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May 28, 2007

Comments

And we need to never, never let debate over the possibility of going to war be shut down again, as it was before the war in Iraq.

You can argue that it was a stupid decision following an ill-informed debate, but how can you deny the existence of the very public debate, speeches and vote in Congress, where 70% voted to authorize military force?

I meant the national debate, not specifically the debate in Congress. There was an awful lot of questioning people's patriotism, accusing them of just not caring about how awful Saddam was, or not caring about 9/11, and so forth. It's a lesson we need to learn from, on both sides.

I thought the Iraq vets would start getting the shaft in 5-10 years, when our Congressweasels decide that, what with all the debts from the Bush years, the VA budget will need to go on the block. I didn't imagine that it would start so soon.

Why indeed. We need to elect people who are committed to making sure that this just does not happen.

We? We?! We voted for people that would, we donated time and money to help elect people that would, and frankly, we lost, in part because most of the military voted the other way.

I beg forgiveness for saying this, but there are times when I wonder how long we should engage the military's stockholm syndrome. Obviously, we should do the right thing and make sure our military has what it needs, especially returning vets and their families, but that doesn't change the facts: people in the military, as a group, have demonstrated some piss-poor judgement when it comes to elections. Many of them have backed this war all the way, demonstrating, again, really poor judgement.

Our society can't stop talking about the need for accountability for poor black women with children or illegal immigrants. Apparently those are special cases though.


Think about it: so many people are willing to risk their lives for their country without requiring, in return, any control over when they will be asked to risk their lives, and why.

Um, I don't believe this is true. I would love to see some refutations to articles like this, because, frankly, it scares me. A teaser from the article:

When Clinton visited the carrier Theodore Roosevelt, the Atlantic Fleet commander had to arrive at the ship beforehand to assure a proper reception. The Air Force Chief of Staff had to issue an open demand to his service to respect the President and for proper behavior to be accorded him--and still had to retire a two-star general for disparaging remarks made in public. At the Army's elite Command and General Staff College, a respected Congressman was "jeered" by the class when he "repeatedly lectured officers" about Congress's role and powers--and was greeted by "catcalls" at the mention of the President.

You know, I don't recall any incidents where the current President was treated with similar disrespect by the uniformed military. Even before 9/11, there were no outbursts of contempt like this. Please, correct me if I'm wrong.

I don't mean to disparage anyone's service, but I really don't think it is correct to say that the military is apolitical and willing to do whatever the civilian leadership orders it to do. Does that even make sense? Can anyone name so large a group of people that has spurned political power like that? Hilzoy, do you really believe that this large organization is populated by angels and not men?

During the Clinton years, the military balked at the prospect of any intervention in the Rwandan genocide. Clinton deserves a lot of blame here too, but as I recall, the military pushed back, hard, on the idea. I mean, the US did have some minor treaty obligations to stop ongoing genocides, but hey, I don't think anyone ever took the phrase "never again" very seriously to begin with.

Again, please forgive any offense I might have given. I really do respect people that serve in the armed forces and I think we should do right by them. But respect also demands honesty.

Just a small note: 'the military' is a group of several million individuals. Ascribing any attitude, belief, etc. to so many people is bound to be, at best, marginally accurate.

we lost, in part because most of the military voted the other way.

Pesky voters. Is there no one who can rid us of them?

And, while I applaud the desire to see future arguments over going to war drained of demagoguery, I see no hope of that happening. People demagogue issues because it works. Hell, something like a third of all Americans don't even know who the Vice President is...the idea that something as emotional as going to war is going to be met with a level of impassivity and regard for reason that is sadly absent in the rest of politics sounds like asking for a nice pony.

But perhaps I'm overly cynical.

Maybe they shouldn’t be allowed to vote. I mean, given that they are a homogeneous group with such shockingly poor judgment that only seems fair. They should also probably be banned from running for political office after active duty as well. You wouldn’t want to put such idiots in charge of running anything for obvious reasons.

This whiny Heun dude should just button his lip. I mean he must have voted for Bush, so after all he is only getting what he deserves. Chickens, roosting, etc.

Will no one rid me of these turbulent voters?

troublesome, wasn't it?

Depends on who you ask. That source uses turbulent, and that sounds right to me.

I suspect that this will be the bedtime story Republicans, who didn’t have the guts to oppose the right-wing Alpha Male, will tell their children.

Why">http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article17767.htm">Why Congress caved to Bush
By Patrick J. Buchanan

For a Democratic Congress is now voting to fully fund the war in Iraq, as demanded by President Bush, and without any timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal. Bush got his $100 billion, then magnanimously agreed to let Democrats keep the $20 billion in pork they stuffed into the bill – to soothe the pain of their sellout of the party base.

Remarkable. If the Republican rout of 2006 said anything, it was that America had lost faith in the Bush-Rumsfeld conduct of the war and wanted Democrats to lead the country out.

Yet, today, there are more U.S. troops in Iraq than when the Democrats won. More are on the way. And with the surge and retention of troops in Iraq beyond normal tours, there should be a record number of U.S. troops in country by year's end.

Why did the Democrats capitulate?

Because they lack the courage of their convictions. Because they fear the consequences if they put their anti-war beliefs into practice. Because they are afraid if they defund the war and force President Bush to withdraw U.S. troops, the calamity he predicts will come to pass and they will be held accountable for losing Iraq and the strategic disaster that might well ensue.

More:
Why">http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article17767.htm">Why Congress caved to Bush
By Patrick J. Buchanan

Common Sense (the other one): First, I do think that the military is willing to obey orders from the commander in chief. I'm not saying that no one in the military has ever chafed at those orders; that would be ridiculous. And while I don't know, I would assume that in an organization as large as the military, there must be someone, somewhere who might be inclined to disobey them, given the wrong commander in chief. By and large, however, the military accepts civilian control, and that is, as I have said, an extraordinary thing.

You say that they have demonstrated bad judgment in elections. I could question that generalization, but I won't, because it's completely beside the point. Our obligations to them in no way depend on the quality of their judgment as voters. As far as those obligations are concerned, each and every voter in the entire armed forces could vote a straight Bonapartist ticket, and it wouldn't matter.

