A Sad State of Civil-Military Relations

Discussion in 'Academy/Military News' started by lotrjedi13, Oct 8, 2011.

  1. lotrjedi13

    lotrjedi13 _

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    http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/daily/2011/10/07/cadets_cheer_romney_slam_of_bam/

    Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney gave a major foreign policy speech yesterday attacking President Obama at the Citadel. The cadets in attendance wildly cheered and applauded those attacks, a fact that many right-leaning pundits commented on.

    From Rush Limbaugh's show yesterday:
    (emphasis mine)

    Is anyone else disappointed that the Citadel would allow itself to be used as campaign fodder for a political candidate? I understand that Citadel cadets are not technically in the military yet, but the mere fact that they are cadets in uniform cheering comments derogatory about the commander in chief is problematic. It makes it easy for folks like Mr. Limbaugh to tell his audience of millions that the president's policies are doubted by all those military experts over there at one of the most prestigious senior military colleges in the U.S.

    His argument goes:
    Romney says the President's foreign policy will make America weak --> those folks attending in military uniform cheered --> the military doubts the president and his policies --> you should too

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that military members can't hold political opinions. But, it seems to me that those in the military (or, in the case of Citadel cadets, closely associated with it) should keep such opinions out of the public domain, because it will be used by partisans to color the military as a whole.



    Thoughts?
     
  2. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    I don't agree. First off- The Citadel is not the Army- it is a State College.
    Secndly- this is certainly not the first or even probably the 101st time that a President or Presidential campaign has used the military as a backdrop to make a political point. Anyone remember Mike Dukakis in his campaign against George Bush?:
    [​IMG]

    Does anyone think that there wasn't a significant element of politics involved when President Obama went to USMA to deliver his speech on Afghanistan?

    A candidate critical or supportive the current policy is one thing- military members making the same point in a campaign would be a different story. I don't see anything wrong with Romney speaking at the Citadel.
     
  3. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Is there any question why Obama puts a number of 4-stars behind him when he's talking about foreign policy..... yes, because he's using them as a back drop to convince many who don't know better than everyone in the military is in step with his politics.
     
  4. hornetguy

    hornetguy USAFA Cadet

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    Using the military is obviously an old trick for any politician. Having military members actively cheering against their CIC, regardless or who it is or what party, is disturbing to me and completely inappropriate. If I was in charge of them, I'd be having a chat.
     
  5. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Citadel cadets are not all military, and none of them are active duty. They're not in U.S. military uniforms. It's not a base. I can't find anything legally wrong. Certainly a statement on policy.

    It would be entirely inappropriate to see this at USCGA, USMA, USNA, USAFA and USMMA....and it would have been illegal to campaign there....
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2011
  6. lotrjedi13

    lotrjedi13 _

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    With regards to your first point, I acknowledged that the cadets at the Citadel are not actually in the military. My understanding is that they are req'd to be in ROTC but not to commission. My issue is that the majority of the civilian populace does not know this. They simply see what they think are future officers (if even that - they may just lump them in the general "military" category) enthusiastically backing comments derogatory to the commander-in-chief.

    I also acknowledge that others have used the military as a backdrop before. I take no issue with that. For instance, in addition to the examples Bruno and LITS listed, former Pres. George W. Bush gave a speech at the Citadel while he was campaigning for president. The difference was, though, that he did not use the speech as an opportunity to bash his opponents or their policies. Similarly, Mike Dukakis wasn't attacking his opponents while riding around in that tank and President Obama has every right to address future officers about foreign policy (even more so than other political candidates since his policies actually impact the nation).

    Overall, though, my issue was more with the fact that the cadets started wildly cheering when Mr. Romney started bashing President Obama. I grant that in reality, those cheering are simply college students who are not officially members of the military. However, all the public will see is men and women in uniform (albeit cadet uniforms) actively voicing opposition to the commander-in-chief.

    The military should avoid being viewed as partisan. This is why the Joint Chiefs of Staff (like the Supreme Court) rarely clap during State of the Union Addresses and officers are encouraged to keep political opinions to themselves, lest it appears that the military is out-of-step with their civilian CoC, or even worse, insubordinate. From your last paragraph, I think we agree here.

