Can serving military publicly oppose the President? Has our military become a Palace Guard?
A colleague just forwarded to me an email in which it seems active duty military are beginning to oppose the Commander in Chief. It also referenced the loss of American lives.
To oppose the CINC publicly must not be done by serving military. Those in the military serve the chain of command, at the top of which is the president. He is their superior. One willingly gives-up a level of freedom of speech in any large organization, and certainly in the military. In any organization the expectation is that one “rides for the brand,” that when you take one’s money you don’t criticize them. Veterans, however, are an entirely different question. Just as does any citizen of our republic, they have the right and obligation to speak-out on policy. (And the recent instance of serving general officers publicly castigating veterans for so doing is an embarrassment to those general officers: America’s soldiers are citizens FIRST, and soldiers SECOND. One wonders if, in the post-9/11 world, we have allowed the pendulum to swing too far, if we have begun glorifying the military too much.)
But the issue is frankly much, much deeper.
We have an executive-level military (Service Chiefs and senior generals, admirals and NCOs) who are absolutely derelict in their ONLY Constitutional duty: To protect and defend the Constitution. This is not an attack on the military or those serving in lands distant or near to protect America; it absolutely is an attack on the highest ranks alone.
A majority of states currently have lawsuits on their way to SCOTUS re: anti-Constitutional activities of this administration. DREAM and DOMA come to mind immediately, but are not the only instances. Both are violations of Separation of Powers, and each is a direct violation of the president’s Constitutional role of executing the laws as passed by Congress. DREAM was rejected by a vote of Congress, yet Obama is enforcing it as would a despot. DOMA was passed by Congress, and signed by President Clinton, and Obama publicly has stated his refusal to enforce it. He has no Constitutional authority to take either of these actions. These actions are in direct violation of our Constitutional structure; they are unconstitutional. For the military to say, ‘well, we can’t protect and defend the Constitution from a domestic enemy because he’s the CINC,’ is not credible. The Founders had Benedict Arnold as an example at the writing of the Constitution, a man who very well could have become a president. There is no way the Founders would not have included the president as a possible opponent of the Constitution; hence they gave the military the responsibility to defend the Constitution. And their role is to protect the CONSTITUTION. Not the president; not the Congress — the CONSTITUTION.
Had the Founders assigned the military to the President as his personal guard, to do whatever the president ordered them to do (as they have been acting for decades now), the oath to protect and defend the Constitution would have been the president’s alone, and NOT the military’s; the military would be expected to do whatever the president ordered. They did NOT write it that way. The military is NOT subservient to the president; it is subservient to the Congress until war is declared, to the representatives of the People. Only Congress can declare war (Article 1 Section 8). The military force of the United States ONLY comes under control of the president AFTER Congress “call[s] [the military] into the actual Service of the United States.”
The Constitution is VERY clear on how the military can be committed to war: “The President shall be the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States;…” (Article 2, Section 2). The Constitution was very carefully written. Look at the structure of that sentence: “… shall be Commander in Chief…, … , when called into the actual Service…” ONLY the Congress can “call into the actual Service” the military. ONLY CONGRESS. America has not declared war since December 1941, yet our military, since 1950, has agreed to go to combat WITHOUT a Declaration of War. Korea: UN vote – no Declaration. Vietnam: Tonkin Gulf – fabricated – and no Declaration. Desert Storm, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq: no Declaration. Libya, Yemen, Pakistan – all countries in which our military is killing people at the sole behest of the president. And now we have boots on the ground on the Jordan/Syria border without any action by Congress at all. Do we have a Constitutional republic or a monarchy?
This is NOT the Rule of Law. This is the – lethal – rule of man.
And the military is enabling it.
(In Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, and now Syria, Congress hasn’t even been asked by Obama for a use-of-force authorization. And the War Powers Resolution and any “use of force” authorizations are just Congress punting their Constitutional responsibility over to the president, saying, ‘well if you want to, go ahead,’ usually, perhaps always, later to attack the president for so doing, when a responsible, adult Congress would take its Constitutional role seriously rather than giving it away to the president, sometimes without even being asked (Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Libya), and act as the representatives of those they are going to send to war, conducting debate and taking a vote and THEN committing the NATION, not just the military, to war.)
If you remember Lt Calley and the My Lai massacre of Vietnam, you remember that illegal orders are just that, regardless of from whom they come. Constitutionally, the role of the Service Chiefs, when called to service by the president and asked to go kill and die, is to say, “Yes, Sir, as soon as Congress deploys us and we come under your command, we’ll deploy and bring to-bear all national force to destroy the enemy.” But absent Congress “call[ing] into actual Service” the military, a president sending our military to war is as illegal as were the orders on which Lt. Calley relied to wipe-out a village of civilians. And illegal orders cannot be followed. This was just HAMMERED into us at the AF Academy when I was a Cadet during Vietnam. Nothing on that topic in the UCMJ has changed. For our senior service commanders to just do whatever the president tells them is not Constitutional; it is illegal, crazy and childish – and it is killing Americans.
