Sunday, December 18, 2011

Civ-Mil 101

Interesting quote by the relatively new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in reaction to the GOP candidates all outbidding each other to be the lackey of the generals:
"I'll probably make news with this but I find some of those articles about divergence or control of the generals to be kind of offensive to me," Dempsey told reporters traveling with him in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
"And here's why. One of the things that makes us as a military profession in a democracy is civilian rule. Our civilian leaders are under no obligation to accept our advice; and that's what it is. Its advice. It's military judgments, it's alternatives, it's options. And at the end of the day, our system is built on the fact that it will be our civilian leaders who make that decision and I don't find that in any way to challenge my manhood, nor my position. In fact, if it were the opposite, I think we should all be concerned."
Oh my.  Dempsey is absolutely right.  I remember finding it interesting that our job on the Joint Staff was to provide the best politico-military advice (that there we were well aware that there is no such thing as strictly military stuff).

On twitter, Lauren Jenkins pondered whether GOP candidates' statements could still be read as civillian rule, just dumb civilian rule.  My response: no!  Doing whatever the generals want is surrendering control of the military.  Dempsey's quote makes clear what control really means.

Of course, this quote does raise a question--making such a statement in the middle of campaign season is an intervention of a military officer into the domestic politics of the US.  So, is it a violation of civilian control of the military or a reinforcement thereof?  I think I found an essay question for my Civ-Mil class next semester.

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