On Officer Voting Abstinence, Part 1: A Military Declaration of Political Neutrality

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After a heated, bitterly contested election season, now that the peaceful transfer of power is complete and temperatures have subsided a bit—it’s important for the Profession of Arms to reflect on its critical role in this democratic society.

In the spirit of this important reflection, recently, I made the case that, while they should always maintain the right to vote—military officers should choose not to vote—to fulfill their professional duty to prevent politics from dividing our troops and separating us from society, as well as to uphold the long, star-studded tradition of uniformed non-voting (i.e. Grant, Marshall, Patton, Eisenhower, etc.).

In swift response, retired Gen. Carter Ham, announced in the Army Times he “could not disagree more strongly” with this position, and countered it was inadvisable “to suggest officers recuse themselves from one of the most fundamental rights and obligations of citizenry.” He concluded by reminding readers of then-Gen. George Washington’s words, “When we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen.” Continue reading “On Officer Voting Abstinence, Part 1: A Military Declaration of Political Neutrality”

On Officer Voting Abstinence, Part 2: Military Officers Can Choose Professional Values Over Their Personal Vote

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Retired Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap has written, perhaps unintentionally, a truly ironic essay for The Hill publication.

While he may have meant to disagree with my earlier-written opinion that military officers should not vote to maintain their professional obligation to reduce cancerous political partisanship in the ranks, his response’s immense irony is noteworthy. Continue reading “On Officer Voting Abstinence, Part 2: Military Officers Can Choose Professional Values Over Their Personal Vote”

Why Officers Shouldn’t Vote

*Note: This essay was published in the New York Times print edition on October 19, 2016.

Tonight, like millions of Americans, I will be glued to my television, watching the third and last presidential debate. But unlike them, and millions of others, whatever I hear tonight, I won’t be taking it with me into the ballot booth. I am a major in the United States Army, and I believe it is my professional duty — and that of my fellow officers, in all branches — not to vote.

To be clear, I strongly believe that officers, like all citizens, should have the right to vote. But because military officers have a special responsibility to prevent politics from dividing our troops and separating us from society, it is all the more important for us to choose not to exercise that right (this is my belief, of course, and not necessarily that of the Department of Defense or the American government).

Read the rest at the New York Times.