Risk of Unleashing ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis

Exclusive: Despite a constructive meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin at the G-20, Official Washington’s hawks still hold a strong hand, in part, because Trump has ceded broad power to the military, says David Marks.

By David Marks

During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump boasted that he would “bomb the hell out of ISIS,” but he also suggested a reversal of the “regime change” strategies of his recent predecessors. So, some peace voters thought Trump might actually be preferable to Hillary Clinton, who often came across as the more hawkish candidate.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis meets with troops stationed at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, April 21, 2017. (DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

However, in Trump’s near-half-year in office, he has slid more into line with the war hawks both by continuing to beat his chest over his own application of military force and by shifting control over many attack decisions to military field commanders and the Pentagon high command.

In mid-April, after a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan, President Trump explained his thinking as he reveled in the first use of the massive “mother of all bombs” that was dropped on an Islamic State target in Afghanistan.

Trump said, “What I do is I authorize my military, we have the greatest military in the world, and they’ve done the job, as usual. We have given them total authorization, and that’s what they’re doing. Frankly, that’s why they’ve been so successful lately. If you look at what’s happened over the last eight weeks and compare that really to what has happened over the last eight years, you’ll see there is a tremendous difference.”

That bombing in Afghanistan followed Trump’s order to fire 59 Tomahawk missiles aimed at a Syrian government airfield that he alleged to be the launch point for an April 4 chemical weapons attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun.

Besides the missile strike – for which Trump got no authorization from either Congress or the United Nations Security Council – U.S. warplanes bombed pro-government forces inside Syria for allegedly getting too close to U.S.-backed rebels and shot down a…

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