    With all that in mind, it seems odd to me that the Citadel's administration would allow one of the nation's senior military colleges to be used for what essentially was a political rally attacking POTUS. Technically, they did nothing wrong; practically, though, they are so closely affiliated with the military that it seems like allowing Romney to address the cadets in such a blatantly partisan manner sends the wrong message to the American public about military neutrality.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2011
  7. hornetguy

    hornetguy USAFA Cadet

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    I'll reiterate, I don't care if it was legally ok, if I was a commander of a group like that (esp ROTC) I would be having words with them. I expect better.
     
  8. sweettooth

    sweettooth Parent

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    I completely agree with you lotrjedi13. Check out former Secretary of Def Gate's Thayer Award speech given Friday at West Point.
    HTML:
    http://www.army.mil/article/66939/Gates_urges_Corps_of_Cadets_to_keep_connected_with_society/
    He warns against, "the risk of growing disconnect between our military and American society--not on the part of average Americans but on the uniformed side of the equation". I am ashamed that the Citadel so poorly educates their cadets that they think this is appropriate behavior.
     
  9. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Race riots have been far more extreme in the north than the south, and while everyone knows which side of the Civil War VMI or the Citadel took, we all also know the top general of the south was a West Point graduate.

    Perhaps they don't like Obama because his grasp of the military and its members is pathetic at best. Perhaps they see the general discomfort the commander-in-chief (granted, not THEIR commander-in-chief) addresses the military.

    Yes, the general public sees Citadel cadets and think "military". I'm sure Romney realized that. I remember a question and answer session at CGA with a very liberal speaker. It became a back and forth, with conservative questions and applause for those questions (as well as a lack of applause for answers). Wouldn't you believe the local newspaper picked up on that, and covered the event in The Day. I'm sure members of the administration didn't "like" it, but that's what happened, and that's what can happen when you let reality kick in.

    Don't like Citadel cadets cheering, don't put them in that situation. The disappointment is directed at the wrong group.

    This is an entirely different situation than a speech at a service academy.
     
  10. sherman

    sherman Banned

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    Tell that to Bin Laden.
     
  11. sweettooth

    sweettooth Parent

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    Read the full transcript of Robert Gates's Thayer Award speech
    http://www.westpointaog.org/page.aspx?pid=4843 or below edited to fit into the character limit by deleting the first 6 and last 2 paragraphs.

    Every recipient of the Thayer Award is asked to offer some thoughts on the themes of Duty, Honor, Country. What I’d like to do this evening is focus on the “country” part of that trinity – in particular the very special, yet fragile and increasingly distant relationship that exists between America and those who’ve volunteered to her defense.

    The Iraq and Afghan campaigns represent the first protracted, large-scale conflicts since our Revolutionary War fought entirely by volunteers, a tiny sliver of America has achieved extraordinary things under the most trying circumstances. My hope and expectation is that when all is said and done, our country’s political leadership will continue to do right by the Armed Forces in their important budget decisions ahead. In fact, when I returned to Washington nearly five years ago, I was struck by how willing the congress was at the time to approve to almost any budget request relating to our men and women in uniform and their well being on and off the battlefield – a different situation than I remembered even during the years of the Reagan buildup, and a very different situation than those facing civilian agencies of national security, including to my chagrin, CIA.

    Indeed, one of the heartening things one sees today is the degree of affection, gratitude and support accorded to troops and their families – a marked difference from the latter part of the Vietnam Era. But funding is not the same as understanding. Sympathy is not the same as empathy. As I said at Duke University last year, for most Americans the wars remain an abstraction. A distant and unpleasant series of news items that does not affect them personally. In the absence of a draft that reaches deeply into the ranks of the citzenry, service in the military, no matter how laudable, has become something for other people to do. Many prominent leaders and commentators – inside and outside the military – have remarked on this phenomenon. But what I would like to focus on, in my remaining time today, is the risk of growing disconnect between military and society not by average Americans, but on the uniformed side of the equation.

