Former JCS chairman criticizes generals for speaking on conventions

Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey called out the two retired generals who spoke and the Republican and Democratic conventions.

“The military is not a political prize,” Dempsey wrote in a letter to the Washington Post Sunday. 

The Hill:

“Politicians should take the advice of senior military leaders but keep them off the stage. The American people should not wonder where their military leaders draw the line between military advice and political preference.”

Retired Marine Gen. John Allen spoke on behalf of Hillary Clinton at the Democratic convention and retired Army Gen. Mike Flynn, an adviser to Donald Trump, spoke at the Republican coronation. Dempsey said on Sunday that it was a mistake for them to do so. 

“Retired Marine Gen. John Allen and retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn weren’t introduced at the Democratic and Republican conventions, respectively, as ‘John’ and ‘Mike,’” Dempsey wrote. “They were introduced as generals. As generals, they have an obligation to uphold our apolitical traditions. They have just made the task of their successors — who continue to serve in uniform and are accountable for our security — more complicated.”

“It was a mistake for them to participate as they did,” he added. “It was a mistake for our presidential candidates to ask them to do so.”

Dempsey has a point, but it may not apply to either general.  Flynn has served in several positions in the intelligence sector in the civilian government, while Allen was named a special envoy to the coalition to defeat ISIS.  The nature of those positions is at least partly political, giving them standing to address the country about a political candidate.

If we use Dempsey's reasoning, a retired general could never run for office.  Certainly the former chief's notions of the separation of the military and civilian government are reasonable when applied to serving general officers.  But it's a more complex question when discussing retired generals who may want to continue to serve the country in a political capacity.

Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey called out the two retired generals who spoke and the Republican and Democratic conventions.

“The military is not a political prize,” Dempsey wrote in a letter to the Washington Post Sunday. 

The Hill:

“Politicians should take the advice of senior military leaders but keep them off the stage. The American people should not wonder where their military leaders draw the line between military advice and political preference.”

Retired Marine Gen. John Allen spoke on behalf of Hillary Clinton at the Democratic convention and retired Army Gen. Mike Flynn, an adviser to Donald Trump, spoke at the Republican coronation. Dempsey said on Sunday that it was a mistake for them to do so. 

“Retired Marine Gen. John Allen and retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn weren’t introduced at the Democratic and Republican conventions, respectively, as ‘John’ and ‘Mike,’” Dempsey wrote. “They were introduced as generals. As generals, they have an obligation to uphold our apolitical traditions. They have just made the task of their successors — who continue to serve in uniform and are accountable for our security — more complicated.”

“It was a mistake for them to participate as they did,” he added. “It was a mistake for our presidential candidates to ask them to do so.”

Dempsey has a point, but it may not apply to either general.  Flynn has served in several positions in the intelligence sector in the civilian government, while Allen was named a special envoy to the coalition to defeat ISIS.  The nature of those positions is at least partly political, giving them standing to address the country about a political candidate.

If we use Dempsey's reasoning, a retired general could never run for office.  Certainly the former chief's notions of the separation of the military and civilian government are reasonable when applied to serving general officers.  But it's a more complex question when discussing retired generals who may want to continue to serve the country in a political capacity.