But wait – there’s more. Our service chiefs are responsible for the ROE under which those willing to kill and die in defense of our nation are having their lives wasted. America NEVER has sent men into combat under ROE as restrictive as those in Afghanistan and Iraq. NEVER. It is immoral in the extreme for our service chiefs to allow ROE like these in combat zones. For ROE alone the services ought to refuse to send their men into combat. For ROE alone, field commanders ought to say, “No,” even at the risk of their careers. The British military mutinied a couple of times when they were asked to do ridiculous things; the Empire survived. Yet our Chiefs and field commanders just send our young men to their deaths. They say – ‘our job is to follow orders.’ That didn’t work for Lt. Calley in My Lai, and it should not – must not – work for the field commanders and service chiefs now.
This all really means our military has decided at the highest levels to become nothing other than a Palace Guard, to fight, kill and die at the behest of one man. And that not only is NOT their role, it is antithetical TO their role.
A couple of years ago I ran this reasoning past my USAFA roommate, a retired career fighter pilot with 26 years of duty in USAFE and PACAF and the Pentagon. His reply was that everyone he knows who was “still in” was just trying to keep their heads down. Nothing in the oath taken by ANY of the millions of those of us who have served in the military contains the concept, “keep our heads down.”
ALL of us gave our oath to protect and defend the Constitution. A Constitution being trampled on by this president. Congress is allowing it. The military senior command is enabling it.
THIS is what Eisenhower warned us against. His warning was NOT just against civilian defense contractors, but a military-civilian infrastructure, a “military-industrial complex” in which defense contractors assist compliant men and women in being elected and re-elected in order to increase profits, and a military putting career paths (promotion is better in times of combat) above their oaths to protect and defend.
The military command structure – civilian and general/flag officer – by NOT protecting the Constitution and by becoming a Palace Guard, has been complicit in the ongoing displacement of the Rule of Law by the Rule of Man; in the – accelerating – destruction of the Constitution.
And, just for the record, no American lives have been “lost” in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have been TAKEN; STOLEN by an enemy our service leaders, civilian and military, are unwilling to destroy. And those losses can NEVER be replaced. How many future Einsteins, Warhols, Hemingways, Faulkners are we losing because those who would have been their parents lie dead in the sands of the Middle East, often because they were not allowed to kill those killing them, and always because we chose, willingly, not to destroy the enemies we sent them to fight?
If we are not willing to destroy an enemy we send men to kill and to die to try to stop, we have no business being there. If we have the means to destroy this enemy at zero cost in American lives, and do not use those means, sacrificing our best & brightest instead, we are making the most immoral choice that can be made. Truman understood this. No CINC since has.
Try to imagine, if you can, a real combat general, Lee, Grant, Pershing, Patton, Bradley, Ridgeway, MacArthur, Clark, sending his men into battle but not allowing them to destroy a building from which they were taking lethal fire, not allowing them to kill enemy ammo carriers during a gunfight, forcing them to enter a small building to engage enemy shooters man-on-man rather than just blowing away that building with a round from a tank main gun, or sending them at all when the enemy can be destroyed – and any capacity to kill Americans wiped out (the purpose of the war to begin with) – without doing so. It is existentially absurd.
Americans are dying because of it.
Fighting as we do now would be as though in WW2 we refused to bomb Berlin or Tokyo, rejected the utter destruction of ammo dumps, food sources, manufacturing capability, electrical and water infrastructure, and didn’t return fire from buildings as we walked across Europe or island-hopped across the Pacific. It is insane. It is immoral. It wasting the lives of Americans. And if we aren’t going to fight to win, it is wasting the lives of our opponents, as well, for a cause in which we don’t really believe.
Think about that: If we actually believed in our cause, we’d kill the enemy we are sent to fight and utterly destroy his capacity to fight at all. That we are not doing so means not only that we really don’t believe in our cause – but also that we are willing to send our own young men to die – and to kill others – for a cause in which we don’t believe. Is there anything crazier than that?
Then think about this: We send men to kill and die in “limited war.” What’s the result? Who was or will be a better military, economic and political ally 20 years on: Germany in 1965, or Vietnam in 1995? Japan in 1965 or Iraq or Afghanistan in 2034? Over time general war is better for us, better for them. “Limited war” is nonsense, it is crazy, it wastes lives and treasure, and it never yet has had a good result. Doing the same thing and expecting different results is clinical insanity.
We sit here and pretend we’re that episode of the 1960s Star Trek TV melodrama in which two planets at “war” had their computers dial-up how many citizens should die today, and then their leaders rounded-up that many people and killed them, and the people being killed willingly went along for the “greater good.” War is all about destruction; real destruction. War IS Hell – it MUST be. And it goes on until one side understands it’s been destroyed – utterly – and quits the fight. Anything less than total war is not serious – other than to the people needlessly killed by leaders unwilling to face reality and act as adults. And people being killed in “limited war” are being sacrificed for a cause in which their leaders don’t really even believe.
Anything less than the Hell of real war will become — has become over the past half-century — something too-easily engaged in, with lethal results for those trusting their lives to superiors not serious about the cause, lives utterly wasted when ultimately we quit the fight not having accomplished the goal, if we even knew or agreed upon the goal to begin with: Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and now Syria.
Palace Guard. Dereliction of duty by our Service Chiefs and flag officers, plain and simple.
This administration is an enemy of the Constitution. And these service chiefs – civilian and military – are complicit.
Americans are dying because of both.