Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Has No Need to Woo US Military

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Has No Need to Woo US Military

Article excerpt

PRESIDENT Clinton's sensitivity to his evasion of military service during the war in Vietnam continues to cause long-term problems for this country in the critical area of civil-military relations. These problems first surfaced in the campaign and continue to dog him and the nation.

To compensate for the candidate's lack of a military background, which some felt was a result of draft dodging, the Clinton campaign sought and received the endorsement of some 20 retired, high-ranking military officers - including Adm. William Crowe, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Lt. Gen. Calvin Waller, the deputy commander of the allied forces in the Persian Gulf war.

When I questioned a Clinton campaign worker (who now has a relatively high post in the Pentagon) about this unprecedented involvement of the military in politics, he agreed that it established a troubling precedent, but said the Democrats were tired of losing presidential campaigns. Compounding the problem, several of Mr. Clinton's military supporters were rewarded with presidential appointments for their efforts in legitimizing him. Admiral Crowe has been nominated to the prestigious post of Ambassador to the Court of St. James, a post that normally goes to a large campaign contributor.

Since taking office, Clinton has shown an unwillingness to take on the military on many difficult issues. Confronted with military opposition on such subjects as homosexuality, budgets, and intervention in Bosnia, the president has backed down from his own positions.

When Secretary of Defense Les Aspin couldn't keep him from having problems with the military, the president turned to a retired career officer to shield him from and give him credibility with the Pentagon.

WHILE Adm. Bobby Inman may help Clinton with his problem, his appointment could erode the sacred constitutional principle of civilian control of the military. True, Admiral Inman has been retired for a decade, which technically makes him a civilian; but he spent the previous three decades as a naval officer, and his forays into the civilian business world have been less than successful. …

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