There have recently been several remarks by various GOP candidates on how United States military and foreign policy should be decided by the military - inferring that civilian control over the military in the United States is untenable with a strong, cohesive fighting force. The common refrain "listen to the generals" has been uttered by Romney, Gingrich and Bachmann at various points in the campaign.
Today the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs responded to the GOP. What he said is below:
"I'll probably make news with this but I find some of those articles about divergence or control of the generals to be kind of offensive to me," Dempsey told reporters traveling with him in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
"And here's why. One of the things that makes us as a military profession in a democracy is civilian rule. Our civilian leaders are under no obligation to accept our advice; and that's what it is. Its advice. It's military judgments, it's alternatives, it's options. And at the end of the day, our system is built on the fact that it will be our civilian leaders who make that decision and I don't find that in any way to challenge my manhood, nor my position. In fact, if it were the opposite, I think we should all be concerned."
For reference, here is what Mitt Romney said in November:
Romney made it clear he believes a president should listen to his commanders on the ground when making such a decision. "The commander-in-chief makes that decision based upon the input of people closest to the ground," Romney said during Tuesday night's CNN Republican presidential debate.
Here's what Gingrich said:
GINGRICH: I think we are drifting to a very, very dangerous situation. None of the generals recommended the speed of the drawdown the president wants. [...]
And if you watch what is happening there’s a steady drift from the United States at a time when the president is signaling his desire to get out as fast as he can and potentially faster than the generals think is safe. … You should go to the White House and ask the president why did he overrule all his generals?
The general is right - we should be concerned. The fact that Gingrich and Romney have both obliquely suggested that military leaders are better able to make decisions on key foreign policy and military issues suggests that at the very least they question civilian control over the military - which is a fundamental constitutional tenet in this country. Frankly I would have expected those remarks to cause greater furor than they did - but this interview shows that military leaders are watching and listening and they don't like what they're hearing.