When President Biden presented his plan to withdraw from Afghanistan that included abandoning the massive air base at Bagram, his top military advisors and commanders should have stood up.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, and Central Command head Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie should have said, in unison, they would resign if Biden didn’t change his mind.
But they didn’t, and in the end carried out instructions that led to a botched, chaotic withdrawal that left 13 U.S. military members dead and perhaps hundreds of Americans and Afghan allies behind, some of whom are still trapped in the Taliban-held country.
That just goes to show that the country’s military is being led by political lapdogs, not commanders in the spirit of Eisenhower and Patton — and at a time when the world is becoming inherently more dangerous with Russia on the move in Eastern Europe and China attempting to dominant all of the Indo-Pacific, retired Marine Col. Andrew Milburn, a former deputy commander, told Fox News.
He says the three top military leaders had a duty to stand tall and firm against Biden’s hasty withdrawal order.
“Can you imagine if those three or even two out of three had offered their resignation?” Milburn, a former Special Operations Central deputy commander, told the network. “You don’t think that might have caused the president to think twice?”
He went on to argue that all three men are “products of a culture the military has fostered that favors leaders who are obedient, rather than principled freethinkers,” Fox News added.
“I think they’re products of a culture that has arisen within the U.S. military that simply does not encourage innovative thinking or creative thinking,” Milburn, who spent 31 years in the military, told Fox News.
“That rewards perhaps obedience above all else.”
“I think within our organizations, the Joint Force, we sadly have a culture that does not always see the most strong-willed creative thinkers rise to the top,” he continued. “It’s a culture that I think is amiss.”
Thus far, no top U.S. military leader has been held responsible for the rapid Taliban takeover of Afghanistan after a 20-year U.S. occupation and tens of billions spent to build the Afghan National Army and security forces.
“How are these three holding themselves responsible? I’ve seen all three of them during the 90-day period use that term,” Milburn said of Austin, Milley, and McKenzie.
“It’s very difficult to explain exactly what that means if you continue in office,” he added. “Holding yourself responsible often is a prelude to resignation. Not always, but … that’s really the ultimate sanction. So, it is hard to take them seriously.”
Milburn said the trio has “rendered their own words hollow.”
Fox News added:
He pointed to a Sept. 28 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing where Milley testified that he wouldn’t resign because the service members in Kabul couldn’t refuse their orders. The general said it would be unfair to abandon his duties while enlisted men couldn’t.
Milburn told Fox News that Milley’s testimony “showed that he didn’t have a good understanding of his professional ethics” and called his reasoning “illogical.”
While explaining why he didn’t resign, Milley also testified that the nation “does not want generals figuring out what orders we are going to accept.” He emphasized the importance of civilian control of the military.
Milburn countered that the American public’s wishes aren’t “really the only arbiter of making that moral decision because … his oath was to the Constitution.”
“It’s not necessarily, what the American public would like,” Milburn noted further. “It is what does he feel his duty to the Constitution is. Not to any particular person.”
Milley also said he is just an adviser to the president and that the commander-in-chief can take or leave his counsel.
Milburn agreed with that but asked “wouldn’t you make a firmer stand” if you knew that the order being given was going to lead to a catastrophe?
“That is the time to stand your ground and simply say, ‘no boss. I’ll give you my resignation,'” Milburn told Fox News.
“That should be our collective expectation of these people.”
“As a military professional, our duty isn’t simply to follow orders,” he told Fox News. “There is a point where if we see something that is happening catastrophic to the institution, then doesn’t our oath to the Constitution obligate us to take action?