Streetwise Professor

November 2, 2019

Ain’t No Pay Grade High Enough

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — cpirrong @ 6:37 pm

In a post last week, I wrote that LTC Alexander Vindman arrogated authority beyond his pay grade. I was wrong, to the extent that statement implied that there is a pay grade in the uniformed military that does have the authority that Vindman claimed for himself. There isn’t.

Here’s the Washington Post’s description of Vindman’s thinking and motivation: “he was deeply troubled by what he interpreted as an attempt by the president to subvert U.S. foreign policy.”

Hello! U.S. foreign policy is always set by the president. This is a Constitutional fact and a practical reality. As of 20 January, 2017, U.S. foreign policy has been set–to the accompaniment of wails, rending of garments, and gnashing teeth–by President Donald Trump. Full stop.

It is the job of everyone in the U.S. military, from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to some recruit getting screamed at in boot camp (if they do still scream at them) to implement that policy. It is also their job not to substitute their own view of what that policy should be, and act contrary to the policies of the lawful Commander-in-Chief.

Vindman’s view is an oxymoron. It is self-contradictory. The president cannot subvert what he sets. QED.

It is also incredibly dangerous to the military as an institution, and to the stability of the United States. The US military has been almost unparalleled in subordination to civilian authority. Having O-5s (or even retired O-9s, like McRaven) openly challenge that is the road to perdition. (I note that most coups are led by field and company grade officers, for a variety of reasons. Vindman’s middling rank is actually makes his actions more of a concern.)

Maintaining this subordination is of far greater importance than any passing policy matter, let alone Ukraine, a Sovok basketcase. (I am reminded of the line from A Man For All Seasons:  “Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world [Matt. 16:26]. But for Wales?” (Substitute “but for Ukraine?” and the meaning remains the same.)

Now we hear that Vindman is whining that he was told not to discuss the phone call with anyone. Well, obviously for good reason, given his evident agenda, not that it made any difference.

Was this a direct order? Is there even a colorable case that it was an unlawful order? If it was lawful, he acted in disobedience of that order.

Further, if the phone call was classified–as it apparently was, which is another gripe of Schiff and his fellow grifters–to discuss it with anyone without a need to know would also be a violation of the UCMJ.

And what about the guy with whom it appears that Vindman did discuss the call, in violation of his duties? It is evidently Eric Ciaramella. Does he look like the soyboy from central casting, or what? Who elected him to anything?

Just where the hell do these people get off?

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  1. I was equally flabbergasted by WaPo’s take on Vindman’s motivation. He’s the one subverting US foreign policy, not Trump. In fact, being of Ukrainian ancestry, he should perhaps be investigated as an agent of that state (though I suppose the whistleblower laws would protect him).

    “Does he look like the soyboy from central casting, or what?” That’s the first thing that ran through my mind when I saw his picture. He looks exactly like the soyboys I see in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg. No wonder Schiff kept him under wraps.

    Comment by I.M. Pembroke — November 2, 2019 @ 11:28 pm

  2. Some military intel guy apparently conspiring with a CIA plant in the White House against an elected President. This behaviour is the essence of the Deep State that, until recently, we were told was nothing but the figment of the imagination of conspiracy nuts.

    Did Vindman give any indication of who he thinks is responsible for foreign policy, if not the President? I suspect, from both his appearance, his words and his actions, that he hasn’t thought that deeply, but worth asking anyway, to get inside his mind.

    Anyway, Prof, has there been any thinking as to why it appears to be always the colonels that storm the White/Blue/Other Colour House, kick out the President and install themselves for life and get themselves fitted for Sergeant Peppers uniforms? Is it because they are at a point in their career in which they are in command of a large enough body of men to effect change, and also at which the pyramid starts to get pointy and the promotion pole greasy – a combination of thwarted ambition (motive) being close to the regiments (the mechanisms for implementing change)?

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — November 3, 2019 @ 2:20 am

  3. Yo! Prof
    Surprised that you’re being so obtuse on this Ukraine call biz.

    1. The point of the call was not to get the Ukrainians to “dig up dirt” on the Bidens. It was for them to initiate a prosecution of young Hunter (whose snout was surely in the trough but then who isn’t out to make a nickel?)

    Now, pray tell me, why would Trump have to go to the Ukrainians to get a politically-motivated prosecution?

    2. Why can’t the U.S. prosecute young Hunter? It isn’t as if the U.S. is lacking in laws. Or prosecutors. Acts committed outside the States? No problem with extra-jurisdictional issues; money-laundering charges will fix that (1MDB being a case in point). Despite having Barr ready to “run and fetch”, the career prosecutors at the DOJ are leery of charging ‘political’ families with crimes … unless the offense is so egregious that they are ready for a slam-dunk in court. Call it Deep State if you will but they prefer to keep out of that kind of political mud game.

    How many times has Trump called for Hilary to be locked up? Yet no matter how many thousands yell “Lock her up”, she walks around quite freely. And if he can’t get Hilary locked up (and the Clintons can teach the Bidens, the Trumps and the Bushes a thing or two about snouts and troughs), why then it makes perfect sense to look to one of the most corrupt countries on the planet to start prosecuting young Hunter. Plenty of politically-motivated prosecutions there.

    Of course, Russia is the master of that particular technique. So, you should understand Prof, that once you start down the road to politically-motivated prosecutions (albeit through foreign procurators), you’ll quickly end up in a place where nobody (or their property) is safe. Vindman got it right.

