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WILL THIBEAU: Senior US Military Leaders Shouldn’t Be Free From Scrutiny


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Will Thibeau Will is an Army veteran and the Director of the American Military Project at the Claremont Institute’s Center for the American Way of Life.
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Uniformed servicemembers rightly deserve praise, deference and respect by signing up for way of life few Americans are even willing to consider.

This does not accord the highest-ranking generals and admirals of the armed forces with an exception to accountability for good conduct and performance in their most prestigious jobs. The Center for Renewing America released a report of almost three-dozen generals and admirals’ egregious comments and behavior that indicates the time is likely overdue for such scrutiny.

This scrutiny of senior officers is not disrespectful of the military as an institution, but necessary if we are going to regain the military’s readiness and credibility. (RELATED: MORGAN MURPHY: America’s Military Is Finally Getting Some Form Of Congressional Oversight)

The birth of the modern officer corps began after the Civil War, where a unified American Army had to navigate a brutal realignment, tensions in the American States and the Indian Wars out West. Obviously a general like Ulysses S. Grant chose a political life with his ascendance to the presidency a few short years later.

But it was General William Tecumseh Sherman who set the standard for the next century of U.S. civil-military relations. General Sherman practiced and preached a life of a professional officer that was near-exclusively concerned with military affairs. He paid no mind to matters of politics, even to the point of reportedly urging other officers not to vote.

This ambivalence for the winds of American politics and ideology continued with “Black Jack” Pershing in World War I, and George Marshall in World War II. The officer corps that led the American military through two world wars was one built on an ethic of separation and indifference to issues of politics, both domestic and international.

These generals knew their job was to train, equip and employ a force that could win on 20th Century battlefields. Nothing more; nothing less.

Suffice to say, the likes of Generals Sherman, Pershing and Marshall would be aghast to witness the public activity of too many of our nation’s most senior military officers. The conduct the Center for Renewing America exposed ranges from social media activity comparing religious Americans to illegal immigrants, to the explicit advocacy of Diversity Equity and Inclusion ideology playing a central role in military decision making.

The point is not the legal or illegal nature of this activity. The point is that it is not unreasonable to expect active-duty Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines to avoid publicly opining on matters of politics irrelevant to their military profession.

This, of course, would be another sacrifice of serving our country, but one important to make in a digital world where our information footprint travels faster and farther than ever before.

A common talking point among Republican elected officials and staff is that we should focus on policy, not people, especially not the uniformed officers. This is to cede a key tool in the responsibility the Senate’s means of civilian control over the military. After all, these nominees come through the Senate for nomination as a matter of process.

It is only because Sen. Tommy Tuberville has bravely held up military promotions that the American public has a chance to understand the kind of officers President Biden and Secretary Austin are choosing to serve at the highest ranks. If the Senate will not hold the line on these nominees, then conservatives should concede that this matter of legislative oversight is merely theatrics.

American men and women serve on the front lines and will live and die based on the decisions some of these senior officers make. It is not too much to ask those critical decision makers to be more than merely acceptable stewards of the military profession. They should be the best, without caveat.

Will is an Army veteran and the Director of the American Military Project at the Claremont Institute’s Center for the American Way of Life.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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