US President Joe Biden has reportedly picked the charismatic US Air Force General Charles Q Brown to replace the all-but-disgraced chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, US Army General Mark A Milley.
Brown will become Biden’s top military adviser, whose mission will be to help achieve an unambiguous victory of Ukraine over Russia and deter a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
The decision by President Biden to pick Brown over a traditional military strategist such as Marine Commandant General David H Berger underlines what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has shown the world: Communication defeats brute military strength.
Brown, a black fighter pilot, never hesitates to recount how differently he was treated versus an archetype, Tom Cruise, in the Hollywood blockbuster Top Gun/Maverick and notes that in real life, only 2% of US fighter pilots are black.
“I’m thinking about my Air Force career where I was often the only African-American in my squadron or, as a senior officer, the only African-American in the room. I’m thinking about wearing the same flight suit with the same wings on my chest as my peers, and then being questioned by another military member, ‘Are you a pilot?’” Brown said in an interview with Defense One.
Brown, unlike Milley, is a maverick, having become the first black to be Chief of Staff of the US Air Force and then the second chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after the late US secretary of state General Colin Powell.
Brown matches his words with actions. He’s currently organizing a monument dedicated to the Tuskegee Airmen, the black fighter aces of World War II later immortalized by George Lucas’ film Red Tails, at the Ramitelli Airfield in Campo Marino in the southern Italian region of Molise and the political heartland of the now pro-American, pro-Ukraine Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
The Tuskegee pilots are a living symbols of the sacrifice and heroism black Americans have given to the United States in all its wars. Living Tuskegee Airmen include William T Fauntroy, brother of a key Martin Luther King supporter, the Reverend Walter Fauntroy, while the late Emmett John Rice was father of former White House national security adviser and now domestic policy adviser to Biden, Susan Rice.
Not only does Brown front USAF recruiting ads but he shakes up the chain of command by acting as an “undercover boss” by engaging in no-holds-barred conversations with enlisted ranks whenever he visits US Air Force bases, to the great chagrin of the accompanying brass.
Brown is fully aware that he must be effective in the near term in Ukraine and Taiwan to prevent the US arms industry from pushing Congress to balloon military spending to levels not seen since World War II.
Major US defense groups such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamic have spared no expense on lobbying Congress that the United States needs to re-create a new “industrial military complex” – producing arms for arms’ sake as criticized by the late president Dwight Eisenhower – so that in the next two years the military will have enough weapons to challenge China and defeat Russia in a new world war.
Such a military buildup risks in effect bankrupting the United States, but would be little help to Ukraine’s efforts to defeat Russia this year and probably not arrive in time for an eventual ground war with China.
Instead, Brown can use his power as presidential adviser to have President Biden order defense companies either to acquire private-sector Ukrainian arms companies or create joint-venture companies, as Germany’s Rheinmetall AG did with Ukraine’s state defense holding Ukroboronprom, which envages an initial US$200 million investment to build and repair Panther KF51 battle tanks in Ukraine.
The White House and Congress can effectively force other European arms companies dependent on US Department of Defense contracts such as Italy’s Leonardo SpA and the UK’s BAE Systems to shorten the supply chain by acquiring Ukrainian defense and dual-use companies.
South Korea also indicated its willingness to join forces with US arms companies to produce weapons for the Ukraine war and a military conflict involving China and North Korea during President Yoon Suk Yeol’s state visit with President Biden on April 26.
L3 Harris chief executive officer Chris Kubasik is also looking at taking a page from Microsoft president and vice-chairman Brad Smith in making a significant Ukraine investment to put public pressure on US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chairwoman Lina Khan to approve its $4.67 billion acquisition of US rocket=fuel supplier Aerojet Rocketdyne. The takeover already has the full approval of the Pentagon.
This year Microsoft announced that it had signed a wide-ranging partnership agreement with Kiev-based Boosteroid, the world’s third-largest cloud gaming company, as part of its proposed $70 billion takeover of Activision.
In fact, Brad Smith is preparing a trip to Kiev joining Boosteroid CEO Ivan Shvaichenko to highlight the transformational partnership agreement to the world’s media and also highlight the arbitrary opposition to the Activision takeover by Lisa Khan and her “allied” authority, the UK Competition Market Authority (CMA). On Monday the European Union approved Microsoft’s takeover of Activision.
Microsoft’s footprint with Activision/Xbox in the gaming industry would be half the size of its nearest rival, Tokyo-based Sony unit PlayStation. PlayStation has spent millions upon millions to lobby Khan and the CMA to block the merger.
It will be to everyone’s benefit if General Brown can fully exploit his talent as a communicator – in the same way Zelensky has used his gift as a political satirist to unite his country – to advise Biden on how to defeat Russian aggression in Ukraine and prevent any land war with China.
Peter K Semler is the chief executive editor and founder of Capitol Intelligence. Previously, he was the Washington, DC, bureau chief for Mergermarket (Dealreporter/Debtwire) of the Financial Times and headed political and economic coverage of the US House of Representatives and Senate.