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The Key To Bridging The Civil-Military Divide, According To Mattis
In an era where Americans seem increasingly at each other's throats, Defense Secretary James Mattis has a simple idea for bridging the gulf between the civilian and military worlds: Be excellent to each other.
OK, perhaps Mattis didn't actually invoke Bill & Ted when he appeared at the Reagan National Defense Forum this past Saturday. But the defense secretary did encourage active-duty service members and veterans to embrace compassion and respect as vehicles for engagement with their civilian brothers and sisters.
“If we can create a society where respect and friendliness is the passport that we all have when we meet each other … then the military, who literally will go in harm’s way for us, will not seem alien anymore,” Mattis said.
“We better all go back to finding a way to embrace one another,” he added. “And the military, we’re not that special. We’re simply patriots who decide this is how we pay our dues.”
Mattis isn't talking to civilians. The military isn't just far more trusted than it was during the height of the Vietnam War and despite the messes in Afghanistan and Iraq; instead, it remains one of the few American institutions people still trust.
According to 2017 polling from Gallup, 2017, 72 percent of Americans had a “great deal” or “quite a lot of faith” in the military, far outstripping the presidency, Supreme Court, and Congress. This is a big deal considering a 2017 Pew Research Center survey found 51 percent of citizens dissatisfied with the current status of American democracy.
Instead, Mattis was talking to active-duty service members and veterans who have increasingly ceded their historically apolitical position in American civic life as reverence for the military has increased, a trend detailed in a thoughtful essay by Army Maj. M.L. Cavanaugh at Just Security back in April:
In 1976, when surveyed, 55 percent of officers said they were “independent” or “non-partisan” or “unaffiliated” with a party. In 2009, the same question was asked and the number was down to 16 percent. (And I’m sure there are newer figures in Dr. Kori Schake’s most recent book, Warriors and Citizens).
Behavior-wise, when surveyed in 2010, 27 percent of officers said that another officer had tried to influence their vote in the 2008 election cycle. This was followed five years later by Col. Heidi Urben’s 2015 study of 500 West Point cadets and National Defense University colonels which found that over one-third had observed or shared insulting, rude, or disdainful comments about elected leaders.
"The military has long held on to non-partisanship to prevent politics from dividing our troops and separating us from society," Cavanaugh wrote. "But this supremely important norm appears to be changing — for the worse."
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., brief reporters on the current U.S. air strikes on Syria during a joint press conference at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Apr. 13, 2018.DoD photo / U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith.
Mattis' comments, in this context, appear yet another reminder from the defense secretary to U.S. service members that the new generation of reverence the country has fomented not only doesn't make them superior to their fellow Americans, but it requires them to redouble their efforts at maintaining that apolitical status swaddled in the comfort of professionalism and kindness.
"If ... we can get back to a fundamental friendliness with one another as Americans, if we can rediscover a respect for each other as fellow Americans, even if we have very different ideas about how we take the country forward," Mattis said. "We probably don't have big differences about where we want to go ultimately."
In other words: Cut the veteran entitlement syndrome and remember the values that ostensibly brought you to the military in the first place. And don't take it from Mattis, but his obvious intellectual influences:
At least 4 American veterans among group arrested in Haiti with arsenal of weapons and tactical gear
At least four American veterans were among a group of eight men arrested by police in Haiti earlier this week for driving without license plates and possessing an arsenal of weaponry and tactical gear.
Police in Port-au-Prince arrested five Americans, two Serbians, and one Haitian man at a police checkpoint on Sunday, according to The Miami-Herald. The men told police they were on a "government mission" but did not specify for which government, according to The Herald.
They also told police that "their boss was going to call their boss," implying that someone high in Haiti's government would vouch for them and secure their release, Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles told NPR.
What they were actually doing or who they were potentially working for remains unclear. A State Department spokesperson told Task & Purpose they were aware that Haitian police arrested a "group of individuals, including some U.S. citizens," but declined to answer whether the men were employed by or operating under contract with the U.S. government.
The State Department announced Wednesday that notorious ISIS bride Hoda Muthana, a U.S.-born woman who left Alabama to join ISIS but began begging to return to the U.S. after recently deserting the terror group, is not a U.S. citizen and will not be allowed to return home.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if the employee behind a firearm company's Facebook page decided to goaded a bunch of Marines into destroying their brand new firearms? Now you know.
A top Senate Republican and fierce ally of President Donald Trump reportedly exploded at Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan recently about the U.S. military's plans to withdraw all troops from Syria by the end of April.
"That's the dumbest f******g idea I've ever heard," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) reportedly replied when Shanahan confirmed the Trump administration still plans to complete the Syria withdrawal by April 30.
Later, Graham told Shanahan, "I am now your adversary, not your friend."
If you are in the market for any size of military surplus vehicle, keep an eye on GovPlanet. The online auction house is about to start selling U.S. Navy and Marine Corps surplus M1161 ITV Growlers and seven-ton Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement trucks.