It was Claire McCaskill, the Democratic senator from Missouri, who pithily described the emerging cabinet, as it takes shape under US president-elect Donald Trump’s (tiny?) hands: “It’s the G&G cabinet,” she said, “It does seem to be fairly limited to Goldman Sachs and generals.”
Here’s the tally so far. Three generals – John Kelly, James Mattis, Mike Flynn – have been named. For the moment, let’s ignore the other military men under consideration – David Petraeus, Admiral Mike Rogers. And let’s not bother about the other people with military backgrounds who will play roles in the administration – Mike Pompeo to lead the CIA; former naval officer Stephen Bannon as the 45th president’s chief strategist and senior counselor.
What does all of this say about Mr Trump? Or indeed his incoming administration?
It’s not necessarily a bad thing to have military spit and polish in an administration but there’s a reason civilian governments aren’t run by armies.
One retired general (who’s not been picked for the cabinet) has been quoted somewhere to say that too many generals might have people wondering if it’s a civilian government at all. “If you have a significant number of [former military members] in your cabinet, you begin to bring into some question whether you actually are maintaining full civil control of a nation,” said General David Barno.
And retired lieutenant colonel and military scholar Andrew Bacevich offered this gem: “One more three or four-star general given a senior appointment, and we can start referring to a Trump junta rather than a Trump Administration.”
“Trump junta” sounds like a good headline but is that strictly true?
No, because there hasn’t been a military takeover. America held an election and its electoral college system will, on December 19, pick Mr Trump. This is no junta, for all that it has generals.
What it actually may be shaping up to be is something else. A Khakistocracy, a word that may have been created by Nigerian author Helon Habila from khaki and kakistocracy to refer to the military despots of Nigeria, who rule in collusion with the elite and the business class. Habila wrote this as far back as 2003, in his first novel ‘Waiting for an Angel’.
Khakistocracies are mostly found in Nigeria, Pakistan, Egypt, Portugal, Thailand, Iraq and North Korea.
And possibly, after January 20, in the United States.