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June 22, 2011

Kori Schake's Unique Take on Civ-Mil Relations
Posted by Michael Cohen

Drstrangelove_40ae_08 Over at Shadow Government, Kori Schake is surprisingly happy with President Obama's umpteenth review of Afghanistan policy, but believes that if he goes against the military's advice he needs to explain why:

The president has the right to choose policies contrary to their (the military) advice; it's his job as Commander in Chief to weigh the broader costs and trade-offs associated with governing our country. 

. . .  It's the president's choice. That's what he gets elected for.  He does not, however, get to make his choices without having to explain why he disregarded military advice. There may be compelling reasons; in the case of Afghanistan that would be difficult to square with the president's own earlier statements about the importance of the war.  If President Obama chooses to disregard our military and civilian defense leadership's counsel on Afghanistan, he will owe them -- and us -- an explanation.

This is grade-A silliness. Actually maybe I'm wrong; excuse me while I peruse my copy of the Constitution to find the section that explains how the duly elected commander-in-chief has to politely explain to his military commanders that he likes them a lot, but he's just not ready to commit. Oops, I can't find it.

Indeed, I don't remember when George W. Bush explained to the American people how he was disregarding his generals about the US having too few troops to invade Iraq; or FDR had a heart-to-heart with his generals about how the Allies were going to push off the invasion of France for a few years or focus on the European theater rather than the Pacific.

The President has no responsibility whatsoever to explain to the military as to why he ignored or disregarded their advice. Indeed, does he have a responsibility to explain why he ignored Joe Biden's advice in 2009? Or if the President rejected the advice of other civilian advisors does he have a responsibility to explain why their counsel was rejected? Of course not, and no one would suggest otherwise. But as it is in all facets of our national life, somehow the military resides on some different plain where the civilian leadership must be deeply solicitous of their concerns (even when their military and strategic advice is, as has been the case in Afghanistan, consistently wrong). Every once in a while it's worth remembering who actually is in charge here.


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