Strategic Outpost’s 2017 Holiday Shopping List

December 12, 2017
POTD December 1 2017-2

Welcome holiday shoppers! “Strategic Outpost” continues its annual year-end tradition by sharing with you, our faithful readers, our 2017 holiday shopping list. This year, our team of crack cyber-experts has secretly hacked into the Amazon Wish Lists of some of the big names (and heavyweight organizations) in national security to give you a sneak peek at some of their hot gift items. And for those luminaries whose lists were filled with uninspired choices, we’ve added our own suggestions. So, here’s a head start for your high-end holiday shopping!

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis: A Magic 8-Ball, to put some scientific rigor into those big upcoming Pentagon decisions. Invade Iran? “Outlook good.” Nuke North Korea? “Signs point to yes.” Buy more F-35s? “You may rely on it.” Stay on for the first full term? “Reply hazy try again.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: A POTUS-signed copy of Keeping Your Head After Losing Your Job: How to Survive Unemployment, with two bookmarks strategically placed in Chapter 2 (“You Have a Right to Your Feelings”) and Chapter 6 (“Why Me? Feeling Like a Victim or Becoming Empowered”).

The Foreign Service: Our deepest sympathy.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly: A 700ml bottle of Jameson’s Select Reserve Black Barrel Irish Whiskey — just to make it to lunchtime on Monday after yet another Twitter-filled weekend.

National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster: A DeLorean time machine to travel back to Feb. 19, 2017, the day he met with the president at Mar-a-Lago, so he can tank the interview and make sure someone else gets appointed. Some tips: interrupt often, badmouth Fox & Friends, and insist that The Amazing Race totally deserved to beat The Apprentice in the 2005 Emmy awards.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford: In the finest Marine tradition, a new Combat Action Ribbon for surviving the first eleven months of the Trump administration — and so far, without a Purple Heart.

The Joint Staff: 7,000 gift-wrapped orders of the Appropriate Civil-Military Relations Gift Set, which includes a copy of The Soldier and the State, Supreme Command, and a pocket-sized copy of the U.S. Constitution.

The Staff of the Office of the Secretary of Defense: Six cases of “Joint-Staff-Be-Gone” spray cans, to help get the uniforms out of their business. Their second choice? A top-of-the line karaoke machine, so they can blast Aretha Franklin’s hit “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” around the office.

The National Security Council Staff: Free lifetime memberships to the nearest Bikram Yoga studio to find that inner calm. (Alternate gift upon request: Unlimited rail drinks at the Benjamin Bar and Lounge, just down the street in the lobby of the Trump International Hotel.)

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley: A gift card to Home Depot so he can buy all the wood, nails, and glass he needs to build a spiffy new display case for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson: An annual two-week training exercise led by U.S. Marines inside the Arctic Circle for the Navy football team, just in case this year’s Army-Navy snow debacle ever happens again.

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Bob Neller: Permission to use the Army Corps of Engineers to widen the Potomac and add a ton of sand to the riverbanks, so he can conduct amphibious training in the nation’s capital — with lots of congressional observers, of course.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein: Enough optionally manned airplanes in hand before the Air Force runs out of optionally serving pilots.

Director of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Joe Lengyel: A case of Clairol Color Crave Temporary Hair Color Makeup in Shimmering Platinum. Because no one feels comfortable seeing a member of the Joint Chiefs who has no gray hair.

Commander of U.S. Strategic Command Gen. John Hyten: A copy of Dr. Strangelove: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb, with a special gift message from the commander-in-chief: “John, I loved this movie! Don’t worry about illegal orders. You need to be more like George C. Scott!”

Commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. Joe Votel: Nothing, because the man already has everything: unlimited bombs, an unlimited authorization for the use of military force, and unlimited carte blanche to write his own rules of engagement.

Commander of U.S. European Command Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti: 28 gift-wrapped DVD sets of Occupied, one for each NATO ally, as a guide to their future warm relations with Russia.

Commander of U.S. Pacific Command Adm. Harry Harris: A shiny new ambassadorship to Australia, because what the State Department needs more than anything else right now is for more generals and admirals to become diplomats.

Commander of U.S. Cyber Command Adm. Mike Rogers: Free downloads of the world-renowned Kaspersky Internet Security program to safeguard whatever hacking tools still remain secure on the NSA network.

Senior women in national security: Framed copies of this year’s TIME “Person of the Year” cover. Because you deserve it too.

We hope this list reminds you that even in our very serious business, there’s room to poke some wry fun, laugh a bit, and celebrate this special season together. We will be back in January with another year of reasoned and discerning national security analysis, regularly garnished with some much-needed humor. Happy holidays to all and best wishes for a terrific 2018!


Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, USA (Ret.) is a Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, and Dr. Nora Bensahel is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence, at the School of International Service at American University. Both also serve as Nonresident Senior Fellows at the Atlantic Council. Their column appears in War on the Rocks monthly. Sign up for Barno and Bensahel’s Strategic Outpost newsletter to track their articles as well as their public events.

Image: White House/Joyce N. Boghosian