An of­fi­cer’s duty is to speak up and suf­fer the con­se­quences

Austin American-Statesman - - OPINION -

Wil­liamRuger, who teaches po­lit­i­cal sci­ence at Texas StateUniver­sity, re­cently char­ac­ter­izedGen. Stan­leyMcChrys­tal as be­ing im­pru­dent and im­mod­er­ate for en­ter­ing po­lit­i­cal bat­tles over cur­rent pol­icy. In short, Ruger ad­vo­cated a “salute and obey with­out ques­tion” pol­icy for mil­i­tary of­fi­cers.

Ruger sup­ports a pol­icy that stops short of pro­tect­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion. Mil­i­tary of­fi­cers should not stop short be­cause they take an oath to sup­port and de­fend the Con­sti­tu­tion of the United States against all en­e­mies, for­eign and do­mes­tic. The pre­am­ble of the Con­sti­tu­tion states a pri­mary mis­sion which in­cludes: pro­vide for the com­mon de­fense, pro­mote the gen­er­alwel­fare. If amil­i­tary of­fi­cer de­tects that a pol­icy en­dan­gers this pri­mary con­sti­tu­tional mis­sion, it should be the duty of that of­fi­cer to bring it to the at­ten­tion of his su­pe­ri­ors, in­clud­ing civil­ian lead­er­ship.

When na­tional se­cu­rity or the com­mon good of the nation is at risk, it should be the duty of mil­i­tary of­fi­cers to speak up and suf­fer the con­se­quen­cies. Dis­agree­ing with pol­icy when the nation is en­dan­gered by that pol­icy should be alive and well in our mil­i­tary, even though the stakes may be high for do­ing so.

That is not to say that McChrys­tal’s pol­icy com­plaints rose to con­sti­tu­tional lev­els. That is ques­tion­able and de­bat­able. How­ever, of­fi­cers need to pro­tect the Con­sti­tu­tion, and some­times that may re­quire chal­leng­ing cur­rent po­lit­i­cal pol­icy. In the right sit­u­a­tion, a mil­i­tary of­fi­cer en­ter­ing a po­lit­i­cal de­bate about pol­icy should not only be con­doned but en­cour­aged.

To his credit, Ruger men­tions the pol­icy of Sec­re­tary of De­fense Robert Gates that al­lows se­nior mil­i­tary are free to of­fer in­de­pen­dent ad­vice not only to the civil­ian lead­er­ship in the Pen­tagon but also to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

That is an ex­cel­lent pol­icy. Gates’ pol­icy is a rea­son­able in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Army Field Man­ual 101-5: “Staffs con­tin­u­ally iden­tify cur­rent and fu­ture prob­lems or is­sues that af­fect mis­sion ac­com­plish­ment. Once they iden­tify a prob­lem, staff mem­bers an­a­lyze the ac­tions or co­or­di­na­tion needed to solve it. Some­times staff of­fi­cers have the abil­ity and author­ity to solve the prob­lem with­out in­volv­ing the com­man­der. If not, once they an­a­lyze the prob­lem, they­make a rec­om­men­da­tionto the com­man­der for de­ci­sion.”

Brig. Gen. Wil­liam “Billy” Mitchell is a clas­sic ex­am­ple of a mil­i­tary of­fi­cer en­gag­ing in a po­lit­i­cal bat­tle over pol­icy. Mitchell’s strong ad­vo­cacy of air power was re­jected by both his mil­i­tary and civil­ian su­pe­ri­ors. In 1925, Mitchell was de­moted to colonel and, by or­der of Pres­i­dent Calvin Coolidge, was court mar­tialed for in­sub­or­di­na­tion. Mitchell­was found guilty and re­signed from the Army.

Later events showed thatMitchell­was ahead of his time in back­ing the use of air power. For­tu­nately for the U.S., much of what Mitchell rec­om­mended was adopted be­fore the be­gin­ning of World War II. Great good came from Mitchell, even if it re­sulted in his leav­ing the Army in dis­grace. The Tokyo Raiders flew in B-25 “Mitchell” bombers, named for Mitchell.

Iron­i­cally, Dou­glas MacArthur, then a ma­jor gen­eral, was a mem­ber of Mitchell’s court mar­tial board. MacArthur voted to ac­quit Mitchell, feel­ing that a mil­i­tary of­fi­cer should not be si­lenced from ex­press­ing a view­point which con­flictswith cur­rent pol­icy. Ob­vi­ously, in 1951 Pres­i­dent Harry Tru­man did not agree with MacArthur’s opin­ion about en­ter­ing po­lit­i­cal de­bates over pol­icy, so Tru­man fired MacArthur.

MacArthur andMitchell were both re­moved by a pres­i­dent for chal­leng­ing po­lit­i­cal pol­icy. Both thought that what they sup­ported would be best for the nation. As Longfel­low­said in “A Psalm of Life”: “In the world’s broad field of bat­tle, In the bivouac of Life, Be not like dumb driven cat­tle! Be a hero in the strife!”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.