I think that I owe it to the people who serve in the military to do my best to elect a President who will not abuse their willingness to serve. I owe it to them to be the best, most informed citizen I can be. This is one reason why I do not accept the argument that I should support the war simply because not doing so might undermine morale: I think that my job as a civilian is to do whatever I can to make sure that our foreign policy is sound, and that they are only sent to war when they should be, and that I would be abrogating my duty to them were I to just shut up "for their sake." But just as I do not think I have to shut up or defer to their views in order to support them, I also don't think that their views are relevant to my obligations, any more than my duty to be grateful to someone who risked his life to save mine would be affected by the discovery that he voted Republican.

I also don't think that the military is populated by angels. In fact, I think it's important not to think that: to bear in mind that the military is composed of human beings like the rest of us. (I don't mean to deny that there might be some differences that explain why some people join the military and others do not, e.g. that people who join the military are less likely to have real problems dealing with hierarchical institutions.)

If I thought the military was composed of angels, I would miss some very important things about what we owe them. For instance: if I thought they were composed of angels, I would not think this:

While every person in the military is responsible for conducting him- or herself honorably and ethically, the leadership in the military is also responsible, I would think, for creating an environment in which this is accepted and expected, and doing what they can to ensure that the people under their command are not put in positions in which they will unnecessarily find themselves doing things they will regret for the rest of their lives. When I look at Abu Ghraib, for instance, I see not only individual failures, but huge failures of leadership: failures to see that there were enough troops, and that they were sufficiently well trained, failures of supervision, failures across the board.

If the military were composed of angels, this would matter much less: angels cannot be tempted, they do not get stressed out and exasperated when they have to work day in and day out without enough people or supplies, and in unnecessary danger; you can leave angels unsupervised without worrying about what will happen.

It's precisely because the military is composed of human beings that I think: we owe them leadership that will not only provide them with the best strategic and tactical decision-making, and protect them from unnecessary physical harm; we owe them leadership that will protect them from unnecessary moral harm: from doing things that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Angels would not need that. They do.

I do not think that I am playing into the military's Stockholm syndrome, whatever that would be. I am freely acknowledging a debt that, in my view, I owe, and trying my best to discharge it. I don't do that because I think people in the military want it, any more than I thank people who have helped me out out of solicitude for them. I do it because I think I owe them.

We do have an a-political service. We do not have a-political soldiers.

But even with Clinton, most soldiers were willing to deploy on his orders, whether we agreed with them or not. Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, none of which were "popular" with soldiers, but they went and did their best. There was a lot of resentment about wearing blue helmets in Bosnia(remember SPC New?), but they went.

That is why events where officers refuse orders, like LT Watada at Fort Lewis, is dangerous. We can't have soldiers that get to pick and choose the wars they think are important.

People should be held accountable for their votes and their political positions. I don't mean taken out and shot. (Well, not until my faction seizes control anyway).

I'm not actually sure what I mean, but nothing new there. Maybe I can tease it out of myself. I mean that if (I don't the percentages) a majority of the military supported Bush and going into Iraq and many thought they were going into Iraq to avenge 9/11, then they deserve as much criticism as anyone else who took a similar position. I know I've heard some military guys say that "supporting the troops" means "supporting the mission" and that attitude definitely deserves criticism.

Also, don't demonize the military, but don't pretend they are a bunch of angels either.

Finally, "common sense" made it very clear that he supports the troops in the sense of wanting them to receive the best equipment, the best medical care, good benefits for their families, and so forth. Or at least that's how I read his last paragraph.


The US has for some time been making extraordinary demands on the men and women of its military. They are apparently in it for the duration -- they keep getting recalled, or stop-loss prevents them from exiting.

I think the US owes the veterans of this era, the Bush II era :

- a GI bill the equal of that given to the WW II vets. That's five years of subsistence for college, for starters. The $550/month stipend of 1977 would be $1900/mon in today's money.

- A raise. Now. And bigger than 3.5%.

- Serious money for the VA, and for Walter Reed, and for the theater surgical hospitals in Iraq and Europe.

Jeering and catcalling the CinC should be grounds for immediate dishonorable discharge. If you don't like the rules, don't join the military. The chain of command is critically important, and undermining it is a serious offence, all the more so when it is aimed at the principle of civilian leadership.

Not much for due process, are you togolosh?

Article 88: Contempt towards officials.

Article">http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/ucmj2.htm#894.%20ART.%2094.%20MUTINY%20OR%20SEDITION">Article 94: Mutiny or Sedition.

Article">http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/ucmj2.htm#933.%20ART.%20133.%20CONDUCT%20UNBECOMING%20AN%20OFFICER%20AND%20A%20GENTLEMAN">Article 133: Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman.

If I recall correctly, the Air Force General was relieved for saying Clinton was "a draft dodging, pot smoking womanizer."

Um, did I say, anywhere, that we shouldn't let people in the military vote? No. That is a complete lie. Did I say that they should not be permitted to speak? No.

Yes, the military is a very large group of people. On the other hand, we talk about the aggregate behavior of large groups all the time. You know, like "the Iraqis". I'd argue that the military is more culturally homogenous than most groups of similar size. And yes, I am aware that this is not a monolithic organization that speaks with one voice and that there are dissenting voices and points of view in the military.

Nevertheless, there has been and continues to be more of a consensus about the war and what a great leader Bush is than in the general population.


But even with Clinton, most soldiers were willing to deploy on his orders, whether we agreed with them or not. Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, none of which were "popular" with soldiers, but they went and did their best. There was a lot of resentment about wearing blue helmets in Bosnia(remember SPC New?), but they went.

jrudkis,

Thank you for actually making an argument. I don't think it is correct, but at least you're trying to engage with me and I appreciate that.

If we look at all the missions that the military wasn't thrilled with but performed anyway under Clinton, then yes, the military followed orders 100% of the time. And you know what? If we only look at patients who take a drug and are cured, then look: the drug has a 100% cure rate!

The whole point is that the military never publically refuses orders. However, as an institution, it does push back and it does make policy. The real metric would be to ask how many missions did Clinton attempt to order but could not because the brass refused, either directly, or indirectly to go along. Is everyone here comfortable with the military telling the President that we will not intervene in this particular genocide because it might damage the fancy hardware?

We can't have soldiers that get to pick and choose the wars they think are important.

Unless their name is Colin Powell? I think people will understand where I'm coming from more if you read the article I referenced earlier.

Common Sense,

I agree that the military, specifically the brass, should not be permitted to refuse a mission given to them by the CinC, assuming it is Constitutional. Are you actually aware of a time when a General or Admiral told the President that 'we will not intervene' etc., and if so, can you provide a cite, or are you referring to the brass' tendency to exaggerate the difficulties involved in missions they don't like?