    Comment by Simple Simon — November 3, 2019 @ 2:59 am

  4. Ooops! Hillary 🙂

    Comment by Simple Simon — November 3, 2019 @ 3:02 am

  5. @Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break–My explanation is that it is a combination of selection effects and interest. The politicians select generals whom they believe will be unthreatening, either because of incompetence or lack of daring/initiative or corruptibility. This is not only the case in 3d world countries. Promotions to flag rank in peacetime in the US are highly politicized. I look askance at anyone promoted during the Obama or late-Bush administrations, for instance. Look at some of the PC argle bargle many of them spout.

    Once someone has made general, moreover, he is an insider who has a stake in perpetuating the status quo. They are often corrupted and like a quiet life.

    The more firebrand junior officers see this game being played. They figure that they have little chance of rising to the top in a politicized system, and this is in fact one of their major grievances. They see the wooden heads and brownnosers promoted, and understand why. Their coups are often aimed at the senior military leadership just as much as against the civilian leadership.

    My Turkish friend’s father provides an interesting example. It was routine for all Turkish officers to have a tour in Ankara periodically. He was never stationed in Ankara, until right before his retirement, because he was “a 27 May man” (that being the date of the coup). He and his kind were widely feared, and mainly sidelined.

    Comment by cpirrong — November 3, 2019 @ 10:21 pm

  6. Hi Professor, sorry to go off topic, but check out the shade being cast by Brigette Macron in the photo.


    Comment by Felicity — November 4, 2019 @ 2:29 am

  7. Thanks Prof.

    So, Hayek nails it again, LOL.

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — November 4, 2019 @ 6:53 am

  8. As the old HQ joke went…

    Make LtCol (Cmdr), they take away your mouth
    Make Col (Captain) they take away your brain
    Make Flag and you get your mouth back

    Comment by The Pilot — November 4, 2019 @ 8:41 am

  9. @SS “Now, pray tell me, why would Trump have to go to the Ukrainians to get a politically-motivated prosecution?”

    Strange and obtuse take, SS. Was or was not Joe Biden vice president at the time? Did he or did he not use the power of his office to subvert Ukrainian legal process to the financial benefit of his son? Should or should not large scale corruption by a sitting VP be of investigatory interest by a subsequent administration?

    Your political take on the investigation amounts to a cynical

    Comment by Pat Frank — November 4, 2019 @ 5:25 pm

  10. @ Felicity – good pick up.

    Note also the First Lady’s posture, poise and paying attention to the proceedings.

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — November 5, 2019 @ 6:37 am

  11. Another nice serving of catnip for your apostles Craig. Got to keep ’em energised and all that.

    Interesting that term soyboy has crossed the pond and is in use by presumably by the (alt) right. Here it’s in widespread use on the football terraces by assorted racists and knuckledraggers. You do know that it all came about from a conspiracy theory too?

    Anyhow, I quite like that pic of Brigitte – a lovely look of Gallic disdain. As for the first lady paying attention, well we all know she’s a good actress and plays her part to a tee.

    Comment by David Mercer — November 6, 2019 @ 12:21 pm

  12. @David–Acquaint yourself with the fallacy of the undistributed middle.

    As for the rest of your bilge, IDGAF.

    Comment by cpirrong — November 6, 2019 @ 4:30 pm

  13. Besides, “soyboy” is so much more succinct than “effete, pencil-necked, sunken-chested, severely myopic, backshooting weasel who couldn’t do a pullup if his sorry-ass life depended on it,” yet is equally descriptive, don’t you think?

    You also seem to be taking “soyboy” personally. Just sayin’.

    Comment by cpirrong — November 6, 2019 @ 6:37 pm

  14. Doesn’t bother me at all Craig. I’m rather partial to soy, especially in my lattes. Hasn’t done me any harm.

    Anyhow, fancy posting something on that great American industrial behemoth that is Boeing? No doubt you’ve noticed they’ve been having a few issues of late. Would love to hear your defence.

    Comment by David Mercer — November 7, 2019 @ 3:55 am

  15. You are a bit harsh on poor Eric BTW. I mean, its not his fault he doesn’t fit with your view of what a shadowy Machiavellian character should look like, presumably personified by that towering hulk of manhood that is Steve Bannon, a man who has made the sack-of-sh*t look all his own.

    Comment by David Mercer — November 7, 2019 @ 6:51 am

  16. The whole Boeing 737 Max thing is well outside my domain. I’ve read a fair bit, but don’t have the technological chops to make a contribution to the discussion.

    I have considered writing again (I did so years ago) about the shocking state of US military procurement, and Boeing is certainly a major culprit in that (e.g., KC-46 tanker aircraft, satellites).

    Comment by cpirrong — November 7, 2019 @ 10:50 am

  17. @David Mercer, Brigette Macron’s glare looks more like active female dislike to me, rather than French cultural hauteur.

    Maybe she’s just jealous that Melania gets to be an official first lady, while the French required that she does not.

    Or maybe Brigette is upset that Melania’s face lift was more successful than hers.

    Do you think Brigette Macron should get a free pass for being 25 years older than her husband? EM was probably about 19 when she seduced him as his 44-year-old teacher. In the US, that sort of power difference is typically used to imply coerced relations.

    Wonder how that would play were the genders reversed. Trump doesn’t get much latitude from the press about his equivalent age difference with Melania. And he was never in a power relationship over her.

    Comment by Pedric — November 7, 2019 @ 1:40 pm

  18. @Pedric ‘And he was never in a power relationship over her’

    WTF??! Seriously?!

    Comment by David Mercer — November 7, 2019 @ 2:03 pm

  19. @David Mercer

    Melania met DT when she was 28 and independent. Look for yourself.

    Comment by Pedric — November 7, 2019 @ 5:56 pm

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