Academic journal article Parameters

Civilian Control of the Military

Academic journal article Parameters

Civilian Control of the Military

Article excerpt

Civilian ascendancy over the military is a tradition among American service personnel, one that serves as a model to all democracies. A peek at private communications, however, suggests that the military has not always been unreserved in its admiration of civilian leaders nor has it necessarily longed for their close attention, as noted in this passage from a letter written after the presidential inaugural of 1909:

   The army at large regards the change of administration with favor
   and with a certain degree of hope. Mr. Taft has never so far
   betrayed any particular interest in the Army, and if he will
   continue along that line and let us alone we will all be profoundly
   grateful. The intolerable personal interference of Mr. Roosevelt in
   the details of the service, and more particularly his absolute
   disregard of everything save his own personal favorites when he did
   take a hand in Army administration, have resulted in a demoralizing
   condition. If the administration would absolutely forget the Army
   for a few years it would settle down to its ordinary routine of
   life and duty. (1)

Victor H. Metcalf, one of President Theodore Roosevelt's short-lived and less-distinguished Secretaries of the Navy, wrote this job description:

   My duties consist of waiting for the Chief of the Bureau of
   Navigation to come in with a piece of paper, put it down before me
   with his finger on the dotted line and say to me, "Sign your name
   here. … 
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