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APRIL 11, 2017
It is a sign of intelligence to listen to experts and advisers. The same President Trump who can be gruff and erratic in public tweets is a commander in chief who is deferential and attentive when he talks to a star-studded cast of his closest military advisers. People familiar with the budding relationships portray Mr. Trump as often in listening mode among his generals and as accessible as the next phone call. They contrast the billionaire real estate developer’s affinity for the top brass with former President Barack Obama’s documented standoffishness.
The Tomahawk strike on Syria on Friday underscores that Washington’s warrior class is again in charge of presenting military options to the White House instead of the other way around. With three Marines and a soldier always nearby, perhaps no president in recent memory has surrounded himself on a daily basis with so many senior generals and their strategic brainpower.
A retired Marine general, James Mattis runs the Defense Department. His and Mr. Trump’s top military adviser is Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Another retired Marine four-star general, John F. Kelly is responsible for protecting 325 million U.S. residents as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. And Mr. Trump’s always-present national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, is an active-duty Army lieutenant general steeped in battlefield history and doctrine.
All four have fought on the ground in Iraq
against radical Islam. They bring to Mr. Trump a deep collective knowledge
of that country’s tribes and politicians who will lead a post-Islamic State
Iraq. Unlike Mr. Trump, these scholar warriors are also voracious readers.
Gen. McMaster, for example, wrote a book on how Lyndon B. Johnson bamboozled
the Joint Chiefs during the Vietnam War.