Field of Science

Will I get a new "commander-in-chief"?

A neighbor cheerfully greeted me outside our polling place this beautiful fall morning, "Well, no matter what tomorrow you'll have a new commander-in-chief". Actually I think they said "commander and chief", but that's not the issue. Tomorrow I'll have a president-elect. In fact unless you are in the military, you do not have a commander-in-chief, you have a president.

Actually too much is made of this constitutional definition, although the buck has to stop somewhere. If the president was not also the commander-in-chief, then the military would only answer to its own commanders, who would be free to act outside of any civilian rule. So the highest elected official has to have that authority.

Many of my fellow citizens argue that only a person with military experience should be in such a position, but I think it may be a good idea to let the military try explaining their reasons for military actions, and what might go wrong, to someone who doesn't necessarily think like them. Guns, bombs, and military might just don't solve all problems. And the big problem the military has is that it is a closed fraternity; they only talk and trust each other. They don't have enough civilian friends or confidants.

It reminds me of visiting the Naval War College many years ago while still in my long-haired days. I have never been looked at with so much disdain and disgust ever before or since. And why? Well, I wasn't one of them, clearly, so I wasn't to be trusted, or liked, or anything. I was some inferior who probably thought the war in Vietnam wasn't a very good idea (true enough!). So making the military explain itself to a civilian leader is a great example of balancing power.

Too much is made of the commander-in-chief's authority. We don't have to do a damned thing the president says unless it becomes a rule of law. Indeed, only congress can declare war, and since they haven't the USA is not fighting a war in Iraq or Afganistan. It's only a military action. And by definition you can't have a war on terrorism. And that probably should tell the president something important; you're trying to fight terroism the wrong way. You fight other states with a military.
The problem is rather simple; war is declared against another state, and usually follows a long list of "where as" statements that resulted in this state of affairs. But neither Iraq or Afganistan has done anything to the USA.
Thus I have a considerable dislike of the "hail to the chief" promp and circumstance march because it is purely militaristic. Sorry, I don't have to salute (although we once had a provost who thought we did). So let's call the winner what they are, the president-elect. Maybe we could put new words to the Family Stone song, "We are president". No, that doesn't work, too royal sounding.
Any other suggestions?

2 comments:

Laurent said...

Guns, bombs, and military just don't solve all problems.

Whenever they do solve any...

Larissa said...

I completely agree about the benefits of having a president that has no military history. I would much rather have a leader with knowledge of the law over knowledge of military action and armed conflict.