So Much For Mattis And Kelly’s Trump Babysitters Club

news

At the beginning of August, a White House transition from a fitful infancy to a gentler adolescence seemed nigh. With retired Marine Gen. John Kelly rising to be President Donald Trump’s gatekeeping chief of staff, Secretary of Defense James Mattis overseeing future planning for the War in Afghanistan, and National Security Adviser Lt Gen. H.R. McMaster conducting an extended purge of the National Security Council, the generals appeared to making good on a promise Mattis and Kelly reportedly made during the early weeks of the Trump administration: to “keep tabs on the orders rapidly emerging” from the Oval Office.


Today is Aug. 9, and that plan has gone to shit.

On Aug. 7, the Washington Post revealed that the Defense Intelligence Agency believes the North Korean military has finally completed a nuclear warhead small enough to fit onto the Hwasong-12 intermediate range ballistic missile that Pyongyang first successfully tested in May. According to the Post, the DPRK has up to 60 operational nuclear weapons, ready for the country’s insane supreme leader, Kim Jong Un, to make good on his mad threats with the push of a button.

Related: US Intelligence: North Korea Finally Has Nukes That Can Fit Onto ICBMs »

After reports of Trump "trying to impress his four-star handler” Kelly, one might expect a little bit of Marine discipline in the commander-in-chief’s response. Nope.

During what was supposed to be a statement on America’s opioid crisis, Trump declared that Pyongyang “best not make any more threats” against the U.S., lest North Korea “be met with fire and fury unlike the world has ever seen.” The next morning, he falsely boasted on his medium — Twitter — that the U.S. nuclear arsenal was “far stronger and more powerful than ever before."

Nobody saw Trump’s bluster coming — especially not the White House. The threat was reportedly “improvised,” catching not just Kelly and McMaster but the entire White House political apparatus off guard. Even though White House advisers like Steve Bannon assumed that Trump would face questions regarding the DIA’s report during his vacation golf getaway in Bedminster, New Jersey, the president “had not mentioned his comment during a conference call beforehand that focused on North Korea,” according to the New York Times.

A few hours later, North Korean state media announced that a Korean Army spokesman had threatened to nuke Guam.

A U.S. territory, a strategic linchpin of U.S. Pacific Command, and home to more than 160,000 innocent American citizens by birth, Guam is well within the strike range of several intermediate-range missiles in North Korea’s arsenal. Experts suggest that Pyongyang likely doesn’t have enough flight data to pull off a successful first strike on the island — which might give the Pentagon all the time it needs to flatten everything north of the 38th parallel.

Even so, a U.S. president deploying unprecedented and apocalyptic rhetoric against an insane regime like North Korea has created what one lawmaker dubbed a “modern-day Cuban Missile Crisis.”

Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly pay respects at the funeral of Pvt. Harry K. Tye at Arlington National Cemetery, Mar. 28, 2017. Pvt. Tye was killed on Nov. 20, 1943 during the Battle of Tarawa. His remains were recovered by History Flight from Cemetery 27 on Tarawa and interned on U.S. soil.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dana Beesley)Photo via DoD

Trump’s ad-lib left the generals and their counterparts across the executive branch scrambling. While Mattis warned Pyongyang that North Korea faced the “end of its regime and the destruction of its people” should it remain on its belligerent course, he emphasized that the Department of State “is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means” in an attempt to defuse his commander-in-chief’s inflammatory rhetoric.

Still, Trump’s point-blank Bedminster threat — a surprise, but not unexpected given the president’s Article 5 blunder at a NATO summit in late May — may signal a broader rift with his cadre of general babysitters, a rift which intensified with the heated shouting match with Mattis, McMaster and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford following a tense Oval Office session on Afghanistan.  

As the illusion of order and discipline fades away, the chaos seeps back into the West Wing. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has provided support for the Marine troika, emphatically reassuring nervous regional allies on Aug. 9 that there existed “no imminent threat of war.” But the White House just shrugged, with administration officials apparently unconcerned by the gravity of the evolving crisis. "We are not just a superpower,” Sebastian Gorka, a Trump national security adviser and ally of Bannon in his clashes with the Mattis/Kelly/McMaster troika, said on Fox News following Trump’s comments on August 8. “We were a superpower. We are now a hyper-power."