    I would start with a couple of scene setters. On my last trip to theater as defense secretary, I visited a forward operating base in Eastern Afghanistan. One NCO raised his hand and told me that he and others had signed up because the military – in his case, the marines – had a “set of standards and values that is better than that of the civilian sector.” He went on to ask if, in light of the pending repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t tell, troops still adhering to what he described as “better” standards could opt out of their military enlistments early. My answer was no.

    This episode brought to mind a corridor display at the Pentagon, an exhibit dedicated to Army values. My guess is you know them all by now – one of those things you’re supposed to memorize at Beast Barracks and then recite on command: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. I was struck by the fact that the first panel introduces this list by saying that these values “distinguish American soldiers from American society.”

    Now, after a certain point in a military environment, one gets accustomed to this kind of language. But when you think about it, it is rather peculiar to suggest that attributes such as integrity, respect, and courage are not valued in the United States of America writ large. If you spent enough time getting around this country, especially in successful organizations or close-knit communities, you would find the seven Army values are considered pretty important and being practiced across our great country and by Americans across the world. Just ask a policeman, fireman, teacher, or volunteer working in the inner city. Or the families of aid workers, diplomats, journalists or intelligence officers slogging away under dangerous or spartan conditions overseas. Or even inside any well-run business.

    Of course, we are constantly bombarded with news of people and institutions across the country who fall short of those standards, or ignore them altogether – on Wall Street, on Capitol Hill, Hollywood, all walks of public and private life. But the military, like any large, proud organization filled with fallible human beings, is not immune from shortcomings – whether in terms of morality or competence. Just think of:
    •The reality of poor – or even toxic – leadership by some officers at all levels;
    •The careerism and inertia that can infect the middle layers of any big bureaucracy;
    •The disturbingly high rates of sexual harassment and assault that persist within the ranks; and
    •The tendency to hide or deflect unflattering information from superiors or the NEWS media.

    The real differentiator is that those who serve in uniform are opening themselves up to physical danger and long separations from family. Nonetheless, it is off-putting to hear, albeit anecdotally, comments that suggest that military is to some degree separate and even superior from the society, the country, it is sworn to protect.

    To some degree, this sense of separation is reinforced by a series of demographic, cultural, and institutional shifts that have made the military less representative of the American population as a whole, mostly as a consequence of ending the draft. An all-volunteer military is to a large degree self-selecting. In this country, that propensity to serve is most pronounced in the South and the Mountain West, and in rural areas and small towns nationwide – a propensity that well exceeds these communities’ portion of the population as a whole. Concurrently, the percentage of the force from the Northeast, the West Coast, and major cities continues to decline. I am also struck by how many young troops I meet grew up in military families and by the large number of our senior officers whose children are in uniform, and in many cases, attending our service academies.

    The Army’s own basing and recruiting decisions have reinforced this growing concentration, and to increasing degree, isolation among certain regions and families. With limited resources, the services focus their recruiting efforts on candidates where they are most likely to have success – with those who have friends, classmates, and parents who have already served. In addition, global basing changes in recent years have moved a significant percentage of the Army to posts in just five states: Texas, Washington, Georgia, Kentucky, and North Carolina. For otherwise rational environmental and budgetary reasons, many military facilities in the northeast and on the west coast have been shut down, leaving a void of relationships and understanding in their wake.

    When it comes to officer recruitment and training, one study showed, for example, that the state of Alabama, with a population of less than 5 million, has 10 Army ROTC host programs. The Los Angeles metro area, population over 12 million, has four. And the Chicago metro area, population 9 million, has three. It makes sense to focus on places where space is ample and inexpensive, where candidates are most inclined sign up and pursue a career in uniform. However, there is a risk over time of developing a cadre of military leaders that politically, culturally, and geographically have less and less in common with the majority of the people they have sworn to defend.

    Retired Lieutenant General David Barno, class of 1976 and former commander of international forces in Afghanistan, had some provocative comments to this effect earlier this year. Referring to the Army, he wrote “Not only does it reside in remote fortresses…but in a world apart from the cultural, intellectual and even geographic spheres that define the kaleidoscopic United States. This splendid military isolation -- set in the midst of a largely adoring nation -- risks fostering a closed culture of superiority and aloofness.”

