Syria and Civil-Military Relations
My latest for The Atlantic, “It Isn’t the Military’s Place to Weigh In on the Syria Debate,” has posted.
Many reports in recent weeks have expressed frustration from serving officers, most of whom “agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity because military personnel are reluctant to criticize policymakers while military campaigns are being planned.”
In fact, they ought be more than reluctant. They simply should not do it.
For the record, I tend to share much of the skepticism about the now-on-hold operation and frustration with the public diplomacy that got us here. For that matter, I sympathize with members of the armed services, many of whom have been deployed multiple times to fight in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in being hostile to the idea of yet another engagement — even one that would ostensibly be limited to a few airstrikes. But while service members are human beings and will naturally have private views on proposed military action, they have a professional duty to refrain from public commentary on decisions that are the purview of Congress and their commander-in-chief.
It’s a fundamental tenet of our system that civilian leaders make policy and that soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines carry it out faithfully and vigorously. For members of the uniformed military, and in particular its commissioned officers, to publicly question the president on such matters is a violation of professional military ethics and is dangerous to civilian-military relations.
Much more at the link but that’s the core argument.