Santa’s Classified National Security Gift List for 2019

December 10, 2019
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To:      The Elves

From: Santa

Date:   December 10, 2019

Re:      Gifts for the National Security Community

Thank you all for your excellent suggestions at last week’s staff meeting! By this time of year, after spending months pulling my beard out watching these people, I usually feel like giving everyone involved in national security a giant lump of coal. But your constant good cheer always brings back my ho-ho-ho! Remember that this will be a live Google Doc until noon on Christmas Eve. We never know who’s going to get fired down there before we load up the sleigh!



Secretary of Defense Mark Esper: An electronic defense shield for the Pentagon to intercept and destroy all incoming presidential tweets, before they get interpreted as legal orders.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: A special advance copy of Quit Before You Get Fired, a forthcoming book by Rex Tillerson, along with a county-by-county map of Kansas for his impending Senate bid.

National Security Advisor John Bolton: Who’s the new guy again? No matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to remember his name. I guess it doesn’t matter much, since he probably won’t last long anyway.

CIA Director Gina Haspel: Still working on it. But please ask her to return her invisibility cloak to Santa. We have a huge number of requests for it, since it obviously is incredibly effective.

Every Pentagon and State Department Political Appointee: A handy, easy-to-install, White House-approved InstaQuit resignation app, to help avoid the awkwardness of that inevitable goodbye.

Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad: Newly re-drawn maps of Syria along with two gift-wrapped copies of the hit Mr. Rogers holiday movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.

Kim Jong Un: A festive black holiday “Pay Attention to Me” t-shirt, just in case the United States gets too focused on great-power competition.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: A long, warm Caribbean vacation cruise. Now that NATO has been declared “brain dead,” he’ll have plenty of time on his hands to relax and work on that long-neglected Scandinavian tan.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley: Unlimited Botox treatments, to freeze his facial expression in presidential meetings in some other position than a look of abject horror.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Jim McConville: A scary Godzilla mask, so that the amiable general can project the same “I can eat you for breakfast” look to Congress and the press as his two very intimidating predecessors.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday: Baby Yoda, delivered personally by the Mandalorian. He’s going to need all the cosmic kismet he can find to navigate the next few years. 2020 has got to be better.

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger: A special security detail (of marine veterans, of course) to protect him from the shipbuilding industry. I don’t think they’re too keen on his plans to disrupt age-old notions of how the Marine Corps will fight.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein: For the man who’s about to lose one of his two warfighting domains, a case of Feels Like Outer Space IPA and an Orion Nebula bottle opener.

Commander of U.S. Space Command Gen. Jay Raymond: Let’s wait on this one. If he ends up being a new service chief, he doesn’t need anything more from me.

Chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Joe Lengyel: Two years ago, some smart-aleck columnists gave him gray hair dye. That worked a little too well. This year, he gets a case of Clairol Nice’n Easy in Shade 3, Brown Black.

Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Karl Schultz: An interactive map showing the projected new and bigger U.S. coastline that he’ll need to protect as oceans continue to rise. Sounds like sleigh bells will be jingling for a big budget increase soon!

Commander of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan Gen. Scott Miller: A video of The Clash performing “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” to get psyched up for those videoconferences with Washington.

The Military Judge Advocate General Corps: A special White House holiday edition of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, with the newly optional clauses highlighted in yellow for quick reference.

Each of the 1.2 million soldiers in the Total Army: A year’s supply of Motrin, for the inevitable injuries sustained while preparing to take the new Army Combat Fitness Test in 2020.

U.S. Army Special Forces: A motto change kit. The longstanding Green Beret maxim De Oppresso Liber, which means “to free the oppressed,” gets one additional word: fortasse, which means “perhaps.” (Note to the elves: Please send a thank-you note to the Kurds for suggesting this one.)

U.S. Navy SEALs: A Merriam-Webster dictionary. Those guys just do not seem to understand the meaning of the words “quiet professionals.”

Conan The War Dog: A Zero Bark Thirty mug emblazoned with the image of Delta Force’s most popular pooch, and a lifetime supply of Milk Bones and jerky treats. Good dog!

That’s it for now, my loyal pixies! And remember to keep updating the Naughty List, since those national security types always seem to be getting themselves in trouble. Let’s keep up the good work for the remainder of the holiday season!

Yours in ice and snow,




Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, U.S. Army (Ret.) and Dr. Nora Bensahel are Visiting Professors of Strategic Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and Senior Fellows at the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies. They are also Contributing Editors at War on the Rocks, where their column appears monthly. Sign up for Barno and Bensahel’s Strategic Outpost newsletter to track their articles as well as their public events.

Image: Buckley Air Force Base