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September 21, 2021

General Mark Milley, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s top-ranking military man, is either the most courageous adult in the room while our political system tottered on the brink of instability - or else a camouflaged Democratic swamp-creature who may have committed treason while colluding with the Communist Chinese. Where you stand on these flamboyant issues depends mostly on what you think of mega-journalist Bob Woodward, whose headlines famously out-run his sources. But ever since Watergate, Woodward has pioneered a whole new genre in which his sources remain carefully veiled while the nation’s most highly classified secrets are revealed in voluptuous detail. Perusing one of his earlier books, I was startled to read page after page of intelligence revelations that went beyond top-secret. “But hey man”, as Joe Biden would put it, “isn’t that all just part of the public’s right to know?”


Well maybe but no one in authority ever seems to have asked Bob Woodward about that or to question the ethics of transforming national secrets into highly profitable book sales. Looking over his 50-year track record, Washington insiders know that it pays to stay on Woodward’s good side. If you give him the juicy gossip and inside-the-Beltway psycho-babble he craves, you can be assured of favorable treatment, either in his books or maybe in the pages of the Washington Post (possibly one and the same). An essential part of the gamesmanship includes the pre-publication leaking of lurid headlines. Specifically:

  • Shortly before the 2020 election, GEN Milley called his Chinese counter-part to re-assure him that the US would not attack China. “If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise,” Milley reportedly said.
  • Similar reassurances were repeated shortly after the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill; “We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.” (Lolita C. Baldor, AP, “Milley: Calls were perfectly within scope of the job,” Sept. 17)
  • Also according to the AP, “Milley believed the president suffered a mental decline after the November election, agreeing with a view shared by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a phone call they had on Jan. 8, according to officials. Milley also asked senior officers to swear an “oath” that Milley had to be involved if Trump gave an order to launch nuclear weapons, according to the book.” (Mary C. Jalonick, AP, “Jan 6 Committee seeking records on Milley’s China calls,” Sep 17)


As you would expect, outraged Republicans called for General Milley to be fired while Democrats from President Biden to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed continued confidence in his judgment.  Since Milley and Austin will testify before the House Armed Services Committee on September 28, the controversy will likely simmer for at least another week: Exactly as Bob Woodward and his media colleagues would have anticipated. Not only is this kind of publicity essential in fueling sales, but it also helps to move the Afghanistan and Southern Border fiascos off the front pages. 


As it happens, my Harvard dissertation and first book was a history of the American command and control system. Shortly thereafter, I had the privilege of working for Congressman Bill Nichols as Congress reformed that system in 1986, including the powers exercised by every subsequent JCS Chairman, including General Milley. If he was indeed free-lancing with his Chinese counter-part, those particulars will certainly become known in our immediate future.


But in that last AP story refenced above, there is a question most observers have missed. Did General Milley actually require senior officers to swear an oath promising to short-circuit the nuclear command and control exercised by President Trump? And if so, what was his authority for making such an extraordinary (and possibly illegal) demand? You see, in their sweeping 1986 reforms, Congress firmly chose to place the JCS Chairman outside the chain of command extending from the National Command Authorities (i.e. the President and SECDEF) directly to the Commanders of our combatant forces in the field.  The principle: Civilians make the decision to go to war while commanders on the ground employ forces and direct missions. The JCS Chairman is expected to give military advice while administering our global command and control systems.


But he is only a Washington staffer, like so many others. That is a distinction General Milley should know well: Bob Woodward not so much!



NOTE: Colonel Allard is the author of Command, Control and the Common Defense, winner of the 1991 National Security Book Award. After leaving active duty, he became an on-air military analyst for the networks of NBC News.

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Comments 1-10 of 13

  • Terry Zech

    09/22/2021 08:53 PM

    Gen Milley should be court martial Ed and jailed. Along with Aunt Nancy.

  • Mary Jo McCauley

    09/22/2021 12:33 AM

    If I remember that Nancy Pelosi was interested in the nuclear Football and the nuclear codes. Pelosi and Milly defied their Constitutional Oaths. I think both of them need to be investigated and tried.

  • Steven D Pike

    09/21/2021 06:24 PM

    Why is Milley still in office?

  • Richard Gallina

    09/21/2021 06:09 PM

    Interesting article from Ken. He and I served together in the ‘70s with Army Counterintelligence, and he always had a good head on his shoulders.

  • Sandra E. Adams

    09/21/2021 05:09 PM

    I wish you were in command NOW! I am confident that you would not be overstepping nor advising this president of the United States to be selling out our country from every border and from within. Our nation would never be circling the drain as a result of your advice. How sad it is to see this glorious country, its gift from God and from our wise and brilliant forefathers go to compost in only 8 months. Thank you for you article and the FACTS you spread out before us readers.

  • Floyd A Unger

    09/21/2021 04:30 PM

    Thank you. It’s gonna be interesting to see how this turns out

  • Debi Hughson

    09/21/2021 02:47 PM

    That was a great article - thank you for explaining it so well!! :)

  • Kenneth Alexander

    09/21/2021 01:45 PM

    Col. Well, written giving us the option to draw our own conclusions. Personally, I have never been a Milley fan for he is far too political in the position he holds. Trump called him a loser and from then on it was 'game on.' It is unfortunate for today's military our Joint Chiefs are leaving the opinion they are also bought and paid for. Continued success to you and yours. from one of the Army's finest 1964-1968, Viet Nam in the country.

  • Marilyn W. Patton

    09/21/2021 01:09 PM

    I just wonder if any of the many investigative organizations have looked into the possibility that, if Trump won the election, General Milley and his loyalists were prepared to stage a military coup. I think that is a very real possibility, I am sorry to say, and he should be removed. Maybe that is why the Democrats are protecting him and not calling for his removal. That was a guarantee that was made to him if all of this came out.

  • Suzanne Delaney

    09/21/2021 11:31 AM

    Who is Milley and Pelosi to make a clinical call that President Trump was unstable?? Just like Pelosi going to the Pentagon to request the nuclear codes... and told that would be a military coup & they said NO to her! Looks like Milley and she both need to be arrested !