Friday, June 30, 2017

Shirking Responsibility

The buck doesn’t stop here anymore

Recently the President of the United States gave Secretary of Defense Mattis the authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan. While the White House may pitch this as giving experts the authority to do their jobs, that is simply not the case here. The President is ceding decision making powers that are not purely military, but intertwine with his other responsibilities as the chief administrator of the the administrative state, chief diplomat, and the enforcer of American law.

The job of the President is unique in both its power and scope. They cover diplomacy, domestic policy, law enforcement, and military. Hillary Clinton was often touted as the most qualified person to ever run for the Presidency. She has been a nationally recognized attorney, First Lady of both Arkansas and the United States, a U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State. Even she was not perfectly ready to take that office, because only the Presidency blends all of those roles, and more, into a single office.

The President may receive advice from experts in environmental and education policy, experts in diplomacy and international institutions, and life-long military and law enforcement professionals, but only the President must balance all of those needs against each other. Something that none of these experts can claim to have direct experience with. Even former presidential chiefs of staff cannot claim this, because the buck stops with the President.

By absolving himself of the responsibility to set troop levels, President Trump is refusing to take responsibility for all of the consequences that these operations likely will have an impact on non-military affairs. Brilliant and experienced he may be, but Secretary Mattis does not have the authority or tools to balance all of the considerations his newly-minted authority may have an impact on. And now the President dosen’t either.

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