There is a sobering reality beyond this week’s strange “Where’s Waldo?” story of the USS Carl Vinson and its strike group: For a period of time, significant confusion existed as to the location of a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group, one of the most potent weapons in the American arsenal, at a moment of high tension on the Korean Peninsula.
Although not (yet) a major crisis, this incident portends deep problems with the White House, its chain of command, and its approach to national security. At best, The Vinson episode suggests policy gaps between the president and his top military advisers over how to act toward North Korea. Worse, it appears the president has not firmly established control over the chain of command—or that he possibly overdelegated authority to his generals and admirals. Further, this incident sends deeply disturbing signals to allies and adversaries regarding the president’s control over the military and the credibility of his statements, diluting the deterrent value of American words and actions.
Let’s start with two fundamental premises of U.S. civil-military relations. First, the president is the elected commander in chief of the military; short of declaring war, he has the power to order military deployments and operations, and be held politically accountable for them. Second, the president ought to know with accuracy the locations and readiness of major U.S. military assets, and have the ability to command those forces as needed to protect the country.
Read the full article at Slate.