On Saturday, June 6, 2020, CBS News and other news sources reported that Trump had demanded that 10,000 active duty military troops be deployed in Washington, D.C. to “dominate the streets and overwhelm protestors.” According to the report, there was enough push back from Defense Secretary Esper and military leaders to stop him. Nevertheless, it makes you wonder what would have happened and what would have been the repercussions if Trump had carried out his plan. The death of protestors shot on the Kent State campus comes immediately to mind. To be sure, National Guard troops were deployed then and now, but deployment of active duty combat troops is almost always unlawful, represents an extreme escalation of hostilities, creates untold opportunities for a spark of some kind to cause an explosion of unstoppable violence, and breaches the crucial implicit trust that should always exist between civilian citizens and civil authorities on the one hand and our military on the other. Trump has proven once again that he does not possess the temperament and judgment necessary to be President. His sole interest is himself. He is dangerous.
Isn’t it ironic, not to mention hypocritical, that Trump chastised China for its treatment (suppression) of Hong Kong protestors when he was prepared to do and, but for the intervention of others, would have done the same thing?
We are used to the fact that in many other countries there is little or no distinction between civil and military authorities, but for a very long, uncertain moment we were on the precipice of becoming just like them.
When the dust clears, if it does clear, you can be sure that Defense Secretary Esper and probably others will be fired or forced to resign. They have committed the unpardonable sin of standing up to and thereby embarrassing Trump. No political appointee has yet to survive that scenario, but Trump should think long and hard before he forces “his generals” to publicly defy or rebuke him. No wannabe dictator can survive without the support of the military.
For almost 20 years our military has been engaged in war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Africa. The result has been the building of deep respect, sympathy and affection for our military. The public reaction to our military and to political leaders during the latter phases of the Vietnam War was entirely different. This may have been unjust, but the public perception was that our Nation’s highest political and military leaders had lied to the public. It is not too much to say that the military has had to rebuild its public image and restore public trust ever since the end of Vietnam.
Trust must be earned, it is not a given and it is easy to destroy. Trump is incapable of understanding the far reaching consequences of using the military to “dominate the battlespace,” a battlespace filled with Americans. Trump was not only prepared, he was actually eager, to throw away all of the trust and respect that it has taken decades for the military to rebuild. But, we should not be surprised. Trump has spent his entire lifetime paying off his bad bets and bad judgment with other people’s money.