Christopher C. Miller (with Ted Royer)
Soldier Secretary: Warnings from the Battlefield and the Pentagon about America’s Most Dangerous Enemies
Nashville & New York: Center Street, 2023
It is no secret that President Trump operated in the midst of a viper’s nest of traitorous officials throughout his valiant tenure in office, and the worst offenders were in the Department of Defense. Trump was elected on a policy of reducing America’s endless involvements in foreign quarrels in which America has no interests.
Trump had two problem secretaries of defense. The first was Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis, who resigned due to Trump’s supposed “disrespect” for America’s allies, even though the President was later proven to be in the right. Germany’s support for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline ultimately gave Russia the assurance it needed to attack Ukraine, for example. Mattis was followed by Patrick Shanahan, who also left the post, to be followed by Mark Esper, another problem case.
Esper had served in the infantry during the Gulf War and then gone into industry, where he became a lobbyist for Raytheon. His failings included his advocacy for America’s ongoing and unnecessary deployment to Syria, which Trump wanted to end. Esper’s Defense Department in fact lied to Trump about the number of American troops in Syria in order to keep them in place. He also mutinied against Trump during the Black Lives Matter/antifa insurgency of 2020, failing to provide assistance to the police and protection for ordinary citizens whose property was being destroyed.
Trump mulled over firing Esper for months and finally did so in November of 2020, replacing him with Christopher Miller. Miller wrote an account of his tenure as Secretary of Defense which is easy to read and sharply describes the problems with American military policy since the end of the Cold War.
Miller joined the US Army Reserve as an infantry Private in 1983, motivated to do so by the Iran hostage crisis. He eventually became an officer through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program. When he was in ROTC, he briefly served in an Air Defense Artillery Unit (a field in which women were allowed to serve), and he was shocked by the problems he found. He arrived at the battery headquarters to find a female soldier chasing her platoon leader while threatening to murder him over sexual jealousy. When he was commissioned, he was assigned to the infantry and sent to Korea, where he served on the Demilitarized Zone. He returned to the United States and served as an officer in the Old Guard, a ceremonial regiment in Washington, DC.
Miller became bored with his duties and applied for a transfer to the Persian Gulf, but was unable to deploy there. He decided to go into the Special Forces. Between the Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War, the US Army was continuously deployed in Kuwait. There, small-unit commanders were free to train any way they wanted; it was merely a matter of leaving the base and heading into the desert. Miller planned an exercise which turned out to be very difficult for his team to accomplish. When it was over, however, the team’s stature had been raised above all the others, proving him to be a capable leader. Military leadership is an exercise in manipulating men to do things they otherwise would never do. After this, he went further into the Special Forces and served in Bosnia during the Yugoslav wars.
On the eve of 9/11, Miller was considering leaving the military. All of a sudden, he was in an army at war, however. He was sent to Afghanistan, where he was part of the initial invasion. He took note of many of the problems that foreshadowed the war’s inglorious end, including the fact that Afghan warlords were for sale. All it took was a quick bribe and al-Qaeda terrorists were free to escape. And Taliban fighters would switch to whichever side seemed to be winning at the moment. All Afghan groups did that, in fact.
During one deployment, Miller and an ad hoc group of soldiers comprising Green Berets, Rangers, and artillerymen were required to scale a mountain to rescue the crew and passengers of a crashed helicopter. The operation was exhausting, and soldiers had to be evacuated for dehydration and other ailments. The mission ultimately rescued one man; the others died. Although Miller doesn’t say it outright, this incident demonstrated the Afghan War’s strategic futility: American forces went on a heroic campaign to rescue men who were mostly already dead, no enemy were killed, no hearts and minds were won, and no strategic territory was captured.
When he retired from the service as a Colonel, he became a defense contractor and eventually moved into a presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed position as Director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Because he was confirmed by the US Senate, he could be immediately appointed an Acting Secretary of Defense should the President call upon him to do so.
