Friday, April 25, 2014

Why Civilian Control of the Military?

I found this article while looking up Civilian Control of the Military.  It is found here:

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 2, 2001

Civilian control of the military is so ingrained in America that we hardly give it a second thought. Most Americans don't realize how special this relationship is and how it has contributed to the country.
The framers of the U.S. Constitution worked to ensure the military would be under civilian control. They did not want to emulate the European experience. The colonies had just fought a war for freedom from Britain. The king controlled the British military, and the framers had no interest in duplicating that system.
When they wrote the Constitution they separated the responsibilities for the military, placing the responsibilities firmly in civilian hands.
Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution states that Congress shall have the power "to raise and support Armies …" and "to provide and maintain a Navy." In addition, Congress must provide for the state militias when they are called to federal service.
Article II, Section 2 states, "The President shall be the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States when called into the actual Service of the United States."
Congress has the power to declare war and to make the rules for governing the military.
So the framers spread responsibilities for the military around. The president and Congress had to work together to use the military.

With the growth of political parties, an officer's political allegiance became important. President John Adams appointed Federalist officers to the military. As Jefferson's private secretary, Army Capt. Meriwether Lewis vetted the "Republican" (later Democratic) credentials of his fellow Army officers.
This reinforced the belief in the U.S. military that officers should not participate in politics. They should follow the orders of the president and the wishes of the Congress no matter who was in power. 


Military members swear "to support and defend the Constitution of the United States." One of the more successful aspects of that document is civilian control of the military.


  1. "Today, service members of all ranks are encouraged to vote. The military vote in Florida in this past election was crucial. Once they vote, however, soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are expected to forget their party affiliations and follow the orders of the civilian leaders regardless of the party."

    Provided of course, the orders are legal and don't violate the Constitution. Soldiers in the US military are told up front that the "I was just following orders" defense wont work in this country's military.

  2. This, as far as it goes, is correct. But as Sarge points out, if the president issues an order that violates the Constitution--say, carpet bombing Americans, for example--then it's another matter entirely.

  3. This is why Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld are considered war criminals in many countries around the world. They lied about their "mushroom cloud" reasons for invading Iraq, thus violating the constitution and responsible for the deaths of thousands of American soldiers and 100's of thousands of innocent civilians. Yet Obama refused to even look into prosecutions of the Bush administration.