Voice of the White House

June 2, 2018

Washington, D.C.:
Still haunted by Vietnam despite the 1991 Gulf War victory, many in uniform believe that military officers need to be much more active in the political process if “another Vietnam” is to be avoided. Eventually, skill at political infighting, not warfighting, becomes the mark of up-and-coming officers. Politicization is hastened by a variety of factors, including the military’s institutional drift from warfighting to a complex array of military operations other than war. Overlooked is the fact that officers who concentrate on activities other than war eventually become something other than warriors. Such officers also displace their dedication to the warrior ethic with a cultish devotion to commerce-oriented fads like total quality management. The ultimately unquantifiable nature of military service is somehow reduced to metrics, and this leads the new-styled officer/ business executives to reject combat-oriented activities as too costly given their notion of an acceptable “bottom line.” Indeed, the Pentagon’s aversion to casualties leads to a heavy reliance on unmanned systems which, in turn, eliminates the rationale (and the need) for a separate pilot-based air service, thus eventually leading to the Air Force’s disestablishment. Risky combat operations still requiring personnel on the ground are to be outsourced to private corporations, a move that could well prove disastrous in twenty-first century conflicts. Just as the military’s politicization is increasing, the nation is coming under the spell of “postmodern militarism.” This phenomenon is not marked by overt military domination or even a societal embrace of martial virtues. Rather, it is characterized by the growing willingness of a militarily naive society to charge those in uniform with responsibilities that a democracy ought to leave to civilians. The popular military assums a wide variety of trendy noncombat activities ranging from drug interdiction at home to nation-building abroad, thereby leading to further politicization as the military insinuates itself into areas that were previously the exclusive province of civilian policymakers. All of this is occurring as the formal institutions of civilian control–Congress and the executive branch–are losing the public’s confidence. These institutions are further weakened by partisan squabbling, and this allows a politically savvy military to accumulate enormous political clout. Despite its growing popularity and political power, the professional military increasingly viewed civilian society as irresponsibly chaotic, crime-ridden, and morally corrupt. The alienated military also began to view itself as a higher caste than the society it was supposed to serve. An increasingly self-righteous military is beginning to see reforming America as its responsibility. This philosophy, termed “neopraetorianism” is abetted by officers infatuated with the idea that they are national ombudsmen with unlimited portfolios as opposed to military leaders with finite responsibilities. Moreover, the armed forces fails to appreciate that it was civil society’s largess that has insulated the military from the problems that burdened so many civilian communities.