    My own view is that we’re not close to getting there yet. But it does suggest that another important task for young Army leaders is to do what you can to keep yourself – through the assignments you take in your career and choices you make in life – better connected to an American society of which you are an integral part. It is of particular importance to graduates of this institution, who unlike your OCS and ROTC colleagues, will have been steeped in a monastic military environment – albeit one with internet access – pretty much since leaving high school.

    Getting this relationship on a sound footing is so important because a civil-military divide can expose itself is an ugly way, especially during a protracted and frustrating war effort. One of the achievements of the post-Vietnam Army leadership was preventing a corrosive “stabbed in the back” narrative from putting down roots within the service at a time that many officers were inclined to blame American society, the media and politicians in particular, for allegedly tying their hands and not seeing the effort through. When I came on board as defense secretary at pretty much the low point of the Iraq war, I worried about the recriminations, finger-pointing, and resentments – over a lack of support by civilian leaders and agencies, over a non-mobilized, unengaged civilian society – already starting to crop up; a situation that might have turned toxic if the U.S. military were to experience a humiliating retreat from Iraq.

    That was one of the reasons that I challenged Army audiences early on to think about how the service’s miscalculations and bureaucratic inclinations may have contributed to the problems we encountered in the post-9/11 campaigns. Of course, due to the ability of the Army to adapt both on the battlefield and on the institutional side, plus the extraordinary courage and determination of soldiers in theater, we turned the tide in Iraq and avoided the calamity that would have befallen our country, the army, and the relationship between them.

    Tending to this relationship between soldier and society is something that military and civilian leaders alike must be cognizant of as we enter a delicate and difficult transition phase in the Afghanistan campaign, an effort of which the American public and increasing number of politicians have grown weary, even as so many of our military leaders believe that we are finally on the right track.

    Robert M. Gates - Recipient of the 2011 Sylvanus Thayer Award
     
  12. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    True, he did prove to some people he actually has the ability to approve an action that resulted from a decade of intelligence work, despite the best effort of his justice dept. to reduce the ability of the CIA to collect that intel.
     
  13. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    Back to the original point: To reiterate- The cadets at the Citadel are not under the UCMJ. They are both legally and legitimately allowed to be part of the political campaign. The basis for restricting their rights as citizens to host and favor candidates in an election are that you are worried about an irrelevant false perception? Rush Limbaugh may be a pompous windbag- but you are going to restrict the political rights of students at a college because you don't like his radio patter? Flip that the other way. Absolutely President Obama was making a political point when speaking to Cadets at USMA. And those Cadets applauded- genuine applause from the majority of them from what I could tell. Should they not have done so? If applause for a political speech is prohibited - then his appearance giving a speech announcing a major and intensely debated policy would certainly fall into the category of a political act - and applause from people who are actually under the UCMJ would under this definition also be a political action? And if you are really concerned about misconceptions by the general public- then where is the concern about retired General officers appearing with the Obama campaign during the last election? Most of the time, it was a most fine print that identified them as "retired" but that's a distinction lost on much of the population. So if the populations perception is the concern- then there is an area you should really be concerned about. After all- not was Gen Shalikashvili etc... frequently confused for a serving officer, but retired officers are in fact still getting paid - not so those cadets at the Citadel. Romney appearing at the Citadel didn't violate any laws or any rules of appropriate behavior IMHO- any more than the President did appearing at USMA last year, or either side does in parading endorsements from prominent retired officers.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2011
  14. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    I agree with Bruno (and that doesn't always happen!) :biggrin:
     
  15. hornetguy

    hornetguy USAFA Cadet

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    I think the point is missing. Doesn't matter that it is a political speech or that they are involved. All the scenarios you suggest are fine and this one is different in one KEY element. Applause with denouncements of the CIC. I could care less about the other situations, but when people in military uniforms who are intending to become officers (as many of them will) or are part of a military unit (ROTC) should not be participating in such banter against the CIC. The other situations don't matter.
     
  16. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    The point is, they are not in military uniforms and they are FREE to their speech. The point is they are no different than a reservist attending a political rally. The point is, yes, they are in uniform, but there are many other uniforms. Citadel uniforms are not military, unless you can find me somewhere in an Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force or Coast Guard uniform manual where they are listed....


