Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why the military wants Obama

Why does it appear so many soldiers support Obama despite the persistent propaganda that says military people don't like Democrats (see this dKos diary for evidence of this support)?

An acquaintance of mine who is ex-military has explained it well to me (this is my explanation of his explanation so forgive me if I f*ck it up).

When you join the military you give up an essential element of your freedom. The freedom to say "no".

When your superior orders you to do something, you do it. Most of us understand this at an intellectual level, but how many of us, outside the military, understand it at a gut level? What this means is that if your superior officer orders you to go into downtown LA and start shooting civilians, you do it.

Now I can already hear people squawking about war crimes and about the Nuremburg trials which established the principle that the military can refuse orders that are war crimes. In a technical sense, this is true. But in a practical sense, it creates a problem.

Do you want to give people in the military the option of refusing to obey the orders of a superior? Do you want to give generals the option of simply refusing to follow the orders of the President if they happen to disagree with the policy behind those orders? Do you really want to open ourselves up to that?

The beauty of the American system of civilian control of the military is that the military NEVER decides the foreign or domestic policy path of the nation. It is the civilian leadership which has that task. Any system that gives the military the option to decide whether to follow policy inevitably leads to military control of the government.

But then, how do you deal with the issue of war crimes? How do you deal with "illegal orders"? How do you deal with soldiers ordered to shoot civilians in downtown LA?

You deal with it by removing from command those who give those orders.

If the lieutenant gives the order, the colonel who commands him should relieve him. If the colonel gives the order than the general who commands him should relieve him. If the general gives the order than the president who commands him should relieve him.

And if the president gives the order?

Then it is the responsibility and the duty of the civilian oversight of the president to relieve him of command. That means impeachment in the House and conviction in the Senate. And that is why it is the duty of the congress to impeach a president who puts the military in the position of having to execute orders that it finds reprehensible (such as invading a country that never attacked us).

So what does this have to do with why so many soldiers are happy at the idea of Obama becoming president?

Those soldiers have surrendered their essential freedom to say "no" on the assumption that the chain of command, all the way up to the president and the congress and the American people, would never ask them to do something they find wrong. Bush has failed them in this regard (and congress has failed them by not removing him from power). They don't want to be in the position where they have to actually consider the idea that their superiors are giving them "illegal" orders. Entertaining that idea damages the entire structure of the military command structure. It strikes at the core of how the U.S. military works.

And Obama represents hope that those soldiers won't have to question their orders any more. He represents a restoration of authority that Bush and Congress has squandered.

Obama is someone who's orders they can follow without doubt that they will give meaning to their sacrifice.

That is why they cheer.


Blogger Syam said...

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