Earlier this week, on October 24, 2016, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joe Dunford sent a fascinating piece of communication, titled “Upholding Our Oath,” to every member of the U.S. Armed Services.
Note: General Joseph Dunford Jr., 60, was the 36th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. Nominated by Obama, Dunford became the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on October 1, 2015.
This is what Gen. Dunford wrote:
“As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff…as our country again prepares for a peaceful transfer of power to a new administration, I write to share my views regarding our mutual obligations as military professionals and rights as citizens during this election season.
Every service member swears “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States” and to “bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” This oath is embedded in our professional culture and underpins the values that shape and define our all-volunteer force. Beginning with General George Washington resigning his military commission, our deliberate and disciplined commitment to upholding the principle of civilian control of the military underpins not only our warrior ethos but also the expectations of how we conduct ourselves while in uniform.
While we must always safeguard our professional integrity, extra vigilance is required during any political transition.Our individual and collective obligation during this election season is twofold. First, we must recognize that we have one Commander in Chief, and until authority is transferred on January 20, 2017, the Joint Force must remain clearly focused on and responsive to the existing National Command Authority. Second, the Joint Force must conduct itself in such a way that the new administration has confidence that it will be served by a professional, competent, and apolitical military.This is especially important in the context of delivering the best military advice.
Every member of the Joint Force has the right to exercise his or her civic duty, including learning and discussing — even debating — the policy issues driving the election cycle and voting for his or her candidate of choice. Provided that we follow the guidance and regulations governing individual political participation, we should be proud of our civic engagement. What we must collectively guard against is allowing our institution to become politicized, or even perceived as being politicized, by how we conduct ourselves during engagements with the media, the public, or in open or social forums.
We are living in the most volatile and complex security environment since World War II. Whether confronting violent extremist organizations seeking to destroy our way of life or dealing with state actors threatening international order, threats to our national security require a Joint Force that is ready, capable, and trusted. To that end, I have a duty to protect the integrity and political neutrality of our military profession. But this obligation is not mine alone. It belongs to every Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman, and Coastguardsman. Thank you for joining me in honoring our history, our traditions, and the institutions of the U.S. Armed Forces by upholding the principle of political neutrality.”
Even without reading between the lines, General Dunford clearly has concerns about politicization of the military and its obligation and commitment to political neutrality and noninterference in politics. That the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must remind members of the Armed Forces that they must “uphold” their oath both suggests and implies that the opposite is going on, i.e., the military is politicized and there are fears that it will intervene in civilian politics.
If this pic (below) of a young U.S. Marine is any indication, Gen. Dunford has good reasons to issue the “Upholding Our Oath” communication.
A year ago, a Rasmussen Reports national survey of active and retired militarypersonnel found that only 15% had a favorable opinion of Hillary Clinton, with just 3% who viewed her very favorably. A staggering 81% had an unfavorable opinion of her, including 69% who had a very unfavorable view of her.
A similar survey today is sure to find even higher unfavorable ratings for Hillary among those whom she would command as their Commander in Chief.