MacArthur, Milley and the War on the Constitution
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
MacArthur, Milley and the War on the Constitution
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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In 1951, Gen. Douglas MacArthur was relieved of duty by a Democrat president because he was too tough on China. Seventy years later, Gen. Mark Milley got celebrated by a Democrat president because he collaborated with China.

Go figure. That’s just the way Democrats roll. Apparently, they’ve always had a soft spot for China.

WWII hero MacArthur was the commander of the United Nations forces fighting in Korea. He had some successes and some failures, but most significantly he had some disagreements with President Harry Truman about how to respond to the Chinese when they intervened on the side of North Korea. MacArthur wanted to wage full-scale war against Chinese forces, up to and including the use of nuclear weapons. Truman, right or wrong, disagreed. When the general ordered his troops to invade North Korea in April 1951, Truman publicly rebuked him and handed command to another general.

It’s possible that, from a tactical point of view, MacArthur was right. He may very well have been able to weaken China to the point where its future as a communist world power would have been in  doubt. But that doesn’t matter. MacArthur’s job was to follow the orders of his commander-in-chief, the elected president of the United States. It’s right there in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution: “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.” No ifs, ands or buttinskis.

And whether Give ’Em Hell Harry was too soft on the People’s Republic of China or not, he had one thing right for sure. There was no way he could tolerate a general overriding the orders of his civilian commanders. When it became clear that MacArthur could not be trusted to carry out the orders of the president, Truman did what any real leader would do — he fired his ass.

Not so Joe Biden. When he heard that Milley had collaborated with a Chinese general to undermine the previous president of the United States — Donald Trump — by offering to warn China of any imminent attack by our military, Tiptoe Joe not only didn’t fire Milley; he commended him.

"I have great confidence in Gen. Milley," Biden said.

If anything better demonstrates the post-constitutional state of the Democratic Party, I’m not aware of it. Milley not only violated the chain of command, he damn near committed treason, and yet he’s still in charge of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Milley had the misfortune to be quoted in “Peril,” the new book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa about the final days of the Trump administration. According to the authors, Milley took it upon himself to call his counterpart in the Chinese military command both before and after the 2020 election to offer reassurances that the United States was not going to attack China. Left unsaid, but implicit in Milley’s words, was the subordinate clause he intended: “although Trump is crazy.”

The first call, and most damning one, supposedly took place on Oct. 30.

"I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be OK," Milley told Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army. "We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you."

Hmm, that is weird, but probably not entirely out of line if the United States had intelligence that a nuclear power was getting the false impression that they were going to be attacked by our country. Reassurance is not necessarily inappropriate as long as it doesn’t go any further.

What was remarkable and completely out of the ordinary, though, was the following comment, which could only be interpreted as giving aid and comfort to the People’s Republic of China, putting their interests ahead of our own:

"Gen. Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we're going to attack, I'm going to call you ahead of time," Milley said. "It's not going to be a surprise."

If Milley really promised to tip off China to any proposed military action by President Trump, it would have been a clear sign of insubordination, as the general has no power to countermand or otherwise modify orders of the president of the United States, who is given sole and plenary power as commander-in-chief by the United States Constitution.

That’s not to diminish the constitutional role of the Congress to declare war, but in the real world of split-second decisions, the president has — and ought to have — the ability to respond to attacks and even to attack first when our interests are threatened.

It’s not up to Milley to decide he doesn’t approve of the orders of the president, but if he had a crisis of conscience because he felt the president was out of his mind, his correct course of action would not be to contact our intended target. It should have been to talk to the vice president, who is authorized under the 25th Amendment to assume power with the consent of the majority of the Cabinet if the president is indeed incapacitated.

But there is absolutely no evidence that Trump was crazy, except for the usual proof used against any and all Republicans — he didn’t agree with the agenda of the socialist Democrats. Trump responded to Milley’s “Seven Days in May” scenario by saying, “For the record, I never even thought of attacking China — and China knows that. The people that fabricated the story are sick and demented, and the people who print it are just as bad.”

And Trump had some choice words for Milley, too.

“If the story of ‘Dumbass’ General Mark Milley ... is true, then I assume he would be tried for TREASON in that he would have been dealing with his Chinese counterpart behind the President’s back and telling China that he would be giving them notification ‘of an attack.’ Can’t do that!”

Of course, the mainstream media assumes, along with Milley, that Trump is crazy, and they try to paint his statements as the work of an unhinged madman. But not so fast. Trump’s characterization of Milley was not too different from the response Truman had to MacArthur’s brazen insubordination. Truman, who like Trump was noted for his occasionally salty language, years later said this about MacArthur:

“I fired him because he wouldn't respect the authority of the president. I didn't fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that's not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.”

Likewise, it’s not about whether Milley’s intentions were good or not. It’s all about respect for authority, and respect for the Constitution, and Milley didn’t have any, despite having sworn an oath to defend it years ago. That should worry not just Biden, but the country as a whole. Because if Milley felt it was in his power to go behind the back of Trump, then how much more likely is it that he will decide to disobey the entirely incompetent commander-in-chief we have now?

I may not like Joe Biden, but he’s the president, and until the Democrats are smart enough to remove him from that office, he’s the guy who makes the life-and-death decisions, not Gen. Milley. Milley’s just the guy who warns China and leaves Americans behind in Afghanistan (but that’s another story).

Frank Miele, the retired editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell Mont., is a columnist for RealClearPolitics. His new book, “What Matters Most: God, Country, Family and Friends,” and his earlier books are available from his Amazon author page. Visit him at HeartlandDiaryUSA.com to read his daily commentary or follow him on Facebook @HeartlandDiaryUSA or on Twitter or Gettr @HeartlandDiary.



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