If the latter, then I concur that there is a danger of senior officers not giving candid advice to their political leadership. It is a difficult issue: had the military pushed back harder on Iraq, things might be very different there now. I'm not sure how to balance the two, short of trying to get the best politicians in office, ones that will listen to advice but who have the confidence to go against the generals if they think that's necessary and the wisdom to know when it is necessary.

And a pony, I suppose.

By and large, however, the military accepts civilian control, and that is, as I have said, an extraordinary thing.

hilzoy,

I hate to be a stickler, but, is there any evidenciary basis for this belief of yours? I mean, I would really like to believe it too. But, I haven't seen you present any evidence, although I might have missed something.

Do you believe this simply because there have been no coups and because the officer corps has not publicly defied the president in recent memory?


You say that they have demonstrated bad judgment in elections. I could question that generalization, but I won't, because it's completely beside the point. Our obligations to them in no way depend on the quality of their judgment as voters. As far as those obligations are concerned, each and every voter in the entire armed forces could vote a straight Bonapartist ticket, and it wouldn't matter.

I think I was unclear and managed to conflate two different notions. I agree with you: we owe people in the military, and we should do whatever it takes to meet those obligations.

However, it appears to me that dumping a trillion dollars a year into the military is going to create a political power center that will shape policy. You can't get the lion's share of the federal budget and be powerless. I'm really not thrilled at the prospect of dumping ever vaster sums of money into an organization staffed with people who show poor judgement. Obviously, I don't think we should be cutting VA funding or bulletproof vest funding, but why should I entrust the cash needed for the F-35 or the DDX destroyer to a group of people whose judgement I don't believe in? Just because they wear a uniform?

Also, the judgement issue is not just a matter of voting: the war campaign was mismanaged, and not completely by civilians. Books like Fiasco and Cobra II make the military look bad. Again, that doesn't mean the soldiers are stupid or not brave heroes, but it does mean that the organizational leadership has some really serious problems.

Hilzoy, just out of curiosity, where would your line be? What actions by the military, say ones that you didn't instigate or agree with, would cause you to say "I could care less what happens."

I don't think the Joint Chiefs is much of a threat. They command nothing, and are advisors to the President. Do you think that the Centcom Commander worries about what the Chairman thinks? He is not in his food chain. That is where ex-commanders go.

But as advisors, I am sure they advise the President on what they think is appropriate use of US force, which is why they exist. Generally, Powell was against going anywhere there was not a vital US interest. I tend to agree that we should not deploy troops anywhere that condition does not exist. When we do, we end up with Somalia, or Lebanon, because there is no staying power once people start to die.

But the President is not required to listen.

Are you actually aware of a time when a General or Admiral told the President that 'we will not intervene' etc., and if so, can you provide a cite, or are you referring to the brass' tendency to exaggerate the difficulties involved in missions they don't like?

G'kar,

I think it is more of the latter: when asked to do something they don't want to do, all sorts of problems crop up, and don't you know, this is going to be really hard to do and will cost eleventy-billion dollars. When asked to do genuinely difficult things that they want to do, well, obstacles can be pushed past pretty quickly...

I'm at work now and don't have cites, but I can check my books later tonight.

Common sense: the absence of coups is part of it, along with the absence of the military refusing an order (as opposed to pushing back, where I'm basically with G'Kar).

I do not think that my debt to the military in any way involves being willing to accept huge new weapons systems uncritically. I think there's actually a huge problem about military procurement decisions in this country, which has to do partly with no one wanting to be the person who axes a system that turns out, in retrospect, to have been needed, partly with the fact that few people outside the military are in a position to assess new systems and our needs for them, and partly with the fact that weapons systems tend to come with lobbyists, Congresspeople in whose districts stuff will be built, etc., lobbying for them, whereas things that cost less but might be at least as useful, like language training, training in various skills needed in peacekeeping operations, etc., do not. All of which adds up to a big hardware bias.

What I think I owe the military is, as I said, being the best citizen I can be, and trying to elect people who will not send them off to war needlessly; and health care and other benefits. The DDX destroyer is not, imho, something I owe anyone. (Decent equipment that lets them do their job, yes; specific pieces of hardware, no, at least not without some argument.)

Every Puerto Rican and Black American, I know (which is many) who has or is serving in the Military (primarily Marines) are the most anti-authoritarian activists I know. People of color who have served; both respect the military and at the same time came into contact with the most tribal right-wing nihilistic white people on earth and have no illusion concerning “honor” and “victory” in that context.

Weapons systems procurement could probably be at least made better if contractors weren't so commonly able to hire senior military personnel after they retire. I don't know, and hope there isn't any quid pro quo, but just the knowledge that a senior officer who pushes a program for a particular contractor is more likely to find work after they leave the service almost certainly means that it's easier for them to rationalize programs as good for the service.

Weapons systems procurement could probably be at least made better if contractors weren't so commonly able to hire senior military personnel after they retire. I don't know, and hope there isn't any quid pro quo, but just the knowledge that a senior officer who pushes a program for a particular contractor is more likely to find work after they leave the service almost certainly means that it's easier for them to rationalize programs as good for the service.

I'd tend to agree with that to an extent, being on the contractor side of things, but you have to keep in mind that without such pollination, so to speak, we as contractors would be much less able to communicate with and relate to the customer.

But in the scenario where procurement officers are shopped by defense contractors: agreed.

Tim: "where would your line be? What actions by the military, say ones that you didn't instigate or agree with, would cause you to say "I could care less what happens.""

I suspect I'm not getting which line you're talking about. It's hard for me to imagine what they could do that would make me think: I don't care what happens to them. I mean, they're human beings.

What could they do that would make me feel: I don't owe them? I dunno: if they deserted in the face of an enemy attack, I guess I'd feel that anyone who did desert was still entitled to whatever consideration people per se are entitled to, but that I owe that person no special debt on account of his or her willingness to serve. (Since, of course, in this example there is no such willingness.) They could overthrow our government, or mutiny in the face of legitimate orders. Offhand, I think that's about the extent of it -- though as I said, I might not be getting which line you're after.

