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December 8, 2020

Pentagon Pick Has a Bad Record

The rise of ISIS happened on his watch, and arguably because of his advice.

There are three things you should know about Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Pentagon, retired U.S. Army General Lloyd Austin. One of those things — he’ll be the first black defense secretary — is largely media churn. Another of those things is typical for the swamp — he became a lobbyist after his retirement four years ago. And one of those things is of utmost concern: He allegedly gave some terrible advice that led to the rise of the Islamic State.

As we noted last week, the most important theme of Biden’s foreign policy team is that it’s full of America-last globalist retreads from the Obama administration. So it’s little wonder that the media would rather focus on the fact that Austin is black.

Ironically, the identity-politics game has a few leftists “fuming.” The fact that Austin was chosen over frontrunner Michèle Flournoy, who would have been the first woman secretary of defense, irked many women. As Georgetown professor Оlga Belogolova put it, “A lot of women in national security are fuming tonight not b/c they wanted a woman to be nominated for SecDef just because. We’re fuming b/c the most uniquely qualified person for the position happened to be a woman. And she still didn’t get the job. And we’ve all been there.”

Meanwhile, the fact that Austin’s military career ended less than seven years ago means he must obtain a congressional waiver to serve as SecDef, in addition to confirmation by the Senate. There was once some grumbling among Democrats in particular about such waivers, however. Democrat Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, complained four years ago that “such waivers would destroy the principle [of civilian military control] that is so critical to an essential tenet of our civil and military relations.” A couple of Democrats are floating those same concerns now.

That brings us to the third thing worth knowing about Austin. His 41-year military career would be laudable except for the glaring fact that he last served as commander of Central Command, overseeing U.S. military operations in the Middle East. He did so during Barack Obama’s administration, and he bears some responsibility for the rise of the Islamic State. While Austin is sometimes credited with developing the strategy to fight ISIS, he was in reality cleaning up his own mess.

“Early in 2014, Obama’s intelligence advisers told him that ISIS was of marginal importance,” wrote Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic back in 2016. “According to administration officials, General Lloyd Austin … told the White House that the Islamic State was ‘a flash in the pan.’ This analysis led Obama, in an interview with The New Yorker, to describe the constellation of jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria as terrorism’s ‘jayvee team.’”

Austin also oversaw the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, a disastrous Obama policy that Joe Biden spearheaded. And he still owes some answers for why the U.S. spent $500 million to train only a handful of Syrian fighters.

Flournoy was criticized for being too hawkish for a Biden administration. Austin seemingly has the opposite problem and is unlikely to be the Pentagon leader best suited for America’s national security. But did we mention he’s black?


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