Interesting article in the Navy Times. President Obama and Susan Rice have muzzled our top military commander in the Pacific. Four Star Admiral Harry Harris has been advocating for a more muscular pushback to Chinese island building and aggression. The administration doesn't want to rock the boat and wishes he would just shut up.
Harris and his U.S. Pacific Command have been waging a persistent campaign in public and in private over the past several months to raise the profile of China's land grab, accusing China outright in February of militarizing the South China Sea.I point this out because I read a scathing article regarding Obama's treatment of the Department of Defense and Pentagon brass the other day. Will try to put my finger on it. Defense Secretary Ash Carter is pissed because he was kept out of the loop on the Iran ransom money. Neither he nor the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford, had a clue what was going on, nor were they aware of the nuclear entreaties to Iran.
But the Obama administration, with just nine months left in office, is looking to work with China on a host of other issues from nuclear non-proliferation to an ambitious trade agenda, experts say, and would prefer not to rock the South China Sea boat, even going so far as to muzzle Harris and other military leaders in the run-up to a security summit.
"They want to get out of office with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of cooperation with China," said Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain and defense strategy analyst with the Center for a New American Security.
The White House has sought to tamp down on rhetoric from Harris and other military leaders, who are warning that China is consolidating its gains to solidify sovereignty claims to most of the South China Sea.
National Security Adviser Susan Rice imposed a gag order on military leaders over the disputed South China Sea in the weeks running up to the last week's high-level nuclear summit, according to two defense officials who asked for anonymity to discuss policy deliberations. China's president, Xi Jinping, attended the summit, held in Washington, and met privately with President Obama.
Much like Obama has alienated certain allies, he has also kept his own military out of the loop for both terms in office. It is no wonder that Trump is up 19 points with active military. Obama has done his best to castrate and neuter the United States military, who have often taken the fall for his strategic cuckoldry.
The disclosure is also the latest example of how U.S. military leaders have been distancing themselves from Kerry's Middle East diplomacy. Senior military leaders could barely disguise their opposition to Kerry's latest cease-fire plan for Syria, which would have resulted in the U.S. cooperating with Russia to select bombing targets had a cessation of hostilities held for a week. It didn't. At the hearing Thursday, Dunford said the Pentagon had no plans to share any intelligence with Russia.I read an interview with the defrocked sailor who commanded the boat commandeered by the Iranians. He said that he was confident that if he had tried to defend himself, the administration would have stabbed him in the back and court martialed him. And unfortunately, he is probably correct. This is not an administration that supports the U.S. military.
Most important in all of this, though, is that the fissures between the military and the White House, which have been growing since Obama's first term, are coming out in the open in his presidency's final months. Since leaving office, all three of Obama's prior defense secretaries have talked publicly about their frustrations with the White House.
Robert Gates, who was Obama's first secretary of defense, wrote a scathing memoir where he complained about being ordered around by senior White House staff. Leon Panetta, who headed the Pentagon between 2011 and 2013, told the New York Times Magazine earlier this year that he never saw the letters Obama sent to Iran's Supreme Leader, when he served as CIA director or secretary of defense. Panetta's successor, Chuck Hagel, told Foreign Policy last December that he believed the White House had set out to destroy him.
We'll have to wait, but if recent public testimony is any indication Ash Carter will write a lively memoir once he leaves office.