Click here for the Open Letter – To Support and Defend: Principles of Civilian Control and Best Practices of Civil-Military Relations
The real meaning of a striking new letter from former military officials
Eight former secretaries of defense and five former chairs of the Joint Chiefs of Staff published an open letter Tuesday intended to “review” the best practices for maintaining “healthy” American civil-military relations. The letter listed what experts considered to be a basic and outwardly uncontroversial set of principles to ensure civilian control and the rule of law in the American political system. But what stood out about the missive was that the officials felt compelled to write it.
The real inspiration for the letter, which was signed by former officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations, can be found in a line in the introduction. The signers express concern about “polarization that culminated in the first election in over a century when the peaceful transfer of political power was disrupted and in doubt.”
The letter’s reassertion of civil-military norms is meant to be a rejection of Trump’s transgressions.
The clear subtext, experts say, is that these former officials were shocked by Donald Trump’s attempt to subvert American democracy — and his efforts to use the military to do it. By writing the letter, they were emphasizing that Trump’s attitude toward the military was unacceptable — and signaling that any future attempts by politicians to follow in his footsteps should face resistance from the defense establishment.