Wednesday, August 02, 2017

What's an Order?

Why isn't a reasonably clear Tweet an order?

In regard to the president's transgender ban Tweet, one "senior officer" said:

"I hope our commander in chief understands that we don't transmit orders via Twitter, and that he can't, either," one said by telephone, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Why can't orders be sent by a Tweet?

So in person is okay? A letter is okay? Does it need special stationery or a wax seal? A radio call is okay? A phone call is okay? A telegram, perhaps, is okay? A video conference is okay? Is an email command an order? Is a text message? Or a direct message Tweet? If not, why not? Or is anything more modern than a telegraph too new fangled?

Why isn't a Tweet an order?

Is it a question of verifying the person giving the order? Why is that more of a problem than recognizing a voice or a signature?

When I got a letter in the mail ordering me to active duty for training, it didn't occur to me to think, "Hmm. Is this really valid? How do I know it is real?" No. I showed up where and when I was told to show up.

But in all the talk about this, nobody doubts the president Tweeted that order.

And I don't think anyone is questioning whether the order is lawful, given that allowing transgender troops is a policy less than a year old.

Is it the phrasing?

Can't be. When I was a soldier I was informed in no uncertain terms that phrasing didn't matter. An order was an order even if a superior officer or NCO phrased it as a request or even said it would be great if you did something in particular. If the superior chooses to be polite, that makes the order no less an order despite lacking the magic words "I order you to ..." in front of the direction; or "That's an order" or even "That's a direct order" after the direction given.

Heck, even if an order is incomplete, knowing the intent of the order is supposed to lead you to use initiative to carry it out rather than just stop when the order stops making sense and wait for another order.

Is it that there was no recipient and so by definition it isn't an order? A person giving the order has to give it to someone? That makes the most sense.

But that can't be it, either, even if as a general rule you need a recipient of the order. What if an officer in the midst of a bunch of pinned down soldiers not under his command points and yells out, "Somebody work around the flank and shoot that bastard!"

In that case, wouldn't the senior soldier in that group have the responsibility to carry out the order to "someone?"

So why wouldn't an order via Tweet require whoever has the authority to do what was ordered? Surely presidential Tweets are followed just like phones are answered, mail is opened, radio nets are monitored, and whatever else is used to communicate is answered, no?

I understand that the person who should carry out the order will need guidance on how to do it and there will be give and take on how the order is to be smoothly executed, given the size of the military and the need to write out policies and send them out. That takes time and effort.

Heck, I can even understand a reply of "Are you sure you want to do that, sir?"

But it is still a lawful order given by the commander in chief lawfully carrying out his powers, even if Tweeted, isn't it?

It's an interesting question, isn't it? But I don't see how the answer is anything but yes, a Tweet is an order.