Leave it Donald J. Trump to muddy up his role as commander of chief of the U.S. armed forces. He did it big time in a mess involving a Navy SEAL and those who serve in the high military command.
Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher was convicted of a crime involving his posing in Iraq with the corpse of a fighter killed in battle. He had been acquitted of far more serious accusations that were considered “war crimes.”
The Navy Department, led by Secretary Richard Spencer, wanted to stop Gallagher of his Trident badge emblematic of his SEAL service.
Gallagher, who is on active duty at this moment, has taken his case to the public.
Then in walked Trump, the commander in chief, to order that Gallagher retain his SEAL status. Richard Spencer couldn’t comply. He enraged the president, who then ordered Defense Secretary Mark Esper to override the Navy boss. Esper also ordered Spencer to submit his resignation, which Spencer did.
Spencer’s letter of resignation — which he addressed to the president — is a thing of beauty. He thanked the president for allowing him to serve. He then said he couldn’t comply with the president’s policies because they aren’t in keeping with military order and discipline. Read the letter here.
I get that the president’s status as commander in chief allows him to do whatever he wishes regarding the military. I mean, he’s the boss of all the men and women in uniform. However, it is highly irregular, odd and unusual for the commander in chief to insert himself into the middle of command decisions that belong to those who serve under him.
Commanders in chief usually set broad military policy or, in some cases they order daring raids such as the Army Delta Force raid that killed the Islamic State leader or the SEAL raid that eliminated Osama bin Laden in May 2011. But for them to involve themselves in disputes such as what involved a particular SEAL operator is, well, way out of the ordinary.
Just because the president can act in the manner that Trump has acted regarding Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher doesn’t mean it’s right. In this instance, I believe the commander in chief meddled where even the commander in chief doesn’t belong.