Is the Military Reluctant to Support the Use of Force?

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Retired Gen. Charles Dunlap says we shouldn’t be too worried about all the generals that Donald Trump is picking for his cabinet:

Many in the civilian world misunderstand the ways most generals see the world….Retired generals don’t clamor for war; they are typically the voices urging that all other avenues be exhausted before turning to force.

As chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then-Army Gen. Colin Powell authored a thoughtful but tempered use-of-force doctrine that said America should only go to war with defined objectives and a clear exit strategy. It was designed to persuade civilian policymakers to be extremely cautious about ordering troops into battle. It didn’t work, and true “hawks” of Powell’s tenure often proved to be high-ranking civilian officials with liberal political leanings.

My sense is that this is true. But that doesn’t mean it is, of course. Maybe my sense is wrong. I’d like to hear more about this from both civilian and military folks who have held high-ranking positions in previous administrations. When it comes to the use of force, are ex-generals generally voices of moderation?

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate