The Secretary of Defence released an extremely important memorandum on Wednesday. Link here: www.defense.gov/… In it, Esper lays out a position that is clearly at odds with the racist and violent anti-American rhetoric coming from the White House. Here are a couple of key excerpts:
Department of Defense personnel have taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. I myself have taken it many times in my military and civilian careers, and believe strongly in it. As part of that oath, we commit to protecting the American people’s right to freedom of speech and to peaceful assembly. I, like you, am steadfast in my belief that Americans who are frustrated, angry, and seeking to be heard must be ensured that opportunity. And like you, I am committed to upholding the rule of law and protecting life and liberty, so that the violent actions of a few do not undermine the rights and freedoms of law-abiding citizens.
Translation: The American People have the constitutional right to protest, and it is your duty and part of your oath to protect that right.
As I reminded you in February, I ask that you remember at all times our commitment as a Department and as public servants to stay apolitical in these turbulent days. For well over two centuries, the U.S. military has earned the respect of the American people by being there to protect and serve all Americans.
Translation: The use of the military for political gain is not OK.
If you’re not used to reading the language the military speaks in, allow me to provide some context. Moral dilemmas in the military are often described as a conflict between one’s morals/beliefs, and one’s orders.
Think about the kinds of language that might have been used. “We all have to make some hard choices. Follow your chain of command. Some of the orders we are given are unpleasant, but we’re all expected to do your duty”.
By laying out a moral case for constitutional rights and avoiding the influence of politics, this memo lays out exactly the perspective the author wants the reader to take. The words ‘orders’ and ‘chain of command’ don’t appear in the memorandum at all, and the word ‘duty’ is only expressed once in the context of ‘Active Duty’ soldiers.
You might wonder why the memo isn’t more ‘strongly worded’. The military doesn’t draw ‘lines in the sand’, or try to box in national leadership with overt pressure. Such behavior could run afoul of the Hatch Act and goes against military culture. Nor does the military like to criticize hypothetical orders. Right now the military is expressing itself in the guarded language of careful statements, background comments, and in resignations.
The military does use its retired leaders to communicate more bluntly however.
Looks like Trump probably doesn’t have the military on his side for this.
Looks like the Army is also getting in on the same page