Is the Military Reluctant to Support the Use of Force?


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?

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