Will Mattis Allow Trump to Start Privatizing the Military?

This story has all of the markings of something leaked to the press by Trump advisers precisely because it is such a colossally bad idea.

President Donald Trump is increasingly venting frustration to his national security team about the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and showing renewed interest in a proposal by Blackwater founder Erik Prince to privatize the war, current and former senior administration officials said.

Prince’s idea, which first surfaced last year during the president’s Afghanistan strategy review, envisions replacing troops with private military contractors who would work for a special U.S. envoy for the war who would report directly to the president.

Beyond the lunacy of privatizing wars to mercenaries—especially those who were charged with crimes while deployed in Iraq—Dan Pfeiffer suggests that this could be yet another example of how deeply corrupt this White House has become.

As a reminder, Erik Prince is the Trump adviser who attended a clandestine meeting with Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian investor close to Vladimir Putin, in January 2017 to allegedly set up a back channel for communications between Trump and Moscow. It is very likely that Special Counsel Robert Mueller already has the goods on that meeting because the third person who attended it, George Nader, is cooperating with the investigation. But other than the possibility that Michael Cohen traveled to Prague in the fall of 2016 to discuss the so-called “Trump operation” with Russian operatives, no other meeting that is on our radar at this point is more explosive in proving a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. So yeah, the president might be considering an attempt to buy off a key witness by handing over billions of dollars to his company to “handle” Afghanistan.

Another thing worth noting is the pattern we’re seeing with Trump. Notice how he’s reacting to reports about what is happening in Afghanistan.

Trump is increasingly venting frustration…

…his advisers are worried his impatience with the Afghanistan conflict…

Lately Trump has pressed his advisers about Afghanistan progress on a weekly basis in Cabinet meetings and national security briefings, officials said. As he’s grown frustrated, Trump has leaned on Pompeo, the member of his national security team who is closest to him.

That is reminiscent of what happened with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen last spring.

President Trump berated Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a dispiriting Cabinet meeting on immigration Wednesday, according to three administration officials,but her colleagues denied reports that she has threatened to quit.

Trump lashed out at his Cabinet, and Nielsen in particular, when told that the number of people arrested for illegally crossing the Mexico border topped 50,000 for the second consecutive month. The blowup lasted more than 30 minutes, according to a person with knowledge of what transpired, as Trump’s face reddened and he raised his voice, saying Nielsen needed to “close down” the border.

“Why don’t you have solutions? How is this still happening?” he said, adding later, “We need to shut it down. We’re closed.”

Donald Trump doesn’t do policy. He issues edicts and then berates his staff if they don’t magically result in solutions. On immigration, his tantrums led to the adoption of a zero tolerance policy and the resulting family separations. Now he’s considering contracting out our military because he’s frustrated that they haven’t made more progress in Afghanistan.

If the president decides to make this move, it will likely trigger a massive dilemma for Defense Secretary Mattis and potentially for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as well. Both of them oppose the idea, and that opinion is probably shared by a lot of other military and national security advisers. As I mentioned recently, they have established a pattern of ignoring Trump’s directives that could pose a threat to our national security. This one would be impossible to ignore, so it could test how far members of the president’s cabinet are willing to go to accommodate a man who is clearly unfit for office.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.