By Robert Weiner and Thekla Truebenbach
If President-elect Donald Trump means what he says about no unneeded wars, he should change the President's first briefing each day -- "The Daily Briefing" each morning -- from just military issues.
At the first presidential debate on September 26, 2016, Trump claimed: "I did not support the war in Iraq." He has criticized his former competitor Hillary Clinton multiple times because she voted for this war.
His attitude towards going to war sometimes seems to be more hesitant compared to what other commander in chiefs would do. At the NBC commander-in-chief forum on September 7 Trump said, referring to Clinton's decision of voting for wars in the Middle East: "I would be very, very cautious. I think I'd be a lot slower."
But even though Trump seems to have a quite slow and tentative approach, he could be persuaded by the military to invade other countries much quicker, because he does not seem to have a lot of expertise in the military field. The President-elect never went to war himself, he avoided the Vietnam war with the help of several deferments. Statements like "I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me. I would bomb the s--t out of them," he made at one of his rallies, engender doubt.
There is a long history of the "military-industrial complex" in the United States. In 1961, in his farewell address, President and Four-Star General Dwight Eisenhower warned the nation: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes."
The military-industrial complex describes the informal strong relationship between a country's military and the defense industry, having a big influence on public policy. Both sides participating in this bond profit by it: On the one side leaders planning wars get supplied with the necessary tools and on the other side defense companies earn billions of dollars by being involved in big governmental contracts. Much money is to be made on both ends, too much money to make independent public-policy decisions.
Trump could be subject to same conflict, despite his desires. Proof that the military complex has much power over public policy in the United States is the fact that the first briefing the president gets in the morning is a national-security briefing, mainly addressing military issues of the country and nations all over the world. The briefing paperwork is one of the most secret documents on earth, gathering very important information. It is single-subject oriented, showing the power of the military-industrial complex.
Some people said that President Obama was not as liberal as he could be. One of the reasons of that is this first briefing of the day pushing an agenda ostensibly not leaving the president a choice what he wants to put a focus on.
With President-elect Trump just learning the military business of the United States, giving the military-industrial complex even more power and the strong emphasis on military issues expressed through the President's first meeting of the day (and now Trump gets the briefing as well as President Obama), will color his administration. American politics and the economy are heavily influenced by this sector. It remains to be seen if Trump's unpredictable attitude towards the military and war will change anything about this strong bond. If he sticks to his statements claiming he wants to avoid wars, he must regulate the relationship between the military and politics.
The first briefing of the day should not mainly focus on military issues and be more balanced and less biased. This would be one way to assure that public policy in the United States of America is made for its people and not for the military.
Robert Weiner is a former spokesman for the Clinton White House and the U.S. House Government Operations Committee. Thekla Truebenbach is policy analyst at Robert Weiner Associates and Solutions for Change.