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Former NATO commander James Stavridis: Trump White House is a 'chaos machine'

Daniel Roberts
Senior Writer

U.S. Navy Admiral James Stavridis served as the commander of both U.S. Southern Command and U.S. European Command, and from 2009 to 2013 was NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe. In 2016, he reportedly came close to being named Hillary Clinton’s running mate, before she chose Sen. Tim Kaine.

Now Stavridis has written a book on leadership, “Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character.” In a visit to Yahoo Finance on Thursday to discuss the devolving political situation in Turkey and Syria, Stavridis assessed the overall leadership of President Trump.

“It’s just such a chaos machine,” Stavridis says. “I look at close friends of mine like H.R. McMaster, who was the national security adviser, Jim Mattis, John Kelly, who for a time was the chief of staff—all of them have seen their reputations diminished. All of them tried hard to serve as a kind of guardrail set around an extremely, shall we say, exuberant president. President Trump is utterly decisive, the problem is he makes a decision but then he often reverses course. Very very difficult to be in that environment. When I worked for President Obama, I found the opposite—he’s so deliberate and takes such a long time to make a decision, because he wants to measure everything. There’s probably a balance in there that would be appropriate for making those kinds of decisions.”

Stavridis also offered commentary on Trump’s frequent use of Twitter.

“There are times when a good, sharp tweet can move a situation—think of it as a shot of espresso in the morning,” he says. “The problem is if you did 42 shots of espresso before lunch.”

Adm. James G. Stavridis, US Navy, commander, U.S. European Command/Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Interestingly, Stavridis’s assessment of Trump’s decision-making matches almost verbatim the comments that former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made to Yahoo Finance earlier this week.

Both military veterans say it would be “very difficult” to advise Trump on military strategy.

Carter said that when he served under President Obama, “When I and the chairman left the sit room, I never left without clarity. We knew what the president decided we had to do. I would find today’s environment very difficult because you don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s hard to be consistent and excellent in implementation. It’s one thing if the president doesn’t take your advice. But if you don’t even know what he wants, that’s a whole other problem.”

Daniel Roberts is the sports business writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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