Former Generals and other Officials warn of the Growing Strain between the Military and Public
"Many of the factors that shape civil-military relations have undergone extreme strain in recent years.”
Following Donald Trump’s attempt to maintain his presidency following his loss in the 2020 election, a growing concern about the “exceptionally challenging” relationship between the military and the general public came about. An open letter from a group of the United States’ former defense secretaries and top generals now warns of the escalation of these failing relationships.
Five former chairmen of the Joint Cheifs of Staff and eight former Pentagon secretaries claim they fear the standing of the military among the public can worsen more than it already has since the easing of the Covid pandemic and Trump’s debacle such as the instigating of the January 6th Capitol Riots.
“We are in an exceptionally challenging civil-military environment. Many of the factors that shape civil-military relations have undergone extreme strain in recent years.”
The letter from the group read.
The warning also cites growing political polarization in the United States that “culminated in the first election in over a century when the peaceful transfer of political power was disrupted and in doubt,” according to Jim Mattis and Mark Esper of the group.
“Military officers swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution, not an oath of fealty to an individual or to an office. All civilians, whether they swear an oath or not, are likewise obligated to support and defend the Constitution as their highest duty.”
The letter continues.
Tensions between Donald Trump and the military came as he would use the military as leverage for his own aims. Such incidents involve sending the United States military to the southern border of Mexico and even using them against Black Lives Matters demonstrations. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, said that Trump wasn’t directly mentioned, but “his comments while in office contributed to the strained relationship the signatories mentioned.” Mullen cited reports that Donald Trump asked John Kelly, his Chief of Staff, why he “couldn’t have loyal military aids like the German generals in World War 2.” Mullen concluded, “[The letter] is not pointed at Trump, but when you hear him talk about Hitler’s generals, well, that’s not who we are.”
“Looking ahead, all of these factors could well get worse before they get better. In such an environment, it is helpful to review the core principles and best practices by which civilian and military professionals have conducted healthy American civil-military relations in the past — and can continue to do so, if vigilant and mindful.”
The letter says as the signatories claim things may get worse before they get better.