Trump Saw US Military As A Money-Making Venture From The Start Of His Presidency
From the day President Donald Trump set foot in the Oval Office, it was clear that his view of the world — and America’s role in it — would stand at odds with most in Washington. His “America First” ideology simply did not comport with the view of the United States as a global leader, no matter how often Trump might claim the country would become “respected” again on the world stage.
But during a meeting with top military leaders and officials in his administration just six months into his tenure, the president made clear that his views are also highly transactional, according to the book, “A Stable Genius.”
Several top officials — including Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — attempted to impart knowledge to the president on both history and the present, in hopes of broadening his understanding of the world.
But Trump’s black and white, transactional view of nearly every subject stubbornly commanded the discourse — even with regard to America’s armed forces, stationed in countries across the globe.
“We should charge them rent,” Trump reportedly said of South Korea. “We should make them pay for our soldiers. We should make money off of everything.”
After disparaging NATO, Trump went on to demean his own officials, saying, “We are owed money you haven’t been collecting! You would totally go bankrupt if you had to run your own business.”
The president reportedly raised the issue on another occasion as well, the book claims, during a December 2017 meeting in the Situation Room about Afghanistan.
Frustrated by the deployment of U.S. troops all over the world and struggling to come up with solid Afghanistan policy, Trump said other countries should be paying the U.S. for its military support.
“All these countries need to start paying us for the troops we are sending to their countries. We need to be making a profit,” he insisted. “We could turn a profit on this.”
Trump was informed by one official that charging other countries for U.S. military protection would be against the law, but it had no effect on the president’s position.
“[I]t just wasn’t working,” one former Trump aide recalled. “Nothing worked.”
Tillerson reportedly was incensed by the president's remarks, telling aides after the Tank meeting that he would never sit by and allow Trump to make such comments in the future without speaking up on the matter. It was also after the discussion in the Tank that Tillerson dropped his now famous remark about Trump: “He’s a f---ing moron."
Keeping to his word, after Trump's rant in the Situation Room, the secretary of state stood up, "turned his back to the president and faced the flag officers and the rest of the aides in the room."
“I’ve never put on a uniform, but I know this,” Tillerson said. “Every person who has put on a uniform, the people in this room, they don’t do it to make a buck. They did it for their country, to protect us. I want everyone to be clear about how much we as a country value their service.”
This was the beginning of the end for Tillerson's service under President Donald Trump.