As for Kelly, the new chief of staff is having a moment of reflection amid the chaos in Washington. According to the Washington Examiner, the Marine general’s efforts to impose order and discipline upon the West Wing stopped with his attempt to take control of the Trump’s Twitter account — the primary instrument of the president’s quixotic policy pronouncements that have sent the White House and Pentagon scrambling in recent weeks. The Examiner reports that Trump "was pissed when he read Kelly wanted to control his Twitter feed”; based on Aug. 9’s morning salvo, nobody’s getting that Twitter account away from POTUS any time soon.

Related: Retired Air Force General: The US Could Wipe Out North Korea In 15 Minutes Flat »

Kelly appears to be taking his rough start in stride. "Remember, telling the unvarnished truth to power doesn't mean you always get your way," he told Fox News in an interview earlier this week. "The principal ultimately decides, and it is our way that, so long as that decision is legal, moral and ethical, one salutes and executes. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you don't."

But events of the last few days suggest that the delicate months-long dance of Pentagon brass around Trump may have been for nothing.

In a now-infamous article in the July 1947 issue of Foreign Affairs, the U.S. State Department’s charge d’affaires in Moscow, George F. Kennan, laid out a strategy for America’s future diplomatic engagement with the Soviets built on “long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies" — a strategy of containment the U.S. also embraced regarding North Korea: The George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations both pursued containment after Pyongyang’s first nuclear test in 2006.

Mattis and McMaster (and, to some extent, the“apolitical” Kelly) are learning a hard truth: Containment may work on the USSR and possibly North Korea, but not on their commander-in-chief. Not only does Trump have “unchecked authority” over the U.S. nuclear arsenal, but he has proven to be a force of nature, immutable, uncontrollable, and uncontainable: just like the nuclear reaction that threatens to engulf the planet.

WATCH NEXT:

Photo via AP

On Nov, 10, 2004, Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia knew that he stood a good chance of dying as he tried to save his squad.

Bellavia survived the intense enemy fire and went on to single-handedly kill five insurgents as he cleared a three-story house in Fallujah during the iconic battle for the city. For his bravery that day, President Trump will present Bellavia with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday, making him the first living Iraq war veteran to receive the award.

In an interview with Task & Purpose, Bellavia recalled that the house where he fought insurgents was dark and filled with putrid water that flowed from broken pipes. The battle itself was an assault on his senses: The stench from the water, the darkness inside the home, and the sounds of footsteps that seemed to envelope him.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Army/Pvt. Stephen Peters)

With the Imperial Japanese Army hot on his heels, Oscar Leonard says he barely slipped away from getting caught in the grueling Bataan Death March in 1942 by jumping into a choppy bay in the dark of the night, clinging to a log and paddling to the Allied-fortified island of Corregidor.

After many weeks of fighting there and at Mindanao, he was finally captured by the Japanese and spent the next several years languishing under brutal conditions in Filipino and Japanese World War II POW camps.

Now, having just turned 100 years old, the Antioch resident has been recognized for his 42-month ordeal as a prisoner of war, thanks to the efforts of his friends at the Brentwood VFW Post #10789 and Congressman Jerry McNerney.

McNerney, Brentwood VFW Commander Steve Todd and Junior Vice Commander John Bradley helped obtain a POW award after doing research and requesting records to surprise Leonard during a birthday party last month.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Marine Corps/Staff Sgt. Andrew Ochoa)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks' ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.

The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August.

They'll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They'll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.

It's the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.

Read More Show Less
(Reuters/Carlos Barria)

WASHINGTON/RIYADH (Reuters) - President Donald Trump imposed new U.S. sanctions onIran on Monday following Tehran's downing of an unmanned American drone and said the measures would target Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Trump told reporters he was signing an executive order for the sanctions amid tensions between the United States and Iran that have grown since May, when Washington ordered all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil.

Trump also said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the incident over the drone. He said the supreme leaders was ultimately responsible for what Trump called "the hostile conduct of the regime."

"Sanctions imposed through the executive order ... will deny the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader's office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support," Trump said.

Read More Show Less