Trippin’ with General Milley

They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Gen. Mark Milley proves that a lot of knowledge can be a dangerous thing when accompanied by a fevered imagination and barely a glimmer of analytical ability and common sense.

James Hohmann of the Washington Post gushes that Milley “owns thousands of books in his personal library” and “attended Princeton before starting his climb up the officer’s ladder.” The general is also an “amateur historian.”

Relying on the depiction of Milley by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their book about the last days of the Trump presidency, Hohmann informs us that the general’s knowledge of history and culture caused “his mind [to] gravitate[]. . .toward chilling metaphors” during this period. In Hohmann’s telling (via Woodward and Costa), the metaphors come fast and furious.

When a pro-Trump mob overran the U.S. Capitol, it reminded Milley of the failed Russian revolution of 1905. After order was restored at the Capitol, Milley switched analogies and feared that Trump was looking, Hitler style, for a “Reichstag moment” before the inauguration of Joe Biden.

When Trump chewed out then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper for publicly opposing the invocation of the Insurrection Act amid the BLM protests, Trump reminded Milley of the vituperative drill sergeant in the movie “Full Metal Jacket.” The general viewed Stephen Miller as the American version of Rasputin.

Trump’s curiosity about the possibility of attacking Iran reminded Milley of the 1997 movie “Wag the Dog.” In addition, he thought, for some reason, about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. And also about the Cuban missile crisis.

If Milley had dropped acid, I doubt he would have had a stranger trip.

Yet, Hohmann reels off Milley’s analogies uncritically. The Post man seems to be along for the trip.

Stephen Miller as Rasputin? I guess that makes Trump a modern day Czar Nicholas II, while Melania becomes Czarina Alexandra, over whom the mystic exercised so much influence.

Come on, man.

Overall, Milley at least deserves high marks for originality. However, the “Wag the Dog” reference is hackneyed.

The Bolshevik reference isn’t original, either. John Mitchell, Nixon’s attorney general, invoked it when he saw many thousands of angry marchers parading past the Justice Department during a massive anti-war demonstration.

Neither analogy holds up, though Mitchell’s comes closer to the mark. Jake Angeli as Vladimir Lenin? Come on, man.

Hohmann writes:

Milley told associates that he had buried 242 kids at Arlington National Cemetery. “I’m not really interested in having a war with anybody,” he said, according to Woodward and Costa. Ultimately, thankfully, neither was Trump.

Of course, Trump wasn’t interested in starting a war. If Milley had any sense to go with his book learning, he would have understood this.

No American president in many decades has been more averse to war than Trump. The notion that Trump would start a war with China, of all adversaries, due to his anger over the 2020 election is laughable.

So too is Milley’s reference to the Cuban missile crisis. In that case, the Soviet Union placed missiles 90 miles from the U.S. and President Kennedy responded with a naval blockade of Cuba. What was the analogous behavior of either China or the U.S. in 2020-21?

Given Milley’s status as an amateur historian, it’s fair to ask how he seems to have missed the most apt historical analogue to recent events — the fall of Saigon, with its similarities to the fall of Kabul. Apparently, this parallel was too obvious for the general’s wild imagination.

I think it was Sir Lewis Namier, the great British historian, who said that the purpose of studying history should be to acquire “historical sense.” Milley study’s of history hasn’t yielded that happy attribute. As depicted by Woodward and Costa, the general spouts historical nonsense.

You don’t have to be an amateur historian to worry about Mark Milley being chairman of the joint chiefs.

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