In a column for the Washington Post, three national security experts who worked in various capacities in the Defense Department criticized Pentagon officials who presented Donald Trump with the extreme option of killing Iranian Military head Qassem Suelimani which in turn has destabilized the Middle East.
According to Alice Friend, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mara Karlin, director of strategic studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and Loren DeJonge Schulman, the deputy director of studies at the Center for a New American Security, officials should have known better than to offer up such a drastic response to turmoil in the region.
“Sending the U.S. military to use force is among the most consequential decisions presidents can make. Matters may get out of control even with the most careful and deliberate planning. Skipping such steps shows callous disregard for American lives and interests. And there is overwhelming evidence in the past week that President Trump instigated an escalation cycle with an American enemy without such consideration,” they wrote.
“Instead of holding a tightly managed, inclusive debate in the Situation Room, Trump made one of the most dangerous choices of his presidency among a tiny group at Mar-a-Lago. Such decisive moments are usually preceded by hundreds of people spending countless hours in dingy government offices and conference rooms, building PowerPoint slides and questioning lawyers,” the op-ed continued. “These individuals create the parameters and permutations of what the decision-makers consider. They identify the possible options, vetting their likely operational, diplomatic, economic and other effects. That work enables the commander in chief to make wrenching decisions about his military options wisely.”
According to authors, “Bad options, considered with little serious deliberation on an unnecessarily rapid timeline, should never get to the president in the first place.”
“In our combined 25-plus years in the Pentagon and the White House, use-of-force and even show-of-force decisions created some of the tensest moments between civilian and military leaders, revealing differences in approaches and assumptions,” they wrote. “Inside the Pentagon, by statute, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is responsible for the development of military analysis, options and plans to share with the defense secretary and the president as he sees fit. In reality, military advice is not just one individual’s best ideas but a massive and complex process that engages hundreds of military and civilian experts … Yet it appears that the tight circle at Mar-a-Lago involved in making the decision to kill Soleimani — mainly the secretaries of defense and state — neglected many of these key elements, as the convoluted messaging, lack of preemptive mitigating actions and failure to inform close U.S. allies, let alone members of Congress, demonstrate.”
Calling the administration of Donald Trump “chaotic,” they suggested, “lecturing on procedural deliberation from the outside may seem like wishcasting, at best… The answer is not to make post-hoc justifications or to pray that our system survives. The muscles of deliberation have to be exercised. Engaging Congress, which established the authorities that create good military options; reiterating to the troops and the world that the U.S. military follows the rule of law; telling senior commanders that they should not be tempted by those seeking private advice; promoting the secretary of defense as the face of the defense apparatus — these are all useful near-term steps.”
“No matter the president, bad military options should not land on his desk. We may have been lucky to ratchet down tensions with Iran. We shouldn’t have to rely on luck next time,” they warned in their conclusion.
You can read the whole piece here.