The danger of turning the U.S. military into a political actor

Here’s the danger in that, and in the president’s words this past weekend: If you keep treating the U.S. military like a privileged class—a class of men and women above the citizens it swore to defend—it will start acting like it. America has already taken on some characteristics of a banana republic of late, with long-standing ethical rules ignored (with the tacit blessing of the Congress) and the president’s relatives given positions of power within the government. So a next logical step would be a military like that of Egypt, or Turkey, or Pakistan, where the military officer corps is a political-economic actor that operates not only out of service to the citizenry but also to protect its own craven political and economic interests.

That’s what the president was encouraging last Saturday, even if it was done with little understanding how such a political actor, once animated, might act against him as well.

Thankfully, the U.S. military officer corps itself—which is increasingly filled with the sons and daughters of other officers, for whom military service has grown into a family tradition—is a bulwark against its own politicization.