Twitter, Generals, and the Limits of Public Discourse

In the weeds of civil-military relations.

My latest for Defense One, “‘A’ for Effort, ‘F’ for Execution as a General Defends Women in Service,” is both likely a bit too much in the civil-military relations weeds for lay readers and unlikely to meet with much agreement here. Alas, these are perilous times for public trust in military leadership and it’s easy to inflame the situation.

It’s also rather challenging to excerpt, relying as it does on some niggling details. Essentially, a popular and upwardly mobile two-star general got into a social media kerfuffle with Tucker Carlson and other MAGA types and got a wee bit too enthusiastic in defending women servicemembers and DoD COVID policy.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, National Security, Published Elsewhere, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Andy says:

    Good essay. I agree with your analysis and conclusions.

    It’s yet another example of Twitter making an intelligent person act stupidly. The mind cancer strikes again.

    I would just add the tweets were not only unprofessional but counter-productive. It had the effect of raising Carlson’s status, not diminishing it.

  2. SKI says:

    In fact, the initial allegations against Donahoe reportedly involved not only “improper use of social media” but also “toxic and counterproductive leadership” and “failing to treat a subordinate with dignity and respect.” My strong guess is that it was the latter two, not the first, that were behind the decision to suspend the general’s retirement pending investigation. Indeed, I can’t imagine that the service would have taken such unusual action over some ill-advised tweets alone.

    Did you not read the actual IG report? They explicitly found the toxic allegations were without substance or support.

  3. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    @SKI: Did you not read the actual article? Joyner explicitly noted the more serious allegations were found to be without merit.

  4. steve says:

    Agree. Its one thing to say snarky or silly things on an anonymous setting. Once you go public you are representing your organization whether you think you are or not. We go over this with all of our staff pretty often. I actually find it pretty disappointing a senior officer would do this stuff. I totally understand the temptation but you just dont do it. Also as Andy said it didnt accomplish much. What’s the old saying? When you get down in the mud with he pigs you get dirty and the pigs stay happy?


  5. Jay L Gischer says:

    It should come as no surprise that I agree too.

    Frankly, there are times, here on this forum, that a commenter will post something that I agree with on the substance, but their manner of expression is so hostile and demeaning, that I refrain from posting agreement for fear of appearing to endorse the subtextual message.