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

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

AA Font size + Print

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. 

Close [ x ] More from DefenseOne

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

  • Top 5 Findings: Security of Internet of Things To Be Mission-Critical

    As federal agencies increasingly leverage these capabilities, government security stakeholders now must manage and secure a growing number of devices, including those being used remotely at the “edge” of networks in a variety of locations. With such security concerns in mind, Government Business Council undertook an indepth research study of federal government leaders in January 2017. Here are five of the key takeaways below which, taken together, paint a portrait of a government that is increasingly cognizant and concerned for the future security of IoT.

  • Coordinating Incident Response on Posts, Camps and Stations

    Effective incident response on posts, camps, and stations is an increasingly complex challenge. An effective response calls for seamless conversations between multiple stakeholders on the base and beyond its borders with civilian law enforcement and emergency services personnel. This whitepaper discusses what a modern dispatch solution looks like -- one that brings together diverse channels and media, simplifies the dispatch environment and addresses technical integration challenges to ensure next generation safety and response on Department of Defense posts, camps and stations.

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.