    Heck I went to a campaign rally, as an active duty officer, out of uniform and with nothing connecting me to the military, and you can be damn sure I cheered and booed when I was so motivated. You can also be sure I talked to a military lawyer before going.
     
  17. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    As I got older, and got more involved in understand not only politics but also life in general. I truly started to understand the difference between "The Presidency" and having respect for the "Office of the President" and the person themself. When you respect the office of the president, then you will have no problem following the orders. Even if you don't agree with them. Some you'll agree with and some you won't. There is absolutely nothing wrong with campaigning against/for the person who actually holds/will hold that office. I "accepted" this concept at 17 years old, but probably didn't fully understand it.

    And military members, whether cadets, ROTC, active duty, etc... are FIRST and FOREMOST "Citizens" of this great country. As such, they have every right to be as involved in the political campaigns; just like other target groups such as the elderly, union workers, youth, hispanics, veteran's groups, or any other demographic. In my opinion, military members should be even more involved, because it's they who are actually going to have their lives on the line for this country.

    So there is absolutely no problem with such campaigning around military members. The key difference however is "MATURITY". I am not dissing any college age cadet, rotc, citidel student, or even the 22 year old 2nd LT, etc... But as you get older and mature, "And some have this already at 18-22 years old", you'll be able to separate the "Office of the President and the Presidency" with "The person holding the office".

    That is the fundamental concept of the military. One in which personally, I believe most military members GLOSS OVER. It's even in the oath of office for enlistees. But it is implied in officers as well. That you will follow the orders of the President, and the officers appointed over you. Even in the civilian world, we have bosses that we don't always like or agree with. But we follow their orders and their rules. That's because you respect their "Position" in the company. Maybe not the individual, but the position/office they hold.

    There is no difference with the president. Military members are NOT ROBOTS!!! They/we are not stupid!!! They/we ARE CITIZENS, first and foremost!!! And if a person can't separate "The President" from "The PRESIDENCY", then they have some maturing to do. Campaigning and such for the person who is running for office is very important. Especially for military members. If they weren't exposed to such information on "The Person", then out of ignorance, they would simply Re-elect automatically the incumbent president, because he's their "Commander in Chief" and you wouldn't go "Against him". People realize that come voting day, that the military member is voting "FOR THE PERSON". They aren't voting "For the Presidency". And that is accepted. Therefor, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having campaign for/against a "Person" running for the office of president. Even around military members. They are discussing "The Person". Not "The Office". Again; if you can't separate the two, then you have some maturing to do. And I see nothing wrong with it.

    FWIW: There were plenty of organizations telling ROTC students in 1983 how "PRESIDENT Reagan" was going to get them all killed in a war if he was re-elected. I didn't agree with the message at all; but I agreed that military members should be just as actively involved about specific AGENDAS just like any other "Group". If the speech was given to elderly, it would probably focus on medicare and social security. If hispanics, probably illegal immigration. If gays/lesbians, probably the rescinding of DADT and other issues specific to them. To the Jewish/American community, a focus on foreign/middle east affairs. So, when its a group of military/cadets/ROTC/etc... voters, the emphasis should be on things that affect them. And as the "Commander in Chief", that means talking about those attributes of "The Person". There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Matter of fact; it's healthy. And, it brings to the forefront the #1 most important attribute of "Military Discipline". Following the orders of those above you. Including the President. So it enforces that whether you agree or like that Major, Colonel, General, or the President.... That you WILL FOLLOW the orders of that person, because you accept and respect the "OFFICE" in which they hold.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2011
  18. sweettooth

    sweettooth Parent

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    how do you reconcile your views with the ucmj article 888

    Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct
     
  19. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    What word was uttered by a commissioned officer in this situation?
     
  20. SamAca10

    SamAca10 Ensign - DWO

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    Simple. We don't say those things when we're in uniform. That's why it was such a big deal a few months ago when the gay service members escorted Lady GaGa to an awards program. You're not supposed to use the uniform for political purposes (and I have doubts that any of those discharged service members, should they seek it, will be readmitted now. Not because they are homosexual, but because they abused the uniform).

    We salute the office, not the person.
     

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