Small Wars Journal

The "Warrior Monk" As Secretary of Defense

The "Warrior Monk" As Secretary of Defense by John Waters & David Craig, Real Clear Defense

The quantity of former senior military officers under consideration to join the Trump Administration has drawn enthusiasm and ire.  Military and veteran communities generally are enthused by the prospect of Jim Mattis as Secretary of Defense or John Kelly as Secretary of State.  By comparison, many intellectuals in the diplomatic and national security enterprises, alongside the media, have expressed concern over what they perceive as disregard for the well-established precedent of civilian control of the military.  Too many “strong, even swaggering” military men could lead to “an undue emphasis on military force in American foreign policy,” said the New York Times.  “The military parade has come early for Donald Trump,” announced the Associated Press.  However, what may seem a historic moment to some is wholly unsurprising to astute political observers—it is simply a continuation of the decades-old debate over civil-military relations in this country.

President-elect Trump’s admiration for the leadership capabilities of wartime commanders is nothing new.  And neither is the liberal cognoscenti’s critique.  In 1949, for example, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning author Pearl S. Buck, Albert Einstein and other notable intellectuals co-sponsored the National Council Against Conscription’s (NCAC) publication of a pamphlet titled “New Evidence of the Militarization of America,” which warned that liberal democracy faced an existential threat from the growing influence of military institutions in American society.  Similar to today’s critics, these writers believed the widespread presence of ex-military personnel in government would fundamentally transform, or “militarize,” America’s foreign policy.  Maybe they were right; former five-star general Dwight Eisenhower was elected president only three years later.  However, President Eisenhower’s foreign policy record – managing Soviet-American relations without starting a war, ending the Korean War and, at the end of his presidency, warning of the “unwarranted influence” wielded by the military-industrial complex – suggests otherwise…

Read on.