Former General Warns Military Officials That Commenting On Domestic Politics Is Destroying Trust

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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Retired Marine Gen. John Kelly scolded military officials in an interview with Foreign Policy for entering the tempting realm of domestic politics because doing so completely erodes trust in the Pentagon.

Kelly, who has tried to keep politics mostly to his private life, said military officials voicing their thoughts on the 2016 campaign endangers the Pentagon’s apolitical stance.

“It adds to this mistrust issue…if suddenly a guy retires and says, ‘I think this administration is doing all the wrong things for all the wrong reasons,'” Kelly said. The idea behind telling officials to pipe down on domestic politics is so the president doesn’t “ever think for a second that he’s getting anything but the absolute best military advice, completely devoid of politics.”

But just as Kelly counseled military brass to keep out the “cesspool of domestic politics,” he quickly transitioned to bashing both Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying they “are not serious yet about the issues.” For Kelly, Trump and Clinton have elected to speak in pure generalities on difficult topics, thereby pushing their campaigns away from accurately describing reality.

Kelly commented specifically on one of Trump’s central proposals, saying “no wall will work by itself.”

In addition, Kelly used the interview to throw his hat in the ring. He said he’d serve under Trump or Clinton, but refrained from offering an endorsement of either candidates. Neither campaign has reportedly contacted him.

Regardless of whoever wins, Kelly said, the next president of the United States “will be in desperate need — and I mean desperate need — of military and foreign policy advice, because the world out there is just getting crazier and crazier.”

Just before he retired in January, Kelly said his greatest fear upon leaving the service was that the Pentagon bureaucracy will inevitably lower standards to achieve a quota of women in combat jobs, once it becomes clear that women can’t pass existing standards at a high enough rate.

Earlier this year, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford told military leaders to keep out of political issues, a reminder he deemed necessary because of the extra incendiary nature of the 2016 election campaigns.

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