To me, this is one example of a general point that doesn't have anything to do with the military in particular, namely: a lot of obligations are not dependent on one's agreeing with the person they're owed to, or that person's being nice, or anything. (Not to say that there's nothing a person could do to void an obligation; just that it doesn't depend on their being specially nice, etc.)

So, for instance, I think that we ought not to imprison people without a trial. If someone were to say: aha, but many of the people we have imprisoned in Guantanamo are actually bad, mean, icky people, I'd say: I don't know that that's true, but even if it is, so what? This is an obligation we have; it's not something they have to deserve by being nice. Likewise, there are certain kinds of benefits that I think a country just should provide for its citizens in order to ensure their freedom and opportunity. Access to health care is an example. Because I believe this, arguments of the form: some of the uninsured are not very nice people. Some of them might have behaved stupidly in the past -- cut no ice with me.

Same deal here.

Procurement is a problem, but it as much from Congress as it is the military. Factories are kept alive for constituencies, not for the military (generally...some factories are kept alive so we maintain the capacity as a nation to make things like ships). Contractors are smart enough to have a footprint in key districts to get the funding.

And like any beauracracy, the military has departments that try to survive their usefulness. In WWII, Marshall had to fire the Chief of Cavalry because he wanted horses, not tanks.

But I don't know how to make it better: we need military input for what to buy, and we need elected officials to decide. The system creates waste, but it also provides great equipment (not necessarily the best in all categories, but all pretty good).

This is one of the things I appreciate about you, hilzoy: your patience. You have this willingness to take your position apart into little pieces, and then put it back together for the edification of others, and do so without calling said others a bunch of goddamned fatheads.

We could all do with a bit more clear communication and a bit less namecalling, but we don't usually know what's best for ourselves.

Myself emphatically included in "we", above.

hilzoy,

Thanks for your response. Would it be fair to say that you believe the standard for military submission to civilian control is that the military has, in public, followed the letter of the law, and that that is all that is required? That seems like a strangely low bar to meet, but I'm having difficulty teasing out any other standard from your reply. I mean, it is good that high ranking officers have decided not to commit public relations suicide, don't get me wrong.

The reason I brought up weapons procurement is that it seems difficult to have serious discussions in this society regarding the armed forces. Because of their heroism and their sacrifice, and our blindingly clear obligations to them, I get the sense that we're unable to have certain conversations.

Thus, we can talk extensively about Rumsfeld's and Feith's incompetence (and we absolutely should), but not about Franks' and certainly not about the system that allowed to him to rise so far, the system that endorsed him. I can't talk about civil control of the military in practice without Slarti and OCSteve accusing me of trying to eliminate soldiers' right to vote. A large fraction of the military population don't believe that they are bound by the geneva conventions, but we only talk about which memos Bush signed off on. I don't think I'm being clear, but I'm trying to get across the point that fawning adoration makes it difficult for our society to make sensible choices.

Think about it: so many people are willing to risk their lives for their country without requiring, in return, any control over when they will be asked to risk their lives, and why.

hilzoy,

Do you still believe this statement to be true? Are there any circumstances under which you wouldn't believe it, except a coup or a public refusal to obey orders?

Note that I'm not asking about conditions under which we should not follow through on our obligations to our soldiers. I don't think any exist, and I'm confused as to why anyone would think that point worth discussing.

"Thus, we can talk extensively about Rumsfeld's and Feith's incompetence (and we absolutely should), but not about Franks'...."

Who is Franks, and what possession of Franks should we be talking about?

"I don't think I'm being clear, but I'm trying to get across the point that fawning adoration makes it difficult for our society to make sensible choices."

Choices such as?

Common Sense: They are willing to serve at the President's order, whoever the President, and they do not demand some sort of veto on what the President asks them to do. This is true even if the President is an idiot. This doesn't strike me as a low bar; it's kind of extraordinary, I think. There are lots of countries that cannot say this about their military.

Again, I think it's important not to say something like: the military is composed of nothing but astonishingly wonderful people. I mean, I haven't met most of them, so that might be true, but it would surprise me for the same reasons that I'd be surprised to discover that all Democrats, or all accountants, or all men, were astonishingly wonderful people. I don't want to do fawning adoration; I want to acknowledge what I see as a large debt, and what it would mean for us to repay it.

What we owe people who serve in the military, to my mind, is the opposite of letting discussions be shut down. We need to get it right, for their sake as well as for our own, and shutting down discussion is not a way of doing that.

Gary,

What is the point of your grammar nit pick? Is there a point?

Look, as an editor, surely you know that human beings make mistakes. It happens all the time. Do you not understand that or do you not believe I'm human? Why would you believe a grammar mistake on the internet would be worth pointing out? Do you really think that it is important? Or do you think I won't make mistakes in the future because you pointed one out now?

Was my grammar mistake so horrific that you were unable to interpret the meaning of my sentence?

Common Sense,

Who is telling you not to question GEN Franks' actions or the system that promoted him?

Common Sense,

A generous reader, maybe?

I'm unaware of any grammar mistake you are referring to, Common Sense, and I didn't mention one.

Possibly you might like to answer my query? Or not.

"I don't think I'm being clear, but I'm trying to get across the point that fawning adoration makes it difficult for our society to make sensible choices."

Choices such as?
------------------------

The decision to go to war, for one. If you think our boys are mostly incapable of evil, then you won't worry that acts of brutality by US forces might turn Iraqis against us. You won't pay attention to backpage stories about torture until photographs put the issue on the front page, because our boys don't do things like that. You won't worry that media outlets might put such stories on the back pages, for fear of being accused of being insufficiently supportive. You won't worry about collateral damage, because you'd trust the military to be forthright about all incidents where civilians are killed and to do its best to keep such incidents to an absolute minimum.

Stuff like that.

They are willing to serve at the President's order, whoever the President, and they do not demand some sort of veto on what the President asks them to do. This is true even if the President is an idiot. This doesn't strike me as a low bar; it's kind of extraordinary, I think.

Oh, I agree that *this* is not a low bar. But now I must ask: what evidence do you have that the military has met this particular standard. I'm not necessarily asserting that they haven't, but I'd like to see something, anything to back up this belief.

Also, whether they want it or not, they have that veto. They can simply say "nope, we can't do it" or "it will cost too much"; the president can commit political suicide by overriding them, but that's not much of a deterrent.

There are lots of countries that cannot say this about their military.

