In an ominous open letter published on wonky national security site War on the Rocks Tuesday, eight former secretaries of defense and five former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff warned of what they call an “exceptionally challenging civil-military environment” developing in the United States that apparently concerned them enough to publish their thoughts ahead of November’s consequential midterm elections. Never mind, apparently, that the signatories were at the helm of the U.S. military for the better part of the last two decades during which that “environment” was degraded.
Citing “extreme strain” to “[m]any of the factors that shape civil-military relations” in “recent years,” the letter points to “the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ramping up of great power conflict” while alluding to the fact that last August’s withdrawal from Afghanistan — and fresh chaos in Iraq — mean that “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.”
The letter also not-so-subtly refers to “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” as a reason “military professionals confront an extremely adverse environment.”
“Looking ahead, all of these factors could well get worse before they get better,” the former Pentagon officials warn. “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.”
What follows are 16 enumerated ” best practices ” that deal with the chain of command, political pressure, and civilian control of the U.S. military, all […]
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