By Colonel William T. Hewes, USMC (Ret.)
Like many officers in the retired community, I am puzzled as to why the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other senior service leaders are so supine in the face of those Obama administration’s policies that are clearly inimical to maintaining a strong national defense. The most blatant recent example is the policy to assign women to the combat arms. Whatever the prevailing political view may be, the Chairman, Chief of Staff of the Army, and Commandant of the Marine Corps know the policy is deeply flawed. Beyond compromising unit cohesion, morale, and combat effectiveness, the policy contains a ticking time bomb of unintended consequences that will further weaken the combat arms and our national defense.
If the Chief’s know the policy is dangerously flawed, why are they so supine?
Can the cause be that the doctrine of civilian control of the military has become politicized and thus unbalanced beyond that which the doctrine originally intended? Certainly the nation is endangered if the military is left unchecked. But, so too is it endangered when the controlling civilian authority ignores the best judgment of experienced military leaders; particularly wherein it subverts the core elements that make the military uniquely different from civil life.
What then should the Chairman and Chiefs do?
The answer lies in the moral obligation they have to the soldiers and Marines under their command, an obligation equally as profound as their duty to be loyal to the doctrine of civilian control. That obligation includes the responsibility to insure that every soldier and Marine under his command is organized, trained, and equipped to win on the battlefield. If that obligation cannot be faithfully fulfilled, a senior leader has but one moral choice: to resign.
For the Chairman and Chiefs to do less is to invite comparison to the pre-WWII German General Staff who traded their honor, their troops’ welfare, and their nation for loyalty to the “civilian control” of an autocrat.