That sounds a lot like saying that the US has low infant morality compared to other countries in the world. It is a true statement, but somewhat deceptive as well. The relevant comparison group is not "all countries in the world" but "first world democracies". Do you actually think the US military is better in this regard than other first world democracies? If so, on what basis do you hold this belief?

Again, I think it's important not to say something like: the military is composed of nothing but astonishingly wonderful people. I mean, I haven't met most of them, so that might be true, but it would surprise me for the same reasons that I'd be surprised to discover that all Democrats, or all accountants, or all men, were astonishingly wonderful people. I don't want to do fawning adoration; I want to acknowledge what I see as a large debt, and what it would mean for us to repay it.

Indeed.

Just to pre-empt, the "you" in my 2:44 post refers to someone who fawningly adores the military, not to Gary or anyone else here.

Gary,

The grammar mistake I was referring to was the one you referred to when you wrote this:

"Thus, we can talk extensively about Rumsfeld's and Feith's incompetence (and we absolutely should), but not about Franks'...."

Who is Franks, and what possession of Franks should we be talking about?

Now, apparently, you don't think that has anything to do with a grammar mistake. Maybe you would call it a usage error, or perhaps you would make some other unbelievably trite hyper-pedantic distinction without a difference. Whatever. Call it whatever you want. Now that you know what grammar mistake I was referring to, do you think you can answer my questions?

As to your other question, the substantiative one, choices include: whether we go to war, how big our defense budget should be, what sort of foreign policy we should have, to what extent we are willing to honor or participate in international treaties or the ICC, etc.

Unfortunately, I actually do need to get some work done today, so I won't be able to write more until late at night.

But now I must ask: what evidence do you have that the military has met this particular standard. I'm not necessarily asserting that they haven't, but I'd like to see something, anything to back up this belief.

Also, whether they want it or not, they have that veto.

"This standard" refers here to Hilzoy's "[t]hey are willing to serve at the President's order, whoever the President, and they do not demand some sort of veto on what the President asks them to do."

You keep referring to "the military" as if it were an entity with a single mind. Since it evidently isn't, I'm unclear which individuals, or groups, you are actually referring to: senior generals? The Joint Chiefs? All enlisted troops everywhere? Colonels? Majors? Captains? All brigadier generals?

I tentatively assume you're not saying that every SGT or specialist is demanding a "sort of veto." Or are you?

G'kar,

No one has told me not to criticize Gen Franks or the system that has promoted him. I did not mean to say such a thing. However, how many posts discussing these issues have you seen? Do you believe that number is in proportion?

When I read Fiasco, I took the following points to heart: (1) Franks was promoted far above his abilities, (2) his unsuitability for his role had serious deleterious consequences for the mission, and (3) Franks was so promoted in part because the Army's system for selecting and training high ranking officers is broken.

If I read Fiasco correctly, and if Ricks is correct about 1-3, then that seems like a pretty huge problem. In some ways, it is worse than the fact that Bush and everyone around him are too incompetent to run a lemonade stand: after all, we change presidents regularly, but we don't completely change the senior officer corps very often (nor am I saying we should).

I'm really shocked that a well-respected military journalist like Ricks can say things like that without being publicly contradicted but also without generating serious discussion. Too me, that says that the performance of the military as an institution is basically not up for political discussion. Yeah, we'll have a hearing about Abu Gharib or Haditha or procurement issues, but we won't interfere with how the Army selects and trains high ranking officers because that is completely beyond the public sphere.

Again, maybe I'm wrong. I would certainly prefer to be in this case. Maybe I'm misreading Ricks or maybe he is wrong or maybe there is substantial interest and examination by the civilian side into these aspects of military affairs that I'm just not aware of. Please, please, point out places where I'm wrong. But knowing what I know, this seems really really strange.

"Unfortunately, I actually do need to get some work done today, so I won't be able to write more until late at night."

You couldn't have just explained who "Franks" is?

I can't talk about civil control of the military in practice without Slarti and OCSteve accusing me of trying to eliminate soldiers' right to vote.

I did not take offense with your comments on civilian control, although I find it a little baffling that you seem to think it is really questionable that the military does in fact submit to civilian control.

I did not accuse you of anything either. I took the part of your comments which I did object to and went a step further. I read your remarks as: military people need to be held accountable because they voted for and supported the president, the same one who was screwing them over so badly. It read to me as they are either naïve (well you voted for this administration, what did you expect?) or that it is a given that the entire military is just a vote block for the GOP. They do not deserve blind support because they all voted for this…

In 2004 this CNN exit poll found that 41% of respondents who answered yes to the question “Have you ever served in the military?” voted for Kerry. While 57% did vote for Bush, 41% is in no way a small number. The statement “most of the military voted the other way” is technically true, as the majority did, but only slightly more than half. “people in the military, as a group” is not justified.

“Have you ever served in the military” obviously includes veterans not currently on active duty. So this isn’t entirely representative of just current active duty. It also does not account for absentee ballots which could have been mostly Republican votes for all I know. But in a quick search it was the closest example I could find.

One of the common stereotypes some people hold is that everyone in the military votes Republican. That is no truer than asserting that people in the military, as a group, are uneducated, or have no other options, etc. I served with folks who hated RR’s guts and voted for Mondale in 84.

Based on the same poll, others who “have demonstrated some piss-poor judgement when it comes to elections”:

-Men.
-White women.
-White people in general.
-Middleclass people.
-Non-union members
-Protestants.
-People who go to church once per week.
-People who thought taxes were the most important issue.
-Married people.
-People in the South.
-People in rural areas.

That pretty much sounds like a profile of your stereotypical Republican. In any case, I disagree with your premise that the military as a whole voted for the administration. You are making a very large assumption about a large group that is not justified IMO. It is the assumption and the stereotype that irked me and the assumption serves as the foundation for some of your other points.

"Gen Franks"

Hmm. Tommy Franks. (Seems most likely, though a "find" shows no prior mention of him in this thread before yours.)

Frederick Franks? More likely Tommy, I guess, though I still don't know how he got into the conversation.

"However, how many posts discussing these issues have you seen? Do you believe that number is in proportion?"

What, at ObWi? At every blog everywhere? By military bloggers?

Is it just me who is having trouble following what exactly it is you're saying?

"If I read Fiasco correctly, and if Ricks is correct about 1-3, then that seems like a pretty huge problem."

