General Martin Dempsey And An Apolitical Military

It is hard for an institution composed of men prone to action and solving problems, imbued with discipline, and need I say heavily armed, to stand by and watch politicians ruin the country they are sworn to defend. Few armies have been immune from the urge. Even the British Army, from which our military draws a lot of its traditions, has succumbed to the temptation. In other counties, pick a random Latin American country, for instance, military coups have nearly become national traditions.


One of the hallmarks of the United States military that distinguishes it from virtually all the militaries in the world is that it has historically been a loyal servant of the government elected by the American people. We should all be thankful that our military, even during really bad situations (for instance, 1862, 1951, 1968), always refrained from setting its own course. Of course, there have been people who urged the military to do just that for their own political amusement.

Back in 2005, David Ignatius wrote a column in which he encouraged general officers to “push back” against the Bush administration. After Obama was elected I acquired some momentary notoriety for treating the Oathkeepers with the same contempt that I’d directed towards Ignatius. Why anyone would want armed and disciplined men deciding which orders they preferred to follow escapes me.

On the other hand, veterans are not bound by this convention. Veterans are free to speak out on politics and to take place in the political debates of the time. And they are free to do so without being chastised for that participation. Unless, that is, they are opposing a Democrat candidate, for instance John Francois Kerry, or an incumbent president like Barack Hussein Obama.


Now one understands why the White House would be upset that a group of real door-kickers is  upsetting the script by criticizing Obama for the hagiographic leaks emanating from the White House portraying the man-in-mom-jeans as a tough, engaged leader of men. One even expects a pustulent relic like Bob Beckel to say that such criticism is tantamount to treason. What took this to a new level was the personal involvement of General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

According to The Hill

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said he was “disappointed” with the members of the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, when asked about the video Tuesday in interviews with Fox News and Agence France-Presse.

Dempsey said that the military should never be used as a partisan vehicle and should remain apolitical.

“If someone uses the uniform, whatever uniform, for partisan politics, I am disappointed because I think it does erode that bond of trust we have with the American people,” Dempsey said during his flight back from a trip to Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Is their criticism valid? I won’t comment on that,” Dempsey said “Is it useful? No, it’s not useful. It’s not useful to me.”

Dempsey’s comments have put the chairman of the Joint Chiefs in the middle of a political battle between former military officers and the Obama campaign.


Actually, it places Dempsey squarely against the free speech rights granted under the U.S. Constitution and his reasoning runs contrary to U.S. history.

Veterans have long been involved in politics. From 1865 until the actuarial tables declared victory in 1956 the Grand Army of the Republic was a critical force in US politics. Veterans organizations run political action committees. It is not unusual for a candidate to appear on stage with military veterans who are clearly identified as such.

It is obvious that the real sin of the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, as well as Special Operations for America, and Special Operations Speak has nothing to do with keeping the military aloof from political battles. Had that been the case one would have expected one of General Dempsey’s predecessors to criticize the corporal’s guard of retired generals that were trotted out to lambaste President Bush during two elections. Indeed, General Dempsey could even have mentioned VoteVets, which was very active in Obama’s election campaign. He could have mentioned Tammy Duckworth who, like Max Cleland, has created a political career out of their military service… or even General Dwight Eisenhower and Senator John Kerry for that matter. No president has done more to use veterans and active duty military personnel as attack dogs and props than the incumbent. But he didn’t. He singled out one group who were hitting hard at a centerpiece of Obama’s re-election campaign: his “gutsy call” in doing his duty. Finally.


The fact that they weren’t mentioned calls into question whether General Dempsey was expressing his feeling or if he was taking orders from the guys who could cut his budget. Regardless of his motivation, it was General Dempsey is the only person calling into question the apolitical nature of the American military.


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