Politics and the military

The MilitaryTimes polls provide an interesting look into our armed forces. While not an all encompassing view, as Phil Carter points out, but it gives some insight into what the “military elite”.

Back in April 06, during the General Mutiny, I commented on what was clearly negative slope in military support for the President. I disagree with an assertion Rosa Brooks makes in her LA Times piece, Weaning the military from the GOP, when she writes the de-Republicanization of the military is only now surfacing, it’s been going for at least a couple of years.

I agree completely with Phil Carter’s comments, especially Issues vs. Party. I think the trend of returning vets running against Republicans proves this.

On a side note, listening to Tom Barnett’s Nov 2, 2005, talk at JHU’s Rethinking War series, Tom made an important comment on “customer satisfaction” and impact to emotional support systems of our soldiers when he said how little training his cousin received prior to deployment. Considering threats to military readiness, desperation to get troops into theater is causing families to second guess entering the warrior class. As Barnett says, the military lost he and his family because of how they threw his relative with substantially less training than another that joined earlier.

This Administration came into office with the intent of slapping the military around after it went “soft” under Clinton. With very real challenges to recruiting substantially raising the cost of each new soldier (Army has more difficulty in recruiting than the Marines… arguably the “occupation” vs “institution” point), what is the military becoming under this Administration?

The military, with its two masters, the Congress and the President, has been forced out of its advisory role through an inattentive and cow-towing legislative branch in favor of the very strong executive branch, with Donald Rumsfeld at the helm of the Pentagon. Now that Congress looks to regain its gripe on its oversight role and Rumsfeld is gone, we already see the budget and priority revisions being submitted.

I disagree that it is more partisan, or that any “sub-surface” partisanship that Brooks implies was a factor. While the military should be more reflective of the population as a whole, how has its current make-up affected its behavior or impacted our democracy? This is point Brooks doesn’t make clear.

It is timely to read Charles Stevenson opening paragraph in Warriors and Politicians: US Civil-Military Relations Under Stress:

United States armed forces take an oath to support and defend a piece of paper — the Constitution. The British military take an oath of allegiance to the monarch. German forces swear to defend the law and liberty of the people. The Japanese vow to maintain the nation’s independence and peace. Russians swear loyalty to the Fatherland. Perhaps not surprisingly, the French armed forces, after five republics, two empires, numerous monarchies and several attempted military coups, take no oath.

The US military is an extremely professional organization that is, by the very polls Brooks refers to, set on protecting the US. Unlike the Turkish military, we won’t have a military coup to protect the ideals of the state… wait, maybe we are on the path of a military coup in 2012. That’s only another five years… look at the concerns of the military in the polls…

Ultimately, the real problem is the civil-military divide, noticeably with increasing distance civilian decision makers have with military service and experience. Which is Phil Carter’s fourth point.

The decline in personal connections to the military as recruits and officers increasingly came from a distinct subset of society that increasingly lived in an insular world, the widening societal and cultural gap between civilians and the military gained momentum. Pre-All Volunteer Force conscription reflected and embodied social and political trends of the larger society, at least to greater degree than the AVF. The AVF made it easier for people with “other priorities” not to serve in the military and for some that did serve to view their time as another job and not a higher calling.

So what? What happens if we do not fix this. The Coup of 2012? Decreasing quality of out national defenses? Increasing use of military diplomacy, including militarized humanitarian aid, over traditional and public diplomacy?

Hopefully not, yes, and yes.

One thought on “Politics and the military

  1. Interesting to see these statements after the elections of 2008. Maye he is correct? I think the differences in the officer corp and enlisted is very on target.

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