Repairing Our Military
By Todd A. Weiler
Our military has been dangerously weakened over the course of the past four years. I am not referring to the hardware of war. Our arsenal of technology and equipment continues to surpass any foe. I am speaking of the persona of the military and its ethos that have been repeatedly attacked.
Behind the powerful weapons and well-pressed uniforms are the people who selflessly serve our nation. They volunteered to take an oath, not to a political party or a national leader, but to support and defend the United States’ Constitution. We tear at their professional core when we politicize them as Donald Trump has done. The danger of a politicized military is not new. Throughout our history, Democrat and Republican Presidents alike have made attempts to engage the military in domestic politics. But nothing in modern history compares to the actions of President Trump.
It began with the President’s praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his campaign’s collusion with Russian efforts — some planned and executed by Russian military and intelligence forces — to corrupt our electoral process. While Trump delivered partisan attacks on his political rivals, uniformed service members were required to stand behind him on the south lawn of the White House. He denigrated military leaders whose lives have been spent in selfless service. Trump repeatedly and publicly mocked former prisoners of war. In several speeches, the Commander-in-Chief stated that the military in the audience are his partisan allies. He even insulted those who sacrificed their lives in battle.
Soldiers were sent to the Southern Border to separate families, and then ordered to turn on their own citizens for a presidential photo opportunity outside a Washington, D.C. church. Our military men and women no longer know if they have a friend or an enemy among the many trusted allies we have abandoned. The president has dangerously blurred the line between uniformed service members charged with protecting our country, law enforcement dressed in military garb, and his favored supporters of amateur armed militias. In all of these cases and many more, his failure of leadership has widened the gap between our military and our communities, particularly our communities of color.
A new Commander in Chief must take immediate steps to restore our nation’s strength and to rebuild the critical connection between a people and their military. First, investigate and hold publicly accountable those who issued the illegal orders that pitted soldiers against innocent protestors. Second, the next president and his administration must reconnect our military to our nation as a whole, not just to one elected official or one political point of view. We must recommit to never enmesh our military in the snares of domestic politics. Similar steps will be needed from the heads of federal law enforcement, to restore their professional ethos, just as the military takes the crucial step in repairing their warrior persona. Our military must be trusted and respected by all Americans. Once we have achieved this, then we can focus on repairing the damage done to our strength and credibility around the world.
As one privileged to have taken the soldier’s oath and to have worn the nation’s uniform, I understand the importance of facing these challenges. I know the difficulties they present for today’s military and our communities. However, I am fully confidant that a new Commander in Chief — dedicated to the principles and values of a professional military in service to a democracy — can restore our strong military ethos.
Todd A. Weiler is a decorated combat veteran. He is also a former assistant secretary of defense and has served under the Clinton and Obama administrations.