As the fraudulent 2020 election played out, the establishment was concerned that Miller was planning to carry out a “military coup” to keep Trump in office. He was even warned about this on January 3, 2021. This was really an insult, reflecting the establishment’s support for continuing disastrous interventions abroad rather than the reevaluation of military policy that Miller was carrying out. Nevertheless, the warning put Miller into a box. Although Trump recommended putting 10,000 troops in the Capitol on January 6, the move would have been interpreted as a coup, and thus never carried out. As a result, security was inadequate.
Miller thought that the January 6 protest would play out like most of Trump’s rallies: Trump’s supporters would demonstrate peacefully, the Leftist counter-protestors would get violent, and the police would have to arrest fighting groups of protestors and counter-demonstrators. Things turned out differently, of course. Miller writes:
At 3:44 p.m. on January 6, 2021, I was sitting at my desk in the Pentagon holding a phone six inches away from my ear, trying my best to make sense of the incoherent shrieking blasting out of the receiver. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was on the line, and she was in a state of total nuclear meltdown. To be fair, the other members of Congressional leadership on the call weren’t exactly composed, either. Every time Pelosi paused to catch her breath, Senator Mitch McConnell, Senator Chuck Schumer, and Congressman Steny Hoyer took turns hyperventilating into the phone… Pelosi demanded that I send troops to the Capitol now. The irony wasn’t lost on me. Prior to that very moment, the Speaker and her Democrat colleagues had spent months decrying the use of National Guard troops to quell left-wing riots following the death of George Floyd that caused countless deaths and billions of dollars in property damage nationwide. But as soon as it was her ass on the line, Pelosi had been miraculously born again as a passionate, if less than altruistic, champion of law and order. (p. ix)
Miller offers several insights about the Trump administration’s inner workings. First, Trump sought advice from his staff and always thought things all the way through. When the Iranians threatened war on the anniversary of Qassem Soleimani’s assassination, Trump and Miller came up with a solid strategy to demonstrate American resolve and avoid an accidental skirmish which might have led to war. Trump’s tweet to Iran at this time was carefully written and rewritten before it was sent to express a clear red line to Tehran. The Iranians got the message. This style of leadership — seeking advice, thinking things through, and then decisively acting — is exactly how Stephen Miller described Trump as well.
Miller also holds Vice President Pence in high regard. He found the man to be intelligent and calm under pressure. Miller’s view of Mark Milley has more than a hint of negativity, however. When Miller was the Secretary of Defense, Milley leaked information to the press in order to put pressure on Trump to carry out military operations that were unnecessary. Furthermore, Miller shows that it was Milley who botched the withdrawal from Afghanistan. There was plenty of time for him to plan and carry out a successful exit, but he failed to do so.
Recommendations for reform
Miller makes several suggestions for reform. He points out that the US military needs to become involved in suppressing domestic violence, especially when it comes to deploying to guard the border to stop the flow of illegal immigrants and fentanyl. The US Army’s history is filled with examples of law-and-order operations carried out within the US, including protecting settlers on the frontier from Indian attacks and deploying to sub-Saharan ghettos to end race riots. Miller was frustrated by the Department of Defense’s failure to protect Americans during the riots of 2020. He doesn’t mention the most important aspect of it, though — namely, that the military must be focused on protecting white Americans, not providing cover for non-whites to commit violence.
There are also too many deployments, some of which are in non-strategic and irrelevant locations. The biggest example of this is Africa. Miller went to Somalia, where US troops have been deployed continuously since 2007, in November 2020 to announce that he was bringing them home. Redeployment did not end up occurring, though; he wasn’t in office long enough to make it happen. The US military establishment was working to maintain troops abroad behind the scenes. Military training courses — those taken by senior officers — are slanted towards interventionist policies. Every senior leader therefore pushes the civilian political leadership into more and more military involvement in foreign affairs, even obviously foolish operations like deployments to Niger. Many deployments which should be ended — the Sinai Peacekeeping Operation, the defense of South Korea, Somalia, and Syria — continue despite the fact that no American benefits from them.
