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International Honor Society in Social Sciences
The mission of Pi Gamma Mu is to encourage and promote excellence in the Social Sciences and to uphold and nurture scholarship, leadership, and service.

SHADOW PRESIDENT UPDATE

The Pi Gamma Mu Shadow President was conceptualized for the 2008 Triennial International Convention--aptly named "A Political Party."  Elected by the student delegates, the assignment for the Shadow President was to propose policy ideas and evaluate the initiatives of President Barack Obama in an occasional Newsletter column.  Eric Knutson served as the first Shadow President.   During the 2011 Triennial International Convention, student delegates elected Dr. Matthew Anderson to continue the assignment of the Shadow President.  During the 2017 Triennial International Convention in Kansas City, two student members were elected to serve as Co-Shadow Presidents for the 2017-2020 Triennium, Aaron Miller and Reggie Jones.  Miller was inducted into the North Carolina Mu chapter at Campbell University and Jones was inducted through the North Carolina Alpha Beta chapter at Chowan University.  The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect those of Pi Gamma Mu or its members.

Civil Military Relations

By Aaron Miller
Pi Gamma Mu Co-Shadow President

MillerThe Trump administration has appointed four well known and accomplished generals to the top of the policy food chain:  Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, is a retired Marine Corps General, White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly, is also a retired Marine Corps General, National Security Advisor, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, is an active duty Army Lieutenant General, and Advisor McMaster's Deputy is a reserve Major General.  To what effect does the appointment of these generals and the continuing politicization of the armed services have on the growing divide in civil-military relations?

Alice Friend, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, stated in a recent discussion on civil-military relations, "Insulating the military from politics and vice versa has been the cornerstone of how we've managed military affairs and, indeed, our democracy since 1789, but recent years have seen an increase in the visibility of military officers in partisan campaigns and political bargaining."  It seems the Trump administration is moving toward the latter regardless of the implications.

Currently, the civilian population has a great deal of trust in the United States armed forces.  However, these appointments come with the risk of weakening this conviction.  Filling such influential positions with current and former service members puts the military's reputation and its role in foreign politics at great risk.  Risk is associated with politicizing the military community.  As politicians, but more importantly the Commander in Chief, tug on the coat tails of retired generals, pulling them left or right puts a new label on the military.  What was once an apolitical institution now opens itself up for partisan labels.  Loren DeJonge Schulman, the Deputy Director of Studies at the Centre for a New American Security, highlights this point, writing, "The greatest risk posed by Trump's rush to court the brass is the extent to which our military leadership may become, in reality or perception, a politicized institution."

Is the recent skirmish between the President and the widow of a fallen service member an indicator of such politicization?  Soldiers have been and will continue to be used by politicians for political gain.  David Abrams, a New York Times contributor writes, "Politicians from both parties have used warriors as photo ops and speech fodder ever since Abraham Lincoln posed with his generals for Mathew Brady at Antietam."  There is no doubt that veterans and service members are an asset to any campaign.  The very nature of their chosen profession, service to the Nation, is a more than adequate compliment to any campaign.  The consistent news cycle and political climate would lead the public to believe that politicians and pundits are looking for any situation to politically exploit and, because of civil-military blurred lines, delve into and manipulate the circumstances of a fallen service member into political gain.

Another concern is that Secretary Mattis, White House Chief of Staff General Kelly and Lieutenant General McMaster have too close of ties to those with whom they served and are current active military officers. A danger exists here in that the values and ethos which connect service members may lead to bias and narrow sighted decisions.  The close connection between appointed generals turned policy makers could lead to militarized foreign policy.  Several civilian posts remain vacant throughout the national security establishment.  What is lost is a balance of power.  Several military minds with minimal civilian input and foresight will provide solutions to problems that are military focused in application and void of diplomatic and domestic considerations.

Has a precedence been set?  Additional concerns arise as an appointed general and in this case, several generals, as individuals will not be able to separate themselves from the partisan politics and put a label on the military as a whole.  Will the military now be viewed through a partisan lens?  Amy Schafer and Jason Dempsey conclude, "The closer today's military becomes identified with the Trump administration, the easier it is to imagine the next president will eye the military's senior leaders with suspicion, and seek to replace them with generals that are not Trump's, but his or her own."

Arron Miller is an active duty army officer with 15 years of service and holds a Masters in Diplomacy from Norwich University.  The views and opinions shared here are his and do not represent the United States government, the United States army, Pi Gamma Mu, or its members.

 

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