President-elect Donald Trump’s authoritarian style and personality, which attracted an overwhelmingly authoritarian following, is manifesting itself in the selection of his national security team. The appointment of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as the national security adviser is particularly worrisome because of the general’s lack of experience in strategic policy and his controversial stewardship as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. More recently, we have learned that general officers are being given consideration as secretaries of state, defense, and homeland security. Trump is putting at risk the Constitution’s support for civilian control of the military as well as decision-making in the use of force as well as national security policy in general.
What is at stake in this case is the deepening cultural divide between the military and civilian worlds, particularly the increased militarization of national security policy that has taken place over the past two decades. the administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have catered to the military, and have appointed too many general and flag officers to positions that should be in the hands of civilians. President Obama was particularly guilty in this regard, rewarding general officers with ambassadorial positions and naming a retired marine general to the post of national security adviser. The general, James Jones, was a poor fit in terms of both management and substantive support, and was soon forced out of the White House.