It Isn’t the Military’s Place to Weigh In on the Syria Debate

President Obama, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey at the Pentagon during a 9/11 remembrance ceremony

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President Obama, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey at the Pentagon during a 9/11 remembrance ceremony

Too many servicemembers are violating ethics by making their opinions publically known. By James Joyner

America’s generals and admirals, junior officers, and enlisted people overwhelmingly oppose military intervention in Syria. We should not know that.

Two weeks ago, Robert Scales, a retired Army two-star and former commandant of the Army War College, took to the op-ed pages of theWashington Post, writing that “after personal exchanges with dozens of active and retired soldiers in recent days,” he could confidently assert that ” the overwhelming opinion of serving professionals” was vehemently against strikes. And that, “They are embarrassed to be associated with the amateurism of the Obama administration’s attempts to craft a plan that makes strategic sense. None of the White House staff has any experience in war or understands it.” Further, “They are repelled by the hypocrisy of a media blitz that warns against the return of Hitlerism but privately acknowledges that the motive for risking American lives is our ‘responsibility to protect’ the world’s innocents.” Not only that: “They are outraged by the fact that what may happen is an act of war and a willingness to risk American lives to make up for a slip of the tongue about ‘red lines.’”

A recent and completely unscientific Military Times survey found 75 percent of troops opposed to air strikes and 80 percent believing intervention in the war at all is not in America’s national-security interests. Along with some choice words from a few senior non-commissioned officers, the report quotes a Navy lieutenant commander declaring, “With our financial problems at home, we need to save money and try to fix ourselves before we start fixing everybody else” and an Army captain philosophizing, “To say that we can take military action and there will be no reaction … is the same faulty thinking that thought we could do ‘shock and awe’ [in Iraq] and be done in a year.”

Many reports in recent weeks have expressed frustration from serving officers, most of whom “agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity because military personnel are reluctant to criticize policymakers while military campaigns are being planned.”

In fact, they ought be more than reluctant. They simply should not do it.

Read more at The Atlantic. 

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