Friday, May 23, 2014

military partisanship

Peter Feaver of Duke is a longtime scholar of civil-military relations, and I count him as a friend. One of his most trenchant comments is that, since civilians have legal authority over the military, they get to make the big decisions, and "the civilians have the right to fail."

In an article for Foreign Policy, he repeats the argument that I strongly share that retired military officers should refrain from political endorsements of candidates. They have the right to speak their mind, but if they act in this way, they risk politicizing the officer corps and undermining the professional authority of those on active duty.
Eventually, if the practice runs rampant, the White House will seek assurances that the choices for the highest commands and offices are safe partisans rather than the very best officers for the job. Already some active duty officers have been accused of such partisan standing, lessening the persuasiveness of their professional judgment; in other words, the partisan activities among the senior retired ranks rebounds to lessen the influence and ability of their successors to fulfill their function in the nation's security.

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