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An open letter was published last week, titled, “To Support and Defend: Principles of Civilian Control and Best Practices Of Civil-Military Relations” on the website War On The Rocks.
It was written by eight former secretaries of defense and five former chairmen of the Joint Cheifs of Staff.
The list of signatories includes:
Former Secretaries of Defense
Dr. Ashton Baldwin Carter
William Sebastian Cohen
Dr. Mark Thomas Esper
Dr. Robert Michael Gates
Charles Timothy Hagel
James Norman Mattis
Leon Edward Panetta
Dr. William James Perry
Former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Gen. (ret.) Martin Edward Dempsey
Gen. (ret.) Joseph Francis Dunford Jr.
Adm. (ret.) Michael Glenn Mullen
Gen. (ret.) Richard Bowman Myers
Gen. (ret.) Peter Pace
The open letter warns of what they call an “exceptionally challenging civil-military environment” developing in the United States. They are concerned and are sharing their thoughts ahead of the November midterm elections.
The letter starts by saying that many factors in our world have been under “extreme strain” in recent years.
It then talks about the pulling out of troops from Afghanistan, last August.
“Geopolitically, the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ramping up of great power conflict mean the U.S. military must simultaneously come to terms with wars that ended without all the goals satisfactorily accomplished while preparing for more daunting competition with near-peer rivals.”
Then they mention the pandemic and the effects it has had.
“Socially, the pandemic and the economic dislocations have disrupted societal patterns and put enormous strain on individuals and families.”
It then goes on to address the effects of politics, and mentions that the “peaceful transfer of political power was disrupted and in doubt.”
“Politically, military professionals confront an extremely adverse environment characterized by the divisiveness of affective polarization that culminated in the first election in over a century when the peaceful transfer of political power was disrupted and in doubt. Looking ahead, all of these factors could well get worse before they get better. In such an environment, it is helpful to review the core principles and best practices by which civilian and military professionals have conducted healthy American civil-military relations in the past — and can continue to do so, if vigilant and mindful.”
They then list 16 best practices to deal with the chain of command, political pressure, and civilian control of the U.S. military.
One might ask why this letter was written in the first place. It has been some time since January 6. Could it possibly have to do with the upcoming election in November or is it more geared towards the election in 2024?
Former Deputy Assitant to the Secretary of Defense Amber Smith spoke with Townhall and said that “healthy civil-military relations are incredibly important” for the United States. However, as Smith pointed out, “it’s completely hypocritical for these former Defense Secretaries and [Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] to preach about how important civ-mil relations are while setting the stage for using military leaders and officials to undermine the president,” she said. “They are getting ready for Trump’s second term.”
She mentioned that the very men who penned this letter are also complicit in the deterioration of trust and the breakdown in the relationship between the military and civilians.
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