Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Fight Our Own Battles

Instapundit notes a Krauthammer article that laments the use by anti-war partisans of former military officers to bolster their cause. The latest Rumsfeld media-fest is the spark for this.

I recognize that the retired officers have the right to speak out on issues that they think are important as civilians. That really isn't my problem. And why the media focuses so intensly on these few is another issue. What is disturbing in the fact that the civilian political opposition is using the authority of these officers to bolster their criticism and shield them from having to argue the position on their own or fight the charge of being weak on defense. And it is disturbing because this is a trend on their part.

I did not like it when the political Left called on the military to disobey the law on gays in the military.

I did not like it that a former general was enthusiastically supported in a primary campaign simply because he was a general.

I did not like it when a major political party argued that a combat veteran was uniquely qualified to be president.

I did not like it when the opposition argued that only veterans were qualified to voice support for the war.

And of course, never forget that they do swoon for leaders in uniform (Castro, Ortega, and Hugo), so I guess the fascination with generals is long-standing.

And it isn't even as if the opposition has a special reverence for the opinions of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines--they only pick and choose those among the minority of troops who back their existing positions. They are just uniformed human shields for the Left.

Nor do I like it when supporters of the war invoke the support of military personnel who are far more supportive of the war effort than the general public at this point. I complained about this in the context of the argument over who owns the truth of the war.

But this applies to the war debate itself. We should not drag the military into the political debate. We who support the war should fight this battle on our own terms. And truth be told, our military is obligated to fight even if they don't want to. Civilian control and all that. Are supporters of the war ready to argue that going to war requires a separate and periodic polling of our military personnel? This is just as dangerous to civilian control as the opposition's actions in regard to military authority. All that really matters is that our military personnel are lawfully sent to fight in our name to defend our nation.

Our military people fight the real war--don't we civilians (pro- and anti-Iraq War) owe it to them to let them focus on that mission while we civilians fight the war over the war effort?

UPDATE: Mackubin Owens isn't as charitable about the retired generals:

There is, as well, a practical political problem resulting from such actions on the part of retired officers: a loss of confidence and trust in the military institution by the American people. Although Americans hold today's military in high regard, this will change if they come to view the military as just another special-interest group vying for more resources as it seeks to restrict how the civilian authorities use it, or if retired soldiers are perceived to be no different than the sort of political appointee who just left the administration and is now peddling a "tell all" book intended to settle scores with his adversaries.

The view of the soldier, no matter how experienced in military affairs he may be, is still restricted to the conduct of operations and military strategy. Civilian control of the military means at a minimum that it is the role of the statesman to take the broader view, deciding when political considerations take precedence over even the most pressing military matters. The soldier is a fighter and an adviser, not a policymaker.

Excellent points. I guess I have to say that while I recognize the right of the retired generals to give their opinions, when it is part of a campaign to attack the administration that is going too far.

Should our military ever become just another interest group it will cease being a military force capable of defending our nation.