Hmm, if you're referring to problems of officers being promoted for reasons other than their competence in battle and organization/planning, or the split between "warriors" and REMFs, or of generals being overly political, or overly deferential, or insufficiently deferential, these are hardly new questions or suppressed discussions, as regards the U.S. military. One could hardly think of a more well-known set of criticisms and issues regarding the U.S. military.

But maybe you mean something else?

"Too me, that says that the performance of the military as an institution is basically not up for political discussion."

"Political discussion," on the other hand, might mean something very specific: if you're saying that, say, in presidential debates, or other formal debates between politicians running for office, mostly we only wind up with jingoism, sound bites, and superficial bumper stickers, sure, but that's not remotely specific to discussions about the role of the military, or problems of the military, about which gazillions of papers, as well as intellectual panels and discussions and articles, as well as endless bulls*t sessions, engage with.

"...but we won't interfere with how the Army selects and trains high ranking officers because that is completely beyond the public sphere."

That doesn't seem remotely true to me; I've read innumerable books, articles, debates, and arguments, about the subject. It's a commonplace. Was David Hackworth, say, "completely beyond the public sphere" with his numerous best-selling books and his newspaper column?

OCSteve,

Unfortunately, I just don't have time to discuss this right now, but I found this and this on the first google results page and they don't completely support your argument.

Also, I'm somewhat confused why you would talk about the unfounded assumptions I'm making without having read the paper that provided a link to. I mean, for all you know, my assumptions might be quite well founded.

"Unfortunately, I just don't have time to discuss this right now, but I found this and this on the first google results page and they don't completely support your argument."

First link to USA Today:

An unscientific survey of U.S. military personnel shows....
So that's meaningless.

On the other hand, I wouldn't dispute that serving military voted Republican in higher numbers than voted Democratic in the last election, or in elections in general since, say, 1980.

But how that proves that debate about civilian control of the military, or about military promotion procedures and incentives, or whatever, is suppressed, I'm unclear.

The second link:

[...] By the end of 2005, that had dropped to 56%. And by the end of 2006, the percentage of military Republicans plummeted to 46%.

The drop in Republican Party identification among active-duty personnel is a sharp reversal of a 30-year trend toward the 'Republicanization' of the U.S. military, and it could mark a sea change in the nature of the military — and the nature of public debates about national security issues.

Setting aside that the article is based on the previously referred-to non-poll (which emphasised "[t]he publisher cautioned that the results are not a scientific poll"), I also don't follow how this demonstrates any suppression. The entire article is also about how military voting is shifting, leaving me even more unclear how this supports your apparent inclination that there's something structurally wrong about the military.

But I'm mostly at a loss because I still don't understand what exactly you are charging.

To OCSteve: "...and they don't completely support your argument."

Which argument?

"Also, I'm somewhat confused why you would talk about the unfounded assumptions I'm making without having read the paper that provided a link to."

Which paper did you provide a link to, and where did OCSteve say he hadn't read it? (This article from The National Interest? Did OCSteve say he hadn't read it? Am I missing comments?

You can argue that it was a stupid decision following an ill-informed debate, but how can you deny the existence of the very public debate, speeches and vote in Congress, where 70% voted to authorize military force?

That's a good point.

Let's not deny it. Let's hang that vote around the necks of that 70% of Congress until their dying day.

Some thoughts on Common Sense's points above:

frankly, we lost, in part because most of the military voted the other way.

A point of fact.

There are 1.4 million active duty military personnel. Add in the reserves and you probably get up around 2 million. Bush's margin was about 3 million votes.

No matter how they voted, they did not "decide" the outcome one way or the other.

Even if they did, so be it. You don't surrender your citizenship when you enlist.


I'd argue that the military is more culturally homogenous than most groups of similar size

Maybe, maybe not.

Within the military, there are folks who are in for a tour or a couple of tours, vs folks who make a lifelong career of it. They are pretty different folks.

There are folks who have combat assignments, vs folks who don't. Again, a different mix of folks.

As noted, active duty military is about 1.4M.

How many people in the US ride Harleys? The turnout at Sturgis is typically about a half million. That's a fairly cohesive group, culturally, maybe more so than the military.

How many people play electric guitar?
How many are members of the Assemblies of God church?
How many are recreational birdwatchers?

The answer to the last is something north of 50 million.

Do you believe this simply because there have been no coups and because the officer corps has not publicly defied the president in recent memory?

Those two points seem, to me at least, to be gold-plated arguments for the claim that the military is subject to civilian control.

A large fraction of the military population don't believe that they are bound by the geneva conventions, but we only talk about which memos Bush signed off on.

In that, they do not defy their civilian leadership, but take their direction from it.

Regarding the budget issue, the '07 budget is 17% defense, 24% Medicare and Medicaid, 21% Social Security. If there is a constituency with an outsized influence on policy due to proportion of the budget, it's retired people and the medical industry.

I'm not trying to pile on here, I simply think the line of argument you're pursuing isn't really backed up by the reality.

Thanks -


> the absence of coups is part of it, along with the absence of the military refusing an order

Exactly. When Truman relieved MacArthur, _and_MacArthur_went_, that was civilian control of the military.

Ditto Bush firing Shinseki.


Of course, the US military has not yet had to endure the ultimate temptation toward a coup : they have not yet been confronted with a US President who refused to step down at the lawful end of his term.

Yet.

On the other hand,
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/05/20070509-12.html
it looks like Bush is laying the foundations for declaration of martial law when he decides it's an "emergency". And oh by the way, Congress accidentally erased posse comittatus so Bush doesn't need the consent of a state's Governor before seizing control of that state's National Guard in just such an "emergency".

But I'm sure that BushCo would never do anything like that. Right?

"Ditto Bush firing Shinseki."

That didn't actually happen.

OT: An unclassified summary of outed CIA officer Valerie Plame's employment history at the spy agency, disclosed for the first time today in a court filing by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, indicates that Plame was "covert" when her name became public in July 2003.

I can't talk about civil control of the military in practice without Slarti and OCSteve accusing me of trying to eliminate soldiers' right to vote.

More like making fun of you* than accusing you, but have it however you like.

*In a friendlier way, I might add, than I normally make fun of people who take the wrongness of the voting choice of others as axiomatic. Possibly, maybe, they've got reasons for voting the way they do. Plus, bitching about the vote is so 2001-2005.


>> Ditto Bush firing Shinseki.

> That didn't actually happen.

Right you are, Gary.
Thanks for catching this.