It is often said that politicians don’t understand the military, and so politicians should stand back and let the military “do their job.” The truth of the situation, however, is the other way around. The military doesn’t understand America or the real world in general. America’s senior military leaders spend their careers living in a gated community where they enjoy a steady wage and many other taxpayer-funded amenities. This is why you will often find nice restaurants and car dealerships outside military bases in the US. American military leaders live in a bubble that is immune to recessions, factory closings, economic shocks, or sub-Saharan-fueled crime waves. If one of them attended a military academy, he’s been in this coddled environment since they he was a teenager, except during deployments or training exercises.
During the Cold War, the US embarked on massive military spending on expensive projects such as the “Star Wars” missile defense system during the 1980s, which was supposed to destroy incoming Soviet missiles in a nuclear war. The US in fact did not yet have the technology to make the system a reality, but the Soviets didn’t realize that. Star Wars and other boutique projects, such as the MX missile, forced the Soviets to increase their spending to respond, bankrupting themselves in the process. It is likely that the Chinese are doing this to the US today. Consider the infamous “spy balloons,” which probably cost about $1,000 apiece, and which were brought down by missiles that cost $500,000 each. Further, the US is paying for the privilege of defending South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and others, even while these counties are stealing American knowhow and undermining its industrial advantages. It’s time to reevaluate this situation.
Miller criticizes the military-industrial complex a great deal. The Defense Department is paying enormous sums for new aircraft carriers that bring only marginal benefits. Only two of America’s 11 aircraft carriers are ever at sea at one time, while the others languish in port. Military programs are expensive, often delayed, and become caught up in petty Congressional turf fights.
The military-industrial complex is not so much a monster that cynically looks to create wars to obtain funding in order to then build profitable new weapons systems, but is in fact a symptom of deindustrialization. Should submarines and aircraft carriers cease to be built, American shipyards will no longer be needed, and their workforce will end up standing in the breadlines. The military-industrial complex is thus economic methadone. Should America cut back on subsidizing the security of its industrial rivals in Asia and Europe, it may have a chance to become competitive again in ordinary civilian manufacturing.
The intelligence community likewise needs greater civilian oversight. Many of the senior intelligence officials have been there so long that their old ways have become entrenched and nothing new gets noticed. Miller was also frustrated by intelligence sharing. He had to receive intelligence briefings from a separate network of pro-MAGA government employees, since he couldn’t get them anywhere else. He additionally calls for all of America’s flag officers to be fired or forced into retirement following a debacle such as the one that occurred in Afghanistan in 2021. In today’s military, a junior officer who makes a mistake on his paperwork or a Private who loses a rife is subjected to more discipline than a General who loses a war. Likewise, the Secretary of Defense should not be a retired flag officer but rather a person with a broad set of experiences and skills.
Miller misses out on several things. He clearly alludes to the fact that women serving in the military is a big part of the reason why the service has become so dysfunctional, but then he goes off on a tangent about masculine Special Forces war stories that dilute the point. He also fails to mention the problems with racial diversity, which are legion. One of the reasons why the military is so dysfunctional is that the people who rise to the top do so by papering over racial issues. Once officers become accustomed to lying about non-white pathologies, lying about what’s actually happening on the ground in Afghanistan gets easier.
Most importantly, Miller rightly blames the Iraq War on the ideology of the neoconservatives, but doesn’t recognize that neoconservatism is a Jewish movement. Neoconservatism is nothing but an elaborate intellectual rationalization of US intervention in the Middle East to further Israel’s interests. American foreign policy is heavily influenced by other foreign pressure groups as well; the American government is currently supporting Azerbaijan against Armenia, for example, when the right policy is absolute neutrality. George Washington’s advice to beware of foreign entanglements remains as important as ever.
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