Academic journal article Parameters

On "The General Stanley McChrystal Affair: A Case Study in Civil-Military Relations"

Academic journal article Parameters

On "The General Stanley McChrystal Affair: A Case Study in Civil-Military Relations"

Article excerpt

This commentary is in response to Dr. Marybeth P. Ulrich's article "The General Stanley McChrystal Affair: A Case Study in Civil-Military Affairs, "published in the Spring 2011 issue of Parameters (vol. 41, no. 1).

Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government; whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing, indulged in too long, by federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as thorough and complete as they should be. These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. (1)

Professor Ulrich's scholarly article, "The General Stanley McChrystal Affair: A Case Study in Civil-Military Affairs," should be mandatory reading for every military academy cadet, Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) cadet, and Officer Candidates School (OCS) candidate as well as all officers attending any level of Professional Military Education (PME). But, it should be followed by an important postscript. The McChrystal case in general, and her analysis of it in particular, fails to address another component permeating the overall assessment of the civil-military relations issue--military justice. My comments, however, should not be interpreted as a criticism of Professor Ulrich's erudition on the topic of civil-military relations and the issues and suggestions she raises.

"Conduct unbecoming an officer," (2) and conduct prejudicial to "good order and discipline in the armed forces," (3) while superficially obvious to the verbal conduct of General McChrystal and his staff officers involved in the Rolling Stone debacle, need a more robust examination in the overall civil-military relations issue vis-a-vis military justice. Congress, exercising its power under Article I, [section] 8, of the US Constitution, has the exclusive power "To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces." Congress exercised that power when it enacted the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). (4) In doing so, Congress made the following a crime:

   Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the
   President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense,
   the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Homeland
   Security, or the Governor or legislature of any State,
   Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall
   be punished as a court-martial may direct. (5)

But, this was not a new crime in military law when the UCMJ was enacted in 1950. The American Articles of War of 1776, enacted eleven years before our Constitution was authored, contained the following offense:

   Whatsoever officer or soldier shall presume to use traiterous (sic)
   or disrespectful words against the authority of the United States
   in Congress assembled, or the legislature of any of the United
   States in which he may be quartered, if a commissioned officer, he
   shall be cashiered; if a non-commissioned officer or soldier, he
   shall suffer such punishment as shall be inflicted upon him by the
   sentence of a court-martial. (6)

The concept that, our military would be led by an elected civilian was framed constitutionally when the drafters wrote Article II, [section] 2, of the Constitution declaring that "The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States" Hence, there is more than a doctrinal basis for the civil-military relationship there is a constitutional command. (7) Or, as one scholar noted:

   The principle of civilian control of the armed forces is basic in
   our Constitution and that of England, and saves us from a military
   dictatorship, such as that which now exists in Spain (8) [. … 
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