The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has written an unusual open letter to all those in uniform, warning them to stay out of politics as the nation approaches a presidential election in which the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be a central, and certainly divisive, issue.
“The U.S. military must remain apolitical at all times and in all ways,” wrote the chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, the nation’s highest-ranking officer. “It is and must always be a neutral instrument of the state, no matter which party holds sway.”
Admiral Mullen’s essay appears in the coming issue of Joint Force Quarterly, an official military journal that is distributed widely among the officer corps.
The essay is the first Admiral Mullen has written for the journal as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and veteran officers said they could not remember when a similar “all-hands” letter had been issued to remind military personnel to remain outside, if not above, contentious political debate.
The essay can be seen as a reflection of the deep concern among senior officers that the military, which is paying the highest price in carrying out national security policy, may be drawn into politicking this year.
The war in Iraq has already exceeded the length of World War II and is the nation’s longest conflict fought with an all-volunteer military since the Revolutionary War.
In particular, members of the Joint Chiefs have expressed worries this election year about the influence of retired officers who advise political campaigns, who have publicly called for a change in policy or who serve as television commentators on the war.
Among the most outspoken were those who joined the so-called generals’ revolt in 2006 demanding the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, as well as former officers who have written books attacking the Bush administration’s planning for and execution of the war in Iraq.
(Continue reading: New York Times)