Trump’s National Security Picks Send A Clear Message About Obama’s Leadership

Several of President-elect Donald Trump’s top national security picks have historically adversarial relationships with the Obama administration.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, and Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus all had high profile clashes with President Barack Obama’s team, veteran national security journalist Thomas Ricks noted Thursday.

Mattis, Trump’s pick for secretary of defense, was reportedly forced to retire as commander of U.S. Central Command five months early in 2013 for being too hawkish on Iran. Mattis did not oppose the Iran deal itself, but instead asked provocative questions about the long-term impact of the deal.

Questions he posed to President Barack Obama and his team included, “what do you do with Iran once the nuclear issue is resolved and it remains a foe? What do you do if Iran then develops conventional capabilities that could make it hazardous for U.S. Navy ships to operate in the Persian Gulf?” When officials would answer or demur he would say, “And then what?”

Flynn, Trump’s national security advisor pick, alleged in July that he was forced out of the position of Defense Intelligence Agency director in 2014 for taking too tough a stance on radical Islamic terrorism. “I knew then it had more to do with the stand I took on radical Islamism and the expansion of al Qaeda and its associated movements,” Flynn wrote.

Reports indicate Petraeus is being seriously considered to serve as Trump’s Secretary of State. Petraeus similarly clashed with Obama and his advisors over a bevy of national security issues between 2009 and 2012, including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Petraeus quickly exited after his affair with his biographer and mishandling of classified information became public.

Ricks describes the assembly of these particular generals as “a national security establishment built in precise reaction to Tom Donilon and Ben Rhodes.” Donilon and Rhodes are senior national security advisors to Obama.  Ricks blames the assembly of anti-Obama national security picks “on Obama, and on his propensity to turn foreign policy over to Biden’s posse of ill-informed, narrow-minded, militarily ignorant hacks. I’m all for civilian control, but I also want civilians who don’t fire generals for speaking their minds privately.”

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