Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Gen. Dunford Provides Leadership

It is as if Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford knew that our National Security Policy class was discussing civil-military relations this week. On Monday, Gen. Dunford wrote a Medium blog post in which he encouraged his subordinates to “guard against allowing our institution to become politicized, or even perceived as being politicized, by how we conduct ourselves during engagements with the media.” Gen. Dunford rightly understands that his role “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States” trumps (pun intended) partisanship. Mr. Dunford has provided a welcome reminder that the military should conduct themselves with professionalism in carrying out their duty, regardless of their  personal political views or the political make-up in the Executive and Congressional branches. These are timely and important words from the Marine Corps general.

In the midst of a chaotic election cycle that is generating a lot of hysteria and panic, Gen. Dunford's blog encourages the military to "keep calm and carry on." And in all actuality, the majority of the military and defense establishment is most certainly worried about a Trump presidency. In fact, many have threatened to resign if Trump wins. See here, and here, and here. Yet, "summoning up all his self-discipline against that unmanly emotion, panic", Gen. Dunford has conducted himself just as he should.

Indeed, Gen. Dunford's blog post exemplifies the military leadership we need during this election — something that seems to be increasingly rare. For throughout the past year, both Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican Party nominee Donald Trump have been courting voters by touting their military supporters, which is threatening to blur the line between civil and military relations. We have witnessed two retired Generals publicly campaign for the candidate they support. As Mackubin Thomas Owens, a retired colonel in the Marine Corps reserve put it, "The military is not a partisan prize, and it should not be used for this."

Former Generals Mike Flynn (Left) and John Allen (Right) have publicly endorsed Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, respecively.
In The Soldier and the State, Samuel Huntington argues that their are two approaches to civilian control of the military: subjective and objective. The former involves a close interaction between military and political elites whereas the latter advocates for a hard distinction between military organizations and civilian.  Huntington favored the objective approach and makes a great argument as why it should be so. Yet, one of the essential components of objective control is that "civilian control is more secure when the military is politically neutral." When the military interferes in a civilian election, the objective control model is compromised. Current Military leaders should listen to Gen. Dunford.

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