On April 9, 2018, I was privileged to be a panelist at the New America Foundation/Arizona State University Future of War Conference in Washington. Video from the event is available here, and my remarks were subsequently published at JustSecurity.org on April 30, 2018, a selection of which follows and the rest can be read at Just Security under the title, “Losing Our Profession: The Dire Consequences of a More Partisan Military.”
“Do the generals have too much power?”
That was the prompt I was originally asked to answer on a recent panel which discussed the relationship between civilian society and its armed forces.
My answer was, perhaps not surprisingly as a mid-career U.S. Army officer, a firm “No.” Military leaders do not have too much power. But to ask that question of someone in uniform is a little like asking a servant on Downton Abbey whether they think the master, Lord Grantham, has given the “downstairs” servants too much power. A servant’s answer, I suspect, would be something like, “the servants have as much power as Lord Grantham thinks we need.” I feel the same way.
Setting that issue aside, I drove the discussion in the direction of another issue I think matters a little more. Too often, when we talk about the relationship between civilians and their military, we quickly gravitate upward, toward presidents, prime ministers, generals and admirals. Instead, I think we ought to consider that “downstairs” perspective for a moment, because there’s a lot going on, and it’s not all good.