Betrayal of trust: Why Gen. Mark Milley must resign as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

No leader can make the promise Gen. Milley made and retain the support of the military personnel he oversees.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, should resign. He went too far in preparing to resist Donald Trump’s orders in the closing days of an unstable presidency marked by an attempted coup.

Milley prepared his senior officers to slow walk any orders from Trump to use nuclear weapons or start a military confrontation with China, according to a new book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of The Washington Post. That’s an appalling step toward shredding civilian control over the military, a bedrock constitutional value, the chairman is sworn to uphold.

However, it is an understandable step given that Trump was living in a fantasy world as he whipped his followers into a frenzy that led to terrorism at the U.S. Capitol in a crazed attempt to overturn an election.

May none of us ever face such a crisis where our values and the law come into such conflict.

But Milley went even further.

In reassuring his Chinese counterpart that no attack was coming from the United States, Milley promised to call and warn of an impending U.S. attack if Trump ordered one.

Such a call would have inevitably cost the lives of American troops tasked with following the orders of the lawful commander in chief. Milley’s effort to thwart the potential demands of an unhinged president became a betrayal of the men and women he commands. 

No leader can make such a promise and retain the support of the military personnel he oversees. The Army knows this because this idea is at the center of its leadership training for officers. First among the “Army Values” is loyalty to the Constitution, your unit and other soldiers. Fourth is selfless service: “Put the welfare of … your subordinates before your own.”

The revelations about Milley’s actions come from “Peril,” a new book by Woodward and Costa.

Suggesting that the nation’s highest ranking military officer resign is not something I take lightly. The man deserves respect. Over 39 years in the Army, he has deployed to more countries than I have visited, including three tours in Afghanistan. He has more military medals than I have merit badges.

Even so, one thing a soldier can never betray and retain command is his fellow service members. Milley promised a communist dictatorship just that.

He must go. If he doesn’t resign on his own, President Joe Biden should show him the door.