I think Common Sense was raising some legitimate points, even if I don't agree with all of them. I would have put them differently as well. But the piling on (yes, Russell, that's what you did) is going to make it difficult for him if he comes back. Almost makes me feel sorry for what Charles puts up with.

What's peculiar is that Gary recently linked to an article by Spence Ackerman that said, more or less, don't expect the troops to thank antiwar critics for their "support", because the troops (in Ackerman's opinion) mostly support the mission. That goes along to some extent with what I think CS is saying--the troops on the whole (no, not all of them) have been a source of support for the Iraq War. If they had mostly been against it from the start, telling reporters anonymously (if necessary--I don't know what the rules are on soldiers voicing their political views, but I suspect those views come out one way or the other) that they thought the war on Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, that might have had considerable impact. A lot of people automatically assume that supporting the troops means supporting their mission and if the troops themselves feel that way, it makes it that much harder to oppose the war. They have the right to their opinions, but they also should expect to be criticized for them if we think they are wrong, which is what CS is doing, I think. And I would expect the troops to want to know as much as possible about the justifications given for the wars they are sent to fight. If they aren't interested in the facts, they ought to be, even if it is their duty to go where they are sent. But nevermind that--as Russell points out, there are many more birdwatchers than members of the military. If members of your local Audobon Society all came out against the Iraq War, think of the impact that could have had.

Gary also linked to stories about Haditha and the apparent lack of interest within the military in investigating US-inflicted civilian casualties. Again, one would think this had something to do with CS's point. If a society over-romanticizes its military, then there might be little pressure in the military or outside it to investigate such things. One can go too far in the other direction, and you sometimes see lefties talking about the military as though they were a band of killer androids. But not that often, even on the left.


Gary also said--

"Political discussion," on the other hand, might mean something very specific: if you're saying that, say, in presidential debates, or other formal debates between politicians running for office, mostly we only wind up with jingoism, sound bites, and superficial bumper stickers, sure, but that's not remotely specific to discussions about the role of the military, or problems of the military, about which gazillions of papers, as well as intellectual panels and discussions and articles, as well as endless bulls*t sessions, engage with. --

That's supposed to be a refutation of CS, I think. In specialized circles you can find discussions about almost any topic concerning the military, but in Presidential campaigns the candidates apparently feel they have to stick to jingoism and bulls***. What a fine, healthy democracy we have.


CS's point on military pushbacks against civilian control seems well-taken to me. There was apparently more pushback under Clinton than under Bush, and maybe because there are so many Republicans in the service, as his links suggest. I don't know. Is pushback from the military good or bad? I don't know. Could it have made a difference with respect to Bush's decisions on Iraq? Should it have? Do we want the military to have that sort of influence? I don't know. Might be worth talking about, or we can all sit around pointing out that there haven't been any military coups in the US and how extraordinary that is that in some respects at least, the US adheres to some of the ideals we expect from a democracy. We can't boast of being a democracy where torture is not practiced, so I suppose feeling proud that our military takes the Constitution seriously and has never overthrown the goverment is the one source of pride we have left.

I think if you want to understand why people in the service disliked Clinton, or even wanted to make that claim with any certainty, you'd have to ask a whole lot of them. I frankly have no idea. I don't even know if it's true, not having had that sort of conversation with the smattering of army lieutenants, captains and lieutenant colonels that I've known professionally and socially. On the job, none of them bitched about the chief executive. Off the job: same thing.

I now have frequent contact with a number of USAF pilots of varying rank, and not one of them has ever voiced an opinion about Bush, positive or negative. In general, we're busy working on the business at hand, which is giving them the best tools we can with which to fight.

So I'm a bit at sea as regards the various claims about levels of fondness on the part of servicemen for current and past presidents. I honestly couldn't say. I can say, though, that if they did vote for Bush over his opponents, characterizing that vote as folly isn't going to earn you any cool points with them. Because, as I've said, people tend to have reasons for doing the things that they do, and trying to pack those reasons into a tidy summary of "wrong" or "mistaken" or "not acting in their own best interest" is going to backfire on you, more likely than not.

Hearts and minds, people.

I think Common Sense was raising some legitimate points

IMO, Common Sense was raising one legimitate point -- that the emergence of the standing army, and the enormous resources spent on national defense since WWII, have given the military a lot of influence over national policy.

That's an interesting hypothesis, not without merit.

That's also a pretty far cry from saying that the military is not subject to civilian control. CS repeatedly asked hilzoy to support her claim that civilians were in the driver's seat. I'd say it's incumbent on CS to demonstrate that they are not.

One "National Interest" article from 1994, interesting though it might be, is not particularly conclusive. Mostly what I took away from the article -- all 16 pages of it -- was that Richard H. Kohn had some issues with Colin Powell some 13 years ago. Yes, I did read the whole thing.

So, I'd invite CS to dig in and expand the point.

My apologies if my "piling on" drives Common Sense from this community. Somehow, I doubt that will be the case. Frankly, he, or she, seems capable of holding his, or her, own.

If members of your local Audobon Society all came out against the Iraq War, think of the impact that could have had.

From your lips to God's ear. Alas, too late.

Thanks -

Since he's an occasional commenter here, I note that somebody sicced the FBI on bob mcmanus over at Ezra Klein's blog (no doubt the agent on duty is still laughing).

totally pwned in the other thread, oh well.

So the confusing part is whether push back from the military is a good thing or a bad thing. Shinseki was presumably "pushing back" when he needed several hundred thousand soldiers to occupy Iraq. Franks was pushing back when Rumsfeld cut down the timeline and the force ratio for Iraq (according to Woodward). The Air Force essentially refused to fly missions in Northern Afghanistan until they had retrieval assets for pilots.

In Kosovo, there was pushback against the administration regarding risk aversion. It is now part of the study for officers regarding battlefield ethics. Increased safety for the military generally means increased danger for civilians and non-combatants. Where is the appropriate line, and how much collateral damage is acceptable to protect pilots?

The senior leadership of the military did "push back" leading up to this war, but were rolled over in much the same way Congress was.

Donald Johnson: But the piling on (yes, Russell, that's what you did) is going to make it difficult for him if he comes back.

That was a pile on? Not even close IME.

CS: Unfortunately, I just don't have time to discuss this right now, but I found this and this on the first google results page and they don't completely support your argument.

