"The task threatens to nullify the fight against ISIS for five years and significantly affect the credibility and reliability of the United States," wrote Votel and co-author Elizabeth Dent in the Atlantic.
The precipitous decline also triggered an unusual wave of comments that were mostly anonymised by current and former Special Operations forces, who predicted that the rapid termination of their partnership with Kurdish forces would trigger a militant upswing. According to a high-ranking official who knows about the mission, a cease-fire agreement, which was celebrated by the White House on Thursday, is considered a "total surrender" to Turkey. "You are angry," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak openly.
The discontent burdens an axiom that has long influenced the behavior of military officials, including decisions on public consideration: While elected leaders "I have the right to be wrong." The military's job is to execute orders, said Peter Feaver, a scholar for civil-military relations at Duke University.
9659002] The episode follows more than two years, during which many Pentagon leaders Trump's examination of institutional and foreign policy norms, including the questioning of alliances and the Again and again, uniformed and civilian officials struggled to reconcile Trump's statements publicly with long-held views of national security, which culminated in a statement last week in which the replacement of the Was demanded by the retired Adm. William McRaven, who headed the US Special Operations Command.
The United States is not powerful because of its military or economic power, McRaven wrote, but because its "ideals of universal freedom and equality were based on our conviction that we are champions of justice, the protector of the less fortunate. "The president hinted that.
Comments are part of a story of retired and active ministers who occasionally take public positions in political affairs or rarely dive into politics. This record includes the public challenge of General Douglas MacArthur against President Harry S. Truman in 1951 and the "Riot of the Generals" in 2006 against then-Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.
Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn has recently been advocating Trump before the 2016 elections and was his national security advisor for a short time the following year. Retired General John Allen meanwhile campaigned for Hillary Clinton.
But the comments of such as McRaven and Votel remain the exception rather than the norm within the Pentagon, possibly suggesting that Trump's presidency, which has given the Pentagon solid funding, is supported in many ways, and a conviction Among many, the job of a general is not to make political demands.
Among those who have voiced this view is General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., who retired this year after being Trump's chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dunford, who was first appointed by President Barack Obama and overseen several divisions under Trump, such as diverting military funds to pay for Trump's border wall, often said his job was to carry out all the assignments that were legal and within the purview of the United States fell power to carry out.
Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper, who had taken over the Pentagon six months after the resignation of his predecessor Jim Mattis, a retired naval general, said he wanted to keep the Pentagon out of politics.
Esper publicly supported the White House's Syrian decision, pointing out that the government had no choice but to withdraw almost all 1,000 troops after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan began attacking Kurdish forces in Afghanistan To prepare Syria.
Mattis has repeatedly quoted the silence code when he circumvented questions about the President's policies during a flood of public performances promoting a new book and rejected critics who claim he should speak directly about his former boss or remain silent stay. Mattis has reprimanded other former military officials, including Flynn and Allen, for their political activism.
The former general made headlines again last week when he joked about Trump at a formal charity dinner. Some commentators interpreted the statements as a sign of a more critical attitude by Mattis. His ribs, however, have not dealt with the security affairs of the President.
Loren DeJonge Schulman, a former Pentagon and White House official, said that military attitudes, which tend to receive particular attention in today's polarized society, also have potential for political ends. Or did she say, "What if the military begins to use its own political power in a more organized manner that represents only certain factions?"
Scholars and officers agree that uniformed leaders are in a properly functioning system Forces privately to share counseling with civil leaders and, where appropriate, their objections to a particular course of action. But some say that the standards on which this process was built are now tense.
"The best way a democracy works is not that bureaucracies make slow decisions that are made by elected leaders," said Jason Dempsey, a former infantry officer at the Center for a New American on Civil -military relations writes security. But the system is also based on "good faith among all actors operating within known bureaucratic boundaries," Dempsey said.
On Saturday, retired General David Petraeus, who commanded the US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, said that "an accumulation" had concern for the president and what he called another stress factor for US democracy contributed to the intervention of former military leaders.
"The propensity of most of my old comrades and certainly my passion was perhaps to express themselves policy from time to time, but in general, to avoid being perceived as biased," he told NPR. Several high-profile retired civil servants have now "felt the need to go beyond," he said. "There is a real concern."
Derek Chollet, a Deputy Secretary of Defense under Obama, said the push-and-pull sentiment within the military community is likely to intensify, as it will certainly be a divisive presidential election. "The military, whether it likes it or not, will be involved in this way in a way that will be very uncomfortable for us and for us," he said.
The discomfort seemed to have been trapped in this past week by a photo tweeted by Trump and that in a confrontation with the Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) During a high-level meeting Government and convention officials in the White House shows. The president wanted to draw attention to what Pelosi called a "meltdown," but the photo also shows Trump's new chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark A. Milley, sitting to his right.
Officials look at the Trump-Pelosi exchange, Milley, who took on the military's highest role less than a month ago, stares at his hands with a strained face.
Greg Jaffe contributed to this report.