•   
  •   
  •   

Opinion Preventing war: Why Gen. Mark Milley's secret calls to China deserves a medal

12:25  18 september  2021
12:25  18 september  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

Pentagon defends Milley's calls to top Chinese general in final months of Trump presidency, saying such calls are vital to avoiding conflict

  Pentagon defends Milley's calls to top Chinese general in final months of Trump presidency, saying such calls are vital to avoiding conflict The White House downplayed reports about Milley and said that President Biden has "complete confidence" in the general.Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa reported in the new book "Peril" that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley made two secret phone calls to his counterpart in China's People's Liberation Army, Gen. Li Zuocheng, in part because there were concerns that President Donald Trump had declined mentally and might spark a war.

Those calling for the head of Mark Milley have it all wrong. The four-star general and Joint Chiefs chairman may well have saved American lives by thwarting a deadly Chinese miscalculation in the closing weeks of the Trump administration.

Mark A. Milley wearing a suit and tie: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testifies on Capitol Hill on June 23, 2021. © SAUL LOEB, AFP via Getty Images Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testifies on Capitol Hill on June 23, 2021.

Milley spoke twice with his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army, during this period, according to a new book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of The Washington Post.

Both times it was to caution Li not to make a terrible mistake.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right

  Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has become a lightning rod for the Biden administration, which is facing calls for him to resign over book excerpts underscoring his maneuvering during former President Donald Trump's final days in office.Milley was already a target for conservatives before the revelations in "Peril," the upcoming book by Watergate reporter Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of The Washington Post.But the newMilley was already a target for conservatives before the revelations in "Peril," the upcoming book by Watergate reporter Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of The Washington Post.

Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

China claims control of 80% of the South China Sea, something the U.S. and other nations reject. The result is that American naval forces conduct fleet exercises in those waters or sail through demonstrating freedom of navigation rights.

USA TODAY's opinion newsletter: Get the best insights and analysis delivered to your inbox.

The Chinese hate this, complain bitterly and yet accept these are not acts of war.

But what if one day they concluded otherwise? What if they decided — because of wider-ranging series of extreme circumstances — that a U.S. destroyer steaming into the sea was this time part of some coordinated attack. They would believe that every second they failed to act only compounded the hazard to Chinese lives.

Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod

  Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod SpaceX launched four civilians into orbit Wednesday, as Elon Musk looks to cement the company’s position as a leading space enterprise. The Inspiration4 mission plans to place the crew in orbit for about three days and then return them to Earth. Photo: Thom Baur/Reuters

They might sink it. The U.S. would be compelled to respond in equal or greater measure. China might then do the same, and where would the violence end? Might there be war?

According to the Woodward/Costa book, the Chinese had intelligence in October that the U.S. was planning such an attack. At the same time, Trump was engaging in ever more belligerent rhetoric toward China.

That's when Milley made his first call to Li, with whom he had a long working relationship, assuring him four days before the election that no U.S. attack was coming.

The second call was two days after Trump provoked a mob into storming Capitol Hill to stop Congress from performing its constitutional duty of officially declaring Joe Biden the next president of the United States.

Milley calmed Chinese fears of conflict

Is it any surprise Li and his officers were distressed by the sight of Trump supporters  driving lawmakers from Congress. That kind usurpation of government, even if for only a matter of hours, has never happened in the United States before and is inconceivable in totalitarian regimes such as Beijing.

Joe Biden Is Keeping Mark Milley. But His Actions Show the Country Is Still Grappling with the Trump Era

  Joe Biden Is Keeping Mark Milley. But His Actions Show the Country Is Still Grappling with the Trump Era Biden and his staff have so far showed no signs of being concerned about Milley’s reported actions under Trump.Biden and his staff have so far showed no signs of being concerned about Milley’s actions under Trump or the possibility he’d stretched too far the trust between any sitting President and military leaders. “I have great confidence in General Milley,” Biden said Wednesday.

How could the Chinese not worry what a desperate Trump might do next?

As with the October call, Milley would have been remiss not to prevent a disastrous Chinese error. “We are 100 percent steady ... Democracy can be sloppy sometimes," Milley assured Li, according to the book.

"From all I can see today," said James Stavridis, retired Navy admiral and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander. "Milley's actions were within his remit to maintain open lines of communication with friends and foes alike, avoid potential miscalculation, and maintain military-to-military stability during a very tense period."

Perspective needed on other actions

Much has been made of two other Milley actions.

There have been calls for his resignation over a comment the book says Milley made to Li during the October phone call: “General 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. It’s not going to be a surprise.”

Treason, some say, even if the U.S. has a history of giving adversaries a heads up before an attack, as in Syria in 2017. Whether this was a questionable throwaway line to diffuse tension, or something more imprudent, Milley can explain when he testifies Sept. 28 before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

'Traitorous' or 'tabloidish': Should Milley be court-martialed or Woodward condemned?

  'Traitorous' or 'tabloidish': Should Milley be court-martialed or Woodward condemned? Washington scandal books are a genre unto themselves. Each has some key revelation crafted to fuel a scandal and sales; often, by the time fact-checkers catch up, the support for the claim is largely irrelevant. That was the apparent case with Michael Wolff's book, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," which unleashed a torrent of alarm over claims that top officials were moving to secretly record Trump, in order to declare him incompetent under the 25th Amendment. Journalists later found an array of errors in those accounts, including core claims.

He's also come under fire for reportedly inserting himself in any decision process should Trump direct a nuclear strike. Critics call this an unconstitutional attenuation of presidential control, though then-Defense Secretary James Schlesinger did the same thing in 1974 when President Richard Nixon faced impeachment.

Many say it would have been better, rather than make phone calls to Li or discuss nuclear codes, if Milley had resigned and alerted the public about how unstable and dangerous he believed Trump was. That would have certainly been a profound move.

But it would have stripped Milley of the ability as the nation's top military officer to intervene and diffuse a potentially lethal miscalculation in the South China Sea.

The general has plenty of things to answer for when he testifies later this month, not the least of which is hisa disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.

But preventing war with China is not one of them.

Gregg Zoroya is an editorial writer for USA TODAY and author of "The Chosen Few: A Company of Paratroopers and Its Heroic Struggle to Survive in the Mountains of Afghanistan."

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.

Trump Put Milley in an Impossible Position

  Trump Put Milley in an Impossible Position The general stayed inside the lines—barely. The real problem is that he was in that situation at all.In a new book, Bob Woodward and Robert Costa write that Milley contacted his opposite number in China just before and just after the 2020 election. Milley, according to Woodward and Costa, was reaching out to General Li Zuocheng to calm jangled nerves in Beijing about the stability of the United States. Milley also reportedly called together a group of senior U.S. officers and made them affirm, one by one, that they understood that the procedure for the release of nuclear weapons had to include him.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Preventing war: Why Gen. Mark Milley's secret calls to China deserves a medal

Top US general: whisperer to presidents, target of intrigue .
WASHINGTON (AP) — Gen. Mark Milley has been the target of more political intrigue and debate in two years as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff than any of his recent predecessors were in four. One after another, political firestorms have ignited around him — unusual for an officer who by law is a whisperer to presidents and by custom is careful to stay above the political fray. From racial injustice and domestic extremism to nuclear weapons and the fitness of Donald Trump as commander in chief, Milley has become entangled in politically charged issues, regularly thrusting him into the news headlines.

usr: 1
This is interesting!