon resigned his post.

Why the pick? The Post described Milley as “an ebullient personality and natural storyteller” while characterizing Goldfein as a “widely respected, cerebral officer.” (Milley — who attended Princeton and Columbia — is also said to be very bright).

Politico adds that Milley’s “demeanor is a plus with Trump, who delights in spinning tales involving ‘my generals’ who come from ‘central casting.'” Be that as it may, it is important for any CJCS to get along with his boss, and that does seem to be the case with Milley so far.

Questions about Milley’s four “myths”:

The strangely-timed post-confirmation article DoD published is entitled “Milley Dispels ‘Myths of War.” Its genesis seems to be Milley’s notion that “there are Americans who believe some myths about the military.”

He lists four examples of what I gather he considers bollixed American thinking.

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