I noted that even the poll I linked myself did not fully support my argument. ;) It’s just my opinion that you were over generalizing (military votes Republican) and that served as a foundation for some of your other arguments.

Also, I'm somewhat confused why you would talk about the unfounded assumptions I'm making without having read the paper that provided a link to. I mean, for all you know, my assumptions might be quite well founded.

I read the paper, and the responses to it, and the author’s response to the responses. Again, I never challenged your points on civilian control (I’m just a little baffled by them). I’m only challenging your assumption that the military as a whole is a Republican vote block.

Responding to hilzoy's request in the post, I can recommend Soldiers' Angels, which offers a multitude of opportunities to support veterans and serving soldiers.

To be fair to that 70% of Congress, they probably thought, much as I did at the time, that this war would be a replay of the 1991 Gulf War, with, y'know, allies, and an exit plan, and so forth. I sure don't recall the Bushies saying that they were planning an indefinite occupation. Bush DID say "regime change," but even that can mean lots of things. I figured we would install a subservient satrap, like Saddam used to be before we betrayed him over Kuwait, dust our hands off, and leave. Indeed, that was the plan, remember Chalabi? But it turned out that virtually everything the Administration thought it knew about Iraq was wrong. While Congress certainly bears responsibility for not probing harder beforehand, I find it hard to blame them too much for failing to expect total incompetence.

OT: Designated Wolfowitz successor sat on board of Enron and is signatory of PNAC original mission statement.
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/053007N.shtml>(according to The Independent)

I wonder, whether he also traded in Arabian horses ;-)

jrudkis: I don't have a problem with some forms of pushback. Certainly if what 'pushback' means is: the generals make their views about the wisdom of some proposed venture known, I don't have a problem with that at all, so long as, when a decision is taken by the President or Sec. of Defense, they obey it. In fact, I'd have a problem if they didn't offer their advice.

I think it's wrong of them to deliberately overstate the difficulty of doing something, as it has been reported that they did during the 90s. For one thing, that's lying; for another, it tends to undercut their credibility when something really is incredibly difficult. I suspect, for instance, that they would have had an easier time arguing for more troops in Iraq had they not done this. But I don't think that the particular wrong thing this is is insubordination, exactly.

In general, I think that pushback is one of those things that is desirable unless abused, which is all the more reason not to abuse it.

I would appreciate more resignations from top brass if they REALLY think a policy is that bad, rather than accepting the mission and then speaking out against it years later, as we have seen several do.

To be clear, I'm glad that the speaking out occurred on *some* timetable, I just wish there had been the integrity to do it in the moment.

" I suspect, for instance, that they would have had an easier time arguing for more troops in Iraq had they not done this."

I doubt this vey much. Remember, Rumsfeld was very connected to the lean, mean military machine. Additionally, part of the attraction to the public was that this would be a quick, in and out, type of war. By saying we needed 300,000 troops, that would have been advertising the fact that it might be messy.

BTW, I read a while back (do not remember who said it) that what really may have turned Iraqis against us was not incompetence in other areas, not the dissolving of the Iraqi army, not the de-baathification program. Instead, allowing the museum looting to go unchecked sent a message to many Iraqis that we didn't really care about them and their cultural history. It makes some sense.

I'd just like to say, the military is NOT a homogeneous mix. There are a lot more minorities in the military, for one. Soldiers also tend to meet wives on tours, and they bring a lot of interesting cultural backgrounds to the mix. There are representatives of different religions - Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, you name it. You have people who hunt and fish, people who are into sports or cars, people who work on computers in their spare time, people going to school and getting degrees. Different music, different reading habits, and yes, different voting habits.

This is all coming from a woman who's husband served in the army and left in protest of the war, though only after he went to Iraq for 11 months starting a few weeks before the initial invasion. He was lucky and didn't hit stop-loss when it was time to get out. VERY lucky, it was a close thing. He now works for a contractor.

We still have friends in the military. All of my good friends were anti-Bush and anti-Iraqi war from the start, and all of them went anyway and did the duty they had sworn to do. There are a lot of military members who agree with the mission. There are a lot who don't. But they all still go.

I think one thing that isn't coming through here is, even if the top brass has some influence, the average soldier is entirely someone who does what his command tells him to do because that's how the military has to be, and because he's upholding the oath taken when he joined. There are some influential people in the upper levels, sure, but most of the men and women serving our country are just people, doing what they have to do.

On another point, military members cannot generally speak out against the military or their leaders, as pointed out in the links provided about sedition. So you're less likely to hear about soldiers who disagree with how things are going, though some will still voice opinions. I don't see it as something that actually comes to court-martial too often, but it can happen.

You do hear from troops who support the mission, however, so if there's a rule against expressing opposition then to be fair there should be a rule against expressing support. Just do one's duty and don't tell the press anything, I suppose.

My own feeling (based on no military experience whatsoever (my dad served in WWII ) is that in their off-duty hours the troops should be able to say whatever they want about the war. But maybe that would be a bad idea. Obviously you don't want them expressing dissent while they're actually performing whatever duty they're supposed to be performing.

I can't find if she's published on this yet, but a journalist friend of mine went on a bus tour of Southern military bases with (I think) Veterans for Peace. They would set up in the parking lots of fast-food restaurants near the bases and hand out pamphlets. My friend had a tape recorder and asked soldiers what they thought of the war. She played some excerpts during a recent public talk, and it was astonishing to me how many of those who spoke with her didn't see the point of the war and didn't want to deploy.

I have some further comment about this and its relationship to "support the troops" rhetoric, but can't compose it very articulately right now.

"Obviously you don't want them expressing dissent while they're actually performing whatever duty they're supposed to be performing."

Without getting into this more fully at the moment (I'm doin' other stuff), I wish to point out that the UCMJ doesn't prohibit "dissent."

As G'Kar linked, Article 88 says:

888. ART. 88. CONTEMPT TOWARD OFFICIALS
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.
That's not a prohibition on dissent, as in "I think this war is a bad idea for the following reasons...."

It doesn't even prohibit criticism of superiors. It simply prohibits "contemptuous words." That's a fairly narrow frame, and it doesn't equate to forbidding expression of dissent.

It's just that the dissent has to be phrased "respectfully" in regard to superiors. That's all.

Ditto that dissent isn't just mutiny and sedition, either. Not while you're obeying orders and regulations.

Gary,

True, but...military personnel can have their life made difficult if they express their opinions too vocally or in the wrong forums.

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