Civilian control of the military has been a central tenet of democratic governance. The trenchant warning from retiring President Dwight D. Eisenhower on the dangers to democracy from a permanent “military-industrial complex” is the most memorable presidential farewell warning in our history. The civil-military gap has widened over the years, starting with the controversy over the Vietnam War in the 1970s; the Goldwater-Nichols Act in the 1980s; and the Global War on Terror in the wake of the attacks in New York City and Washington in 2001. Our bloated defense budget, which accounts for more than one trillion dollars when all departments of government are included and two-thirds of discretionary spending, contributes to the belief that only a professional military class can manage the sophisticated technology of the Pentagon.
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Meet Our New “Secretary Of State”…Nancy Pelosi
In any event, Pelosi’s travel to the world’s worst trouble spots creates significant confusion regarding official U.S. policies and politics. In flexing the flabby diplomatic muscles of the U.S. Congress, Pelosi is engaging the international community without any obvious coordination with the White House or the Department of State. The notion that anyone from the House of Representatives could have an impact on U.S. foreign policy or diplomacy is particularly ludicrous. Unfortunately, her trips seemingly amount to a last hurrah.
The Dangerous Civilian-Military Chasm In America
One of the greatest weaknesses of presidential leadership over the past 60 years has been the lack of presidential experience in the military and the inability to control the military. Several weeks before his seminal Farewell Address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower told his senior advisers in the White House, “God help this country when someone sits in this chair who doesn’t know the military as well as I do.” His successors have been deferential to the military and too many of them have used military force to bolster their credentials. This has been a major factor in the expanded power of the military establishment.