January 5, 2005


Gonzales Nomination Draws Military Criticism: Retired Officers Cite His Role in Shaping Policies on Torture (Dan Eggen, January 4, 2005, Washington Post)

You can likely fill in the names without looking. I not, here are a couple hints:

(1) Think of the guys who appeared either in Kerry ads or on-stage with him.

(2) Think of the political hacks whose subordinates distrusted their ambitions during the Clinton administration.

Twilight of the Citizen-Soldier (Eliot A. Cohen, Summer 2001, Parameters)

Viewed legally, we have an army of citizen-soldiers; viewed historically and philosophically, we do not. The true citizen-soldier is distinguished from his professional or semi-professional counterpart in three ways, all of which suggest that military service follows from true citizenship. The first is his motivation for military service. In the case of the true citizen-soldier, military service is either an obligation imposed by the state or the result of mobilization for some pressing cause. Democratic states generally impose only two kinds of forced labor upon their citizens--jury duty and military service. The former serves the administration of justice; the latter serves the purpose of defense. These two high and essential objects of government ennoble coerced service--and this is the reason why obligatory schemes of nonmilitary service, which have much weaker justification, will find it hard ever to succeed in countries like the United States. In the absence of conscription, mobilization for a particula r struggle is the other way in which citizenship elicits military service. The state is embarked upon some great crusade or adventure, and in the spirit of ancient Athens, citizens make the highest contribution to it by offering their service as soldiers. For the normal volunteer of today, neither motivation applies. Patriotism, a desire for personal challenge, monetary or career incentives--all mold the young man or woman who joins today. But in all cases (except perhaps that of patriotism), the link between citizenship and service is thin.

The true army of citizen-soldiers represents the state. Rich and poor, black and white, Christian and Jew serve alongside one another in similarly Spartan surroundings--at least in theory. The idea of military service as the great leveler is part of its charm in a democratic age, one of whose bedrock principles is surely the formal equality of all citizens. The voluntary military, by way of contrast, is very rarely representative. To be sure, in the contemporary United States recruiters attempt to maintain some rough balance among ethnic groups, although even here it is clear that minority groups are overrepresented. Recruiters pay no heed, however, to socioeconomic, religious, or other kinds of ethnic diversity in the ranks. That the children of millionaires almost never serve or that a bare handful of Ivy League graduates don a uniform is not even a matter for comment.

Third, and perhaps most important, the true citizen-soldier's identity is fundamentally civilian. However much he may yield to the exigencies of military life, however much he may even come to enjoy it and become proficient in military skills, he is always, in the core of his being, a member of civil society. His participation in military life is temporary and provisional. For the volunteer, and certainly for the multiterm soldier, sailor, airman, and marine, the military identity coexists with that of the citizen. The issue is one of identity, and not solely length of service. There are reservists who are, in fact, merely part-time professionals, and in the great wars of the last century there were those who served for five years and remained civilians at heart. The term citizen-soldier acts as a useful replacement for an oxymoron, the "civilian-soldier."[...]

Recognition of the plain fact that ours is no longer an army of citizen-soldiers should make us question this explanation of American casualty sensitivity. The truth is that armies of citizen-soldiers have been far more likely to suffer deaths and wounds in vast numbers than smaller, professional forces. The army of citizen-soldiers fighting a war for great causes has proven itself far more willing to bleed profusely than the army of highly trained, expensive professionals fighting for ambiguous goals. There is indeed good evidence that casualty sensitivity stems not from social pressure to care for the life of citizens but from the military's own changing scales of human values.

A more recent, deeper, and perhaps more worrisome trend is very different. It is an assertion of all the rights of citizenship by professional soldiers, most notably in the open participation of recently retired general officers in electoral politics by endorsing presidential candidates, but also in the rash of partisan commentary by officers shortly after the election of President Bill Clinton. The defense of such behavior is that soldiers in uniform are, after all, citizens, and so long as they obey orders they retain all the rights of expression of their counterparts in the civilian world--and most certainly so the moment they doff the uniform.

This is a remarkable inversion of the citizen-soldier concept; instead of subjecting the individualism of civilian life to the discipline of military life to serve the larger ends of society, it becomes a means of softening the rigors of military tradition in order to allow free expression to serve the preferences of individuals. Thus, even as the citizen-soldier--Colin Powell's G.I.--has indeed disappeared into the twilight, a new kind of citizen-soldier has emerged: the politically engaged professional officer, who abates none of his rights to freedom of expression despite military discipline.

The dangers here are, or should be, obvious. They stem not from the demise of the citizen-soldier, however, but from an unwillingness to examine closely his replacement: the volunteer professional, thinking afresh about his rights and responsibilities, and the constraints of law and custom put upon those who wear a uniform.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 5, 2005 9:07 AM

If the Dems go after Gonzalez big time it will be a sign that they don't consider the '04 election to be a message that voters don't like their obstructionist act. The GOP needs to have a spine and ram things through and not let the Dems block the GOP agenda for the next 13 months.

Posted by: AWW at January 5, 2005 9:14 AM

If the professional military apparat becomes actively involved in politics, it will lose the prestige it has earned by its perception as a loyal cadre above politics. There is nothing inconsistent with the professional military being politically active and the existence of democracy, think of Israel and 19th century America, but military men who enter the political fray will soon be subject to fire just as if they suited up for battle.

It will be no different from the scrutiny that the local police commissioner gets. If he says something stupid, his blue uniform doesn't keep anyone from calling him on it.

Posted by: Bart at January 5, 2005 9:32 AM


The difference lay in their running for offifce.

Posted by: oj at January 5, 2005 9:36 AM

Winfield Scott had no difficulty drifting in and out of uniform. And police commissioners are nominated from the ranks just like generals.

Posted by: Bart at January 5, 2005 10:25 AM

The President should recall these pukes. If they don't want to serve, for whatever reasons, they could resign and thereby releive us of supporting them through their pensions.

Posted by: Jim Burke at January 5, 2005 11:26 AM