And clearly they were right to do so.
Courtesy of CNN:
Amid escalating tensions with both North Korea and Iran, President Donald Trump’s advisers hesitated to give him military options fearing the President might accidentally take the US to war and deliberately informed their counterparts in both countries that they did not know what the President would do next, multiple former administration officials tell me.
These accounts are contained in my upcoming book, “The Madman Theory: Trump Takes on the World,” which will be published August 11 by Harper Collins.
Trump’s relationship with Kim Jong Un has blown hot and cold throughout his presidency but in 2017 as the President dubbed Kim “little rocket man” and the North Korean dictator responded by calling Trump a “dotard,” there was a very real fear amongst senior members of the administration that the war of words might culminate in the President launching military action against Pyongyang.
“We used to only think of Kim Jong Un as unpredictable. Now we had Trump as unpredictable,” Joseph Yun, who served as President Trump’s special representative for North Korea policy until 2018, told me. “And I would communicate that.”
Yun recalled that during the worsening standoff with North Korea in 2017, the Pentagon hesitated to give the President a broad range of military options, concerned that he might indeed order a major military attack on the North.
“You had to be careful what options you gave him,” he said. “We were being very cautious, because any options you put out there, he could use them.”
That frustrated the White House. “The White House viewed it as ‘Goddamnit! The President is looking for all options!'” Yun recalled. But the Pentagon, under Defense Secretary James Mattis at least, didn’t budge.
Apparently these advisors have been working to protect us from this president throughout his first term:
Again in 2019, as the President and his team were considering military options against Iran in response to escalating attacks in the Persian Gulf, senior Pentagon officials made clear both to US partners in the region and to Tehran that they could not predict how and where Trump would respond, or if he would respond at all.
“We told allies that we did not know what the President would be willing to do against Iran,” Mick Mulroy, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East until 2019, recalled. “It was possible he could make a decision that would lead to an escalation of the conflict, and that escalation could lead to war, so they needed to relay that to Iran so they realized
These warnings were part of a longer-term effort to contain some of the President’s worst impulses when confronted with military action abroad. Earlier, in September 2018, when a handful of mortar shells struck near the US Embassy in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone causing no casualties or serious damage, Pentagon officials were surprised when they received a call from a senior official on the National Security Council demanding military options for the President to retaliate against Iran. That NSC official said the President wanted to know immediately how and when the United States could respond.
“The NSC called us in on a Sunday,” a former senior US official told me. “[The NSC official] was basically telling us we had to have military options against Iran, today, on that day.”
Pentagon officials were dumbfounded. On a conference call with the White House, which included the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul Selva, and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood, Selva muted the line on the Pentagon’s end and turned to his colleagues in disbelief.
“He said, ‘Is this a joke? They really want us to propose direct military action into Iran, against Iran, based on this?'” the same former senior US official told me.” And I said, ‘No, we’ve been dealing with this all morning. Have they spent any time in Iraq?’ This is a constant thing.”
Now Trump supporters will invariably call these individual members of the “deep state” who are working to undermine Trump’s authority, but I would instead call them heroes who have worked diligently to protect us from a mad man.
It is hard to imagine with all that is happening now that things could actually be worse, but with Trump in office we of course know they could be.