Jawohl, Herr Leutnant Kelly!

Among the old Prussian Junkers, it was said that the human species began with the lieutenant. The status to appear at royal court functions, or Hoffahigkeit, began with that rank. Non-noble civil servants had to attain Class 4, equivalent to an assistant minister, to enjoy the same privilege. White House chief of staff John Kelly’s bizarre lecture to members of the press about who are “the best” Americans recalls what went so wrong in that 19th century Sparta of military extremism, which was dismantled by the Allies after World War I precisely because of its endemic threat to peace. As a Marine Corps officer, Kelly was trained to convince very young men that they should charge when ordered into the most cannon-fodder circumstances of modern warfare.┬áIt is understandable, then, that after a lifetime of this regimen, he might confuse regimental imperatives with the rest of life’s exigencies. The White House as an institution, however, is already under enormous sociopolitical stress, and if he cannot see clearly the line between the corps and the citizenry, then he should retire–schnell.

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