Editor’s Note – “We who have served are concerned with National Security, and not the tender feelings or objections of an elected Commander in Chief who is actively campaigning for re-election.” – MG Paul E. Vallely, US Army (ret.)
By William R. Mann
“The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and to give commands in such manner and such a tone of voice to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey.
The one mode or the other of dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them regard for himself, while he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect toward others, especially his inferiors, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself.” (Major General John M. Schofield in an address to the Corps of Cadets, August 11, 1879.)
The Spectator Article, “Political General Complains of Politics” by Larry Thornberry is a good bit of writing. It was brought to my attention by a USMA Classmate.
Remember when Janet Napolitano’s Department of Homeland Security [DHS] painted a scandalous “warning’ profile of returning war veterans as possible “lone wolf” terrorist threats. There were no such cases. The neo-Nazi Psycho who killed the Sikhs last week had been summarily discharged from militarily with a “less than honorable” discharge; so let’s not go there either.
All the while, the infamous, Islamist mole, Major Nidal Hassan, who heinously mass murdered 13 People at Fort Hood has yet to be tried. Furthermore, Hassan’s hideous terrorist crime was referred to as “workplace violence.” Now Miss Napolitano is embroiled in her own sexual harassment and discrimination scandal within DHS.
Against this backdrop of capricious behaviors by some in our Government, I am ultra-surprised that now General Martin Dempsey wants to join the call to curtail the US Constitution’s guarantee of free speech. I surely am growing tired of people serving in high civilian and military positions in Government routinely violating 1st, 14th, and 15th Amendment Rights, while ignoring other glaring issues, for political purposes.
Want more? Earlier in 2012, US Attorney General Eric Holder tried [but failed] to restrict Military Absentee Voter Ballots from being counted But, Mr. Holder oddly had no problem with Black Panthers intimidating voters at a Federal Election Polling place in 2008. Now we have, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stating an unstated: a warning Veterans and Retired Military to stop engaging in political criticism of President Obama? Oh, really?
Freedom of speech is just that, a freedom. Criticism, is not sedition. Criticism is not treason. Criticism in the context of which General Dempsey is speaking, is the finding of legitimate faults and voicing legitimate grievances regarding National Security, or Domestic Politics. What is mosty “biting” to some politicians here is that these Patriots have formed an Action Organization, OPSEC, and made a splash with their scathing You Tube video. The Lefty-wags are already calling it the “Swift Boating” of Obama. But in true counterpoint, do these same leaders have a problem with Hollywood exploiting the SEAL Mission to kill Osama as with an upcoming Hollywood feature length film aimed at re-electing Mr. Obama?
I have a great many retired military associates and friends who have been taught to think that they checked their Constitutional Rights as citizens at the door when they became Officers, while serving on active duty, and in retirement. While there are some formal Standards of Conduct and restrictions that apply to all Active Duty Military, there are no prohibitions against political affiliations or opinions save for expressing them in certain specific public audiences and certain political venues. Some folks even fear that the President might “sick” the IRS on them or mess with their Retirement Annuities, and other Veteran/Retired Benefits if they participate in the political process. They have pause for concern. The ongoing IRS prosecution of a civilian small businessman in Idaho for what appear to be highly political motivations, lends credence to this fear. But as was stated in Thornberry’s article:
”… the First Amendment applies as much to those who have a form DD214 in the file cabinet as it does to people who’ve never spent a day in uniform. When you’re out, you’re free again. A former Navy SEAL is a civilian like any other…”
[Note: a DD 214 is the Service Member’s Official Record and Characterization of Service upon military discharge or retirement. It is a most treasured historical and the guarantor of Veterans’ and Retired Military Members’ Benefits]
A Retired Military Officer or Non-Commissioned Officer is a Private Citizen. Retired Lt. Colonel Ollie North [USMC], Retired General Paul Vallely [USA], a former or retired CIA Officer, or any of the rest of us retired Officers and Federal Civilians, are entirely within our rights and privileges as a Citizen of the United States to speak our minds and make political criticisms and recommendations. Considering the issue further. General Dempsey appeared to have no problems condoning and encouraging Active Duty Military to march in recent Gay Pride Day Marches and Celebrations.
Most of us old-timers think that wearing the uniform to such an expressly cultural-political is divisive not at all equivalent to wearing the Uniform to Weddings or Funerals or other formal events. Did General Dempsey likewise see a problem when President Obama surrounded himself with the Military Staff as when he announced Defense cuts, or the ended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?” Is it legitimate for a President to surround himself with warriors Overseas in combat zones, or on American Military Bases when he gives speeches with political or policy implications? What would happen, do you think, if some Sergeant Major, a Lieutenant, a Major, or a Colonel were to wear his/her uniform to the GOP Convention and make a speech for Mitt Romney. What is the difference?
If you allow one behavioral standard one minute and disallow a similar one the next, then I think one should re-think the whole process. Is General Dempsey a political General? If so, this is not new. A serving Union Army Commander, General McClellan, was very outspoken against President Lincoln. Very many Generals and Admirals were public admirers of FDR, while General Patton paid the price for not toeing the line when he disagreed with policy as it related to strategy in World War II. Ditto, General MacArthur paid the price for taking his stand against President Truman’s political-military decisions in Korea. However flawed, these men, pro and con, always and forever considered their troops first.To me, this scolding and prescription by General Dempsey is not a good action. We who have served are concerned with National Security, and not the tender feelings or objections of an elected Commander in Chief who is actively campaigning for re-election.
Soldiers of all ranks on active duty have always griped; they rarely make them public. This is due to those highly enforced Service Standards of Conduct. But to say that Retired Military and Veterans must close their mouths and minds to speaking out for or against politicians seems to me to be a serious overreach. General Dempsey has a long and distinguished career. As long as he serves is likewise entitled to political opinion, but as the Senior Active Duty Officer of the Armed Forces he should stay out of the political process himself.
This article began with Major John M. Schofield’s Definition of Discipline. This definition is one that every West Point Cadet is required to memorize and recite frequently during Plebe [Freshman] Year. I still remind myself of it often. I heartily reprise it as an enduring touchstone for all citizens, especially those given the humbling privilege of leadership in the United States.