There are going to be stories still coming out about the daily chaos inside the Trump administration for the next twenty years, and every last one of them will paint a more dire picture than the ones before. Another Axios inside-the-White-House report yet again details the complete breakdown of trust between Dear Incompetent Leader and his own military officials, and it really is something close to amazing that the nation didn’t genuinely collapse under Team Bumblef–k.
The big news from the piece is that just days after Donald J. Trump got his behind handed to him in the November 2020 election, a furious and/or humiliated Trump responded by ordering, in communications handled by (sigh) his once-body man, a complete military withdrawal from Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany, and all of Africa by the turn of the year. That was the goal. Get out of all those places, completely, and do it before the new guy takes over, and do it so that Donald Trump would look good to his weird and agitated base.
It would have required abandoning equipment, evacuating bases, and general chaos. It wasn’t an order that went through the usual national security and military channels, but one that went through Dear Leader’s bag guy, who had do be coached on how to write it up in a form that the military could actually treat as maybe-an-order. It didn’t happen because Trump’s own military officials slow-walked it, convincing Team Trump that he’d look like a chump if a six- or seven-week evacuation resulted in press pictures of triumphant locals rummaging through abandoned U.S. military assets.
The larger picture, though, remains consistent. Trump continually railed against all the people he himself hired, blaming them whenever anything wasn’t going his way. Though he was quick to declare “decisive” actions based on whatever he thought his admirers would most admire him for, he was so astonishingly unknowledgeable about everything that he was constantly being convinced to change his mind by dueling staffers who wanted him to do something else. He would then get mad yet again later, convinced his staff had tricked him into making the wrong choice; in some cases, his staff genuinely did work to mislead him so as to get the policies they themselves preferred.
It’s the same story throughout all of Trump’s government, but particularly alarming when you consider how much of our national security was being dumped into this blender of deceit, “gut” instinct, and spite-based action. Trump lost confidence in every new hire when they wouldn’t conform to his desire to, say, deploy active duty military troops against protesters or help him overturn an election. And there was always a new malignant hack plucked from the bowels of incompetent conservatism willing to step in and assure Trump that asking for the illegal and/or horrifically violent things was good and correct, because conservatism turned fascist without Trump’s help and its fascist bent will long outlast him.
The news that the blowhardian golf cheat first responded to his election loss in part by rushing to scramble U.S. military posture abroad is not exactly surprising. In the case of Afghanistan and Iraq, it was to fulfill a campaign vow he had spent four years not doing. In the case of Germany, it was probably just part of his eternal devotion to being an asshole to NATO in general and to Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel in particular.
Another bit to note in the Axios piece is the, ahem, continued apparent efforts of former secretary of defense Christopher Miller and other Trump appointees to redeem themselves after enabling some of the worst and most dangerous acts of Trump’s presidency. All of this chaos and even possible insurrection is presented as infighting, not a governmental near-collapse.
“Miller told associates he had three goals for the final weeks of the Trump administration: #1: No major war. #2: No military coup. #3: No troops fighting citizens on the streets,” reports Axios.
Oh. Well then. That truly was an ambitious Defense Department plan for the “final weeks” of office: prevent a “major” war from breaking out, and prevent a military-assisted collapse of U.S. democracy. We can take Miller’s efforts to avoid military coup and military-perpetrated violence to be part of his team’s defense for blocking aide to Capitol police officers even as Trump supporters, goaded into insurrection by Trump himself, hunted through Capitol halls for the vice president or for lawmakers that Donald Trump had called out as insufficiently loyal. Having expressed discomfort with the thought of Trump using the military to execute a coup, the alleged response from Miller and his allies was to block the National Guard from taking actions to protect against that coup as well.
If there was to be a toppling of democracy on Trump’s orders, most of Trump’s appointees appear to have been indifferent so long as they themselves could remain uninvolved in the bloodshed. The premise being hinted at over these last months is that we should be praising Trump’s hires for not actively assisting his coup, rather than treating them with revulsion for standing aside as it unfolded. That’s not likely going to be the story historians decide to tell, in the end. It’s also not much different from Republican lawmakers now insisting that their attempts to throw out enough electoral votes to invalidate Biden’s victory—the precise demand being made by the seditionist rioters—was not actually assisting Trump’s attempted coup, but merely “asking questions” or “diffusing tensions” as the movement’s brownshirts assaulted the building from the outside.
All of conservatism is quick to insist that no matter how often they did Trump’s bidding or how much death or chaos resulted, actually they deserve legitimacy for boldly letting things get that far, but not farther. Gaslighting, through and through. The final books written about the Trump presidency will reveal more crooked behavior than we guessed, more incompetence than we ever suspected, and an unstable, likely dementia-impaired rageoholic setting and resetting policies in response to whichever television shows he had last been watching. Every current press revelation is the result of dueling Trump teams attempting to cast themselves as the responsible ones acting against everyone else’s malice; only after the dust settles will we learn that in fact, the vast majority of Trump’s allies and hangers-on were more than happy to assist in each act of corruption, of hoax-promotion, and national sabotage.
Of course they were. That was why they were hired.