“It’s just institutionally harmful,” said Rachel VanLandingham, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and former judge advocate who now teaches law at Southwestern Law School. “This isn’t about these three individuals, it’s about the whole military justice system and whether that system itself is something of value to the operations of the military.”…

“Ever since Vietnam the leadership has sent a message that there is a link between discipline, respect for laws of war and military effectiveness,” Mr. Carter said. “The pardons send a different message that sometimes the laws get in the way.”…

Reactions from combat veterans were split. Many thanked the president for intervening on behalf of men who had volunteered to serve and protect their country. Others said the gesture of forgiveness tarnished the service of troops who served in the same vexing conditions, but did not break the laws of war.

“This is a sad day for the tens of thousands of us who led troops in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan who were proud of the way in which we maintained our good order and discipline in the face of many challenges,” Andrew Exum, a former Army Special Forces officer who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, said on Twitter. “These men, now pardoned, remain a disgrace to our ranks.”