The Plank

The Coming Civil-military Culture Clash?

Back during the Clinton administration, the relationship between White House and military officials was notoriously frosty--as most famously emboided by then Lt. Gen. Barry McCaffrey's story of how, upon telling a young Clinton staffer good morning, she replied, "I don't talk to the military." (McCaffrey later leveraged the snub into a job as Clinton's drug czar.) So far, though, the Obama administration seems to have done a good job of keeping things copacetic between its civilian officials and the military. This presumably has a lot to do with the fact that Obama came of age after the Vietnam War (hence no draft-dodging skeletons) and his decision to keep in place his predecessor's SecDef, who's popular with the military brass. His going slow on repealing DADT might be helping, too.

But those civil-military tensions that Obama has so far avoided do seem to be pretty close to the surface, at least judging from this blog post by military chronicler Tom Ricks in response to a WaPo article about the White House's "grueling schedule." Ricks writes:

I know a lot of infantrymen who would love to have the soft life these people have. I think
this sort of mewling is what happens when you staff the White House mainly with
people who think the hardest thing you can do in life is take the bar exam. No
wonder Jim Jones, the national security advisor, looks so unhappy -- he probably
would like to grab a few lapels and tell them about his life as a Marine
platoon leader in Vietnam.

--Jason Zengerle

 

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