THE U.S. MILITARY is now more alienated from its civilian leadership than at any time in American history, and more vocal about it.
The warning signs are very clear, most noticeably in the frequency with which officers have expressed disgust for the President over the last year.
When Clinton visited the carrier Theodore Roosevelt, the Atlantic Fleet commander had to arrive at the ship beforehand to assure a proper reception. The Air Force Chief of Staff had to issue an open demand to his service to respect the President and for proper behavior to be accorded him--and still had to retire a two-star general for disparaging remarks made in public. At the Army's elite Command and General Staff College, a respected Congressman was "jeered" by the class when he "repeatedly lectured officers" about Congress's role and powers--and was greeted by "catcalls" at the mention of the President (Kansas City Star, April 17, 1993.)
But the problem goes much deeper, sometimes manifest in small symbols. When Senator Strom Thurmond was introduced for an award at the Association of the United States Army last fall, and the speaker noted Thurmond's change of party from the Democrats to the Republicans in 1964, the audience burst into applause, an open sign of just how partisan the military has become in the last generation. There was, in the wake of the Somalia disaster, a concerted effort to undermine Les Aspin, fed by criticism from within the Pentagon's uniformed ranks, aided and abetted by a steady stream of rumors and leaks in the Washington Times. (Ten years ago when I asked that paper's first editor what the perspective of the new newspaper was, she replied, "Pro-military.")