Friday, April 6, 2012

USMC and Civilian Control of the Military

This US Marine Corps hearing was right to recommend separation for Sgt. Gary Stein. While Stein has honored himself by his service (which included deployment to Iraq), civilian control over the military must always take precedence when the relationship of the two are brought into question. When Stein took his oath, he agreed to be bound by the lawful authority of his commander in chief (the President). In making this commitment, he and all those who wear the uniform accepted that their personal freedom (of speech, of choice and if necessary, of life) would be submitted to the service and (through the President) the authority of the American people. This level of willing sacrifice is one of the things that makes American military service so noble. Whatever Stein's feelings towards the President, it was not his place to make those feelings known. When he did so, he directly challenged his chain of command and indirectly challenged the institution of the US Military as fundamentally servient to democratic authority. Military efficacy requires that the chain of command and the authority attached in that chain are unquestioned. David Petraeus has made clear his own understanding of the critical importance of this dynamic.

Without a civilian led military, the American people would live at the whim of the most powerful military force in history. Clearly, this would present a toxic recipe in which the very essence of the Constitution would be placed in jeopardy. From the Civil War to Korea to Afghanistan, necessary precedence has shown that the President is the final master of American military force. Albeit at a low level, Sgt. Stein's actions publicly questioned this principle and as such could not be tolerated by the USMC.

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