President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for national security adviser should be opposed, even though opposition by anyone who has any say in the matter is unlikely.
Mr Trump announced his pick for national security adviser yesterday, naming Lieutenant General Michael T Flynn, a retired intelligence officer who believes Islamist militancy poses a substantial threat to the safety and security of the United States, the New York Times reports.
— General Flynn (@GenFlynn) September 24, 2016
The above tweet, based on a “report” from a disreputable website, is an example of what have become known as “Flynn facts,” which have been quite flimsy every so often.
He showed high achievement in the military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, leading the Defense Intelligence Agency, but has also been shown to be an inept manager and strategic thinker. That’s not good for the national security adviser’s role, which has expanded dramatically during both the George W Bush and Barack Obama administrations.
The job of national security adviser now includes military operations, nuclear proliferation, diplomacy, foreign aid, and responses to global pandemics. As a manager, he will be required to develop a strong consensus among different departments, bringing together information from different arenas and advising the president on the options for addressing what are bound to be complex challenges.
He is most famous, most recently, for his speech at the Republican Convention, where he joined in with the crowd and said, “Yeah, that’s right, lock her up,” referring to Hillary Clinton.
He advocated, just last week, for the extradition of Fetullah Gülen. Mr Gülen runs and profits from a charter school network in the US, with concentrations of schools in Ohio and Michigan, and he’s in exile from Turkey, living in the Poconos in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has accused Mr Gülen of launching a failed coup attempt.
It is widely believed that at least some of the money raised from the charter schools, which have been the subject of criminal investigations by the FBI, has funded the attempted overthrow of the Turkish government, though Mr Gülen’s involvement in any military option is in doubt. Turkey is a powerful ally of the US, especially in the Middle East, but Democrats, in particular, are no big fans of Mr Erdoğan.
For his part, Mr Gülen has specifically denied any involvement in the recent coup attempts and denounced any military option for overthrowing the government of Turkey. His exile here has been peaceful, and he has been able to take advantage of our charter school laws to fund operations in his homeland, for which he has shown a great love.
Although I can’t support the funneling of money given by the government for charter schools to fund an organization that doesn’t spend that money to increase the quality of education for US children, I firmly oppose the extradition of Mr Gülen. I don’t run the state of Ohio, and if the good people of Ohio see fit to write certain charter school laws, that’s their prerogative. But the US favors a man’s right to speak freely in opposition to a government, even our own, and Mr Gülen’s exile here in the US must be defended, not berated, as Mr Flynn has done.
The approval of Mr Flynn, a registered Democrat, by the Senate isn’t required, though. A Democratic move three years ago prevents a filibuster by the minority for cabinet picks, but if this position required a confirmation vote, Democrats might get some help from Republicans on this one.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) November 19, 2016
Mr Schiff, Democrat of California, is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee and might be expressing sour grapes over the loss of the presidential election. However, Mr Flynn considers Mr Gülen a radical Islamic terrorist. At least a few Republicans could be expected to view Mr Flynn’s incendiary characterization of Islam as an ideology, not a religion, to be unfitting for one of the president’s closest advisers.
He has compared Islam to a cancer that has metastasized. As recently as February, Mr Flynn posted a video on Twitter to warn his followers about the threat of Islam. Yes, about the religion of Islam, not about the terrorists but of anyone who’s a Muslim:
Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL: please forward this to others: the truth fears no questions… https://t.co/NLIfKFD9lU
— General Flynn (@GenFlynn) February 27, 2016
So, while I am very much inclined to defer to the president’s own choices for the people he wants working closest to him, I can support neither Mr Flynn’s opinions about Islam nor his tendency to kick peaceful political dissidents, acting completely within our laws, however misguided those laws may be, out of the country.