Monday, September 27, 2021


George Washington is known as “the indispensable man.” Smash cut to 2021, and it seems Gen. Mark Milley has stolen that moniker, not for successes, but in spite of failures so dramatic, they make Marlon Brando’s Col. Walter E. Kurtz look like a model soldier.

Mr. Milley feels no shame for the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan or ordering the strike that killed seven children and an innocent aid worker in Kabul. He bristled that this had been a “righteous strike,” but it’s now clear that he bowed to political pressure to pull the trigger.

Likewise, Mr. Milley failed to see the repercussions of the AUKUS alliance, which aced out France and stole away their lucrative deal to sell the Aussie’s diesel submarines by offering them nuclear ones. For this, France took the unprecedented step of recalling their ambassador. Mon Dieu! Our oldest ally deserved better.

Compare Mr. Milley’s sudden silence to how he slow-walked Mr. Trump‘s plans to end the war in both Syria and Afghanistan (which Democrats have to lament as the entire catastrophe might have been on Mr. Trump‘s watch). Mr. Miley never missed a chance to undermine the previous commander-in-chief, going so far as colluding with his Chinese counterpart. 

I’m reminded of the paranoid delusions of Burt Lancaster as Gen. James Mattoon Scott in 1964’s “Seven Days in May.” Screenwriter Rod Serling was a WW2 veteran who loved his country, and he put wise words in the mouth of President Jordan Lyman when he confronted a rogue chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Lyman says that if he wanted to call the shots, “Then by God, run for office! You have such a fervent, passionate, evangelical faith in this country, why in the name of God don’t you have any faith in the system of government you’re so hell-bent to protect?”

But if Mr. Milley ran for office, voters would hold him responsible.

A bipartisan group of veterans, including Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), expressed deep concern about Mr. Milley’s actions. Although possessed of arrogant confidence, he couldn’t have known if Chinese communists would believe him. They might’ve feared a trick and decided to strike first or taken advantage of the chaos Mr. Milley imagined to attack Taiwan.  

Our republic has a long history of civilian control of the military. It was tested most recently when Barack Obama fired Gen. Stanley McChrystal. More spectacularly, Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur, just as Abraham Lincoln canned one general after another for failing to carry out his orders — George McClellan thought he was indispensable too.

So what is it about Mr. Milley that he weasels out of accountability? And I don’t mean typical D.C. “accountability” of a lateral move, book deal, and a chair at Stanford. I mean, fire him — preferably out of a cannon if he didn’t surrender them all to the Taliban.

If we had a Gen. Grant in charge, we could have left Afghanistan with our heads held high. An obvious strategy: Just weeks after Mr. Biden’s deadline of 9/11, Afghanistan’s Fighting Season ends, the equivalent of kids calling off a snowball fight when their fingers go numb. 

If a cigar-smoking armchair general like me can suggest this exit strategy, why didn’t Mr. Milley? If Buck Sexton, years removed from his job as a CIA analyst, doubted immediately that we could have had intel justifying the drone strike, why didn’t Mr. Milley pump the breaks as he did so often with Trump?

Our civilian leaders need advice from people who have “seen the elephant,” as they called WWI combat. Joe Biden never served in uniform, racking up five questionable draft deferments. His predecessor had four. Mr. Milley let both presidents down — and why not? Win or lose, he gets the 82nd Airborne of golden parachutes.

Mr. Obama had a maxim for foreign policy, “Don’t do dumb things,” but like Bugs Bunny, Mr. Milley can be counted on to miss that left turn at Albuquerque. It’s chilling to think of what Milley Coyote’s next blunder might be and who will die for it.

“I’ll listen to the generals,” Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump often said, but they’d have been better off with Mike Ditka running the Joint Chiefs. You can guarantee that if his quarterback pulled a Greg Brady and gave the other team our playbook, Coach would have thrown him off the team.

Mr. Milley’s failures will have consequences for decades, emboldening enemies and causing allies to doubt. We can’t undo the past; maybe we can’t even learn from it. But we can at least hold responsible the man who failed our presidents and our soldiers.

Mr. Milley is not an indispensable man. 

Firing him would be a righteous strike indeed.

• Dean Karayanis is the Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show producer, longtime Rush Limbaugh staffer, and host of the History Author Show on iHeartRadio.

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