It's not that the military hasn't followed every Trump request, from taking out a target with a missile full of knives, senselessly spending dozens of missiles in an empty airfield, or dragging cadets back to West Point in the middle of a pandemic after witnessing Trump's epic ramp mixing skills, the military was there for him. And they have remained so silent as Trump insulted prisoners of war, Gold Star families, and soldiers injured in an unnecessary conflict.
But after Trump launched his White House with an armload of generals, he fired them all, along with some of their substitutes. He realized that career military officers simply don't help lead the military. As Politico reports, a "loyalty cleanup" is underway in the Pentagon to stamp out the last trace of respect for the constitution, respect the rule of law, and even keep the military nominally apolitical.
Not surprisingly, the first heads to fall on the floor are two high-ranking women. Both top international security officer Kathryn Wheelbarger and incumbent inspector Elaine McCusker are out. Both had been brought into these positions by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and he tried to keep both in place. However, Esper itself is a key candidate to visit the rusty, worn floor of the Trump bus every day. Wheelbarger also had a good relationship with former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, which made her top the list of "loyalty concerns." With Wheelbarger and McCusker gone, the number of empty offices in the Pentagon continues to grow. Occupied chairs are particularly rare in supervisory functions – the seat of the inspector general has been open for over a month.
This does not mean that there are no slots occupied. The Republicans recently confirmed 11 positions at the same time. In lower-level slots, Trump's White House has filled dozens of roles, with more to come. Re-ordering the Pentagon doesn't even have to mean replacement. It's also about promotions. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman is just one of several transportation officers whose next level on the military ladder could be cut off to show a lack of loyalty to Trump. In many military situations, failure to be promoted is a signal for a career that is either over or condemned to a hopeless downward spiral. So much so that lack of promotion is often a precursor to retirement or resignation. Trump doesn't have to fire every officer personally. He only has to filter, filter, filter his employees.
Just like Mitch McConnell's blanket replacement of federal justice, Trump's team is rewoven the structure of the Pentagon at all levels. Those whose loyalty to tradition, service, and the law are driven out in favor of those who support Trump. And only Trump.
As Trump's recently deceased chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said "The military personality is just one who doesn't work well with Donald Trump." The next time Trump orders an attack on American civilians, he wants an attack. Hell again.