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Uri Friedman, The Atlantic: America, Meet Your (Acting) Secretary of Defense
Friedman discusses the implications of Patrick Shanahan serving as Acting Secretary of Defense. I still withhold my judgment on Shanahan because he is a thinker...an MIT graduate engineer...a problem solver. That is a definite plus for me. On the negative side his lack of military experience could mean that he has to defer to all the remaining generals in the military, or perhaps worse, Donald Trump himself. That and the fact that while Trump's original staffing of his cabinet in 2017 was flush with generals, now he has none.
Trump is now unencumbered by the likes of a Kelly or a Mattis telling him what he cannot do. Now he can do what his gut tells him to do. Remember he has claimed that he "knows more than the generals do" so he may think he doesn't need any of them around to tell him what he cannot do. So now he has Shanahan in an "acting" capacity...essentially a trial by Trump to see how subservient he is to Trump's wishes. Will Shanahan be the loyal sycophant that Trump wants, or will he go against Trump's whims? Shanahan's critical thinking skills might be trumped by his needed loyalty to Trump to survive in his post without being fired.
Getting back to Friedman's article, it would appear that at least on the surface, Shanahan's views of military engagements around the world align with those of Mattis. Depending on how strongly he holds those beliefs in the face of "Trump gut think", then his role as acting could be elevated to full secretary or short lived...going back to Boeing. As per Friedman:
"While visiting U.S. soldiers in Iraq over Christmas, Trump praised Shanahan as a “good buyer” of military equipment, not some master strategist. “I’m in no rush” to replace him, the president declared."
"Shanahan has embraced some of the president’s pet projects. He’s championed increased sales of U.S.-made military goods and services to other countries, for example, and led Pentagon efforts to establish a new Space Force (an initiative Mattis at first resisted)."
"“He’s not gonna dictate. He’s gonna follow what the president’s intent is,” Ellison [a friend of Shanahan's] said. Shanahan, who is succeeding a man Trump reportedly resented for slow-walking his directives, is “an efficient doer of things,” he told me."
Friedman concludes: "Over the past year and a half, Larsen reflected, Shanahan has struck him as “the Sergeant Friday of the Pentagon,” a reference to the fictional Dragnet detective who famously followed the facts wherever they led. The problem, Larsen told me, is that “the president maybe doesn’t like the facts.”"
I'll watch and see...that's what Trump is also doing...