Gen. Milley Shuts Down Tom Cotton At Tuesday Senate Hearing

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At a Tuesday hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley shut down a line of questioning from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) about why he hadn’t resigned in light of what Cotton characterized as a sidelining of Milley’s advice on certain issues. As Milley explained it, civilian oversight of the military is a critical element of the set-up in the United States, and his job, according to the law, is not to provide his advice on critical issues only when the president actually takes that advice.

Cotton asked as follows:

‘General Milley, I can only conclude that your advice about staying in Afghanistan was rejected. I’m shocked to learn that your advice wasn’t sought until August 25 on staying past the August 31 deadline. I understand that you’re the principal military adviser; that you advise, you don’t decide. The president decides. But if all this is true, General Milley, why haven’t you resigned?’

Milley replied with the following:

‘As a senior military officer, resigning is a really serious thing. It’s a political act, if I’m resigning in protest. My job is to provide advice. My statutory responsibility is to provide legal advice, or best military advice, to the president… The president doesn’t have to agree with that advice. He doesn’t have to make those decisions just because we’re generals, and it would be an incredible act of political defiance for a commissioned officer to just resign because my advice is not taken. This country doesn’t want generals figuring out what orders we are going to accept and do or not. That’s not our job. The principle of civilian control of the military is absolute — it’s critical to this Republic.’

Watch Milley’s comments below:

At the hearing, Milley also addressed concerns about calls that he made to a Chinese general towards the end of the Trump presidency. On those calls, Milley sought to reassure the Chinese that the U.S. would not be attacking — and contrary to characterizations of his actions as rogue or subversive, Milley explained how he was in contact and coordination with officials across the Defense Department.