Warning to Army Personnel

“The nation expects all members of the US Army to follow the law and do the right things the right way, whether we are in or out of uniform.”

US Army Chief of Staff Gen James McConville writes to soldiers, civilian employees and their family members. Is this an implied threat that at the very least, their careers will suffer if they take part in anti-government demonstrations?

I’d call it a “reminder” rather than an “implied threat,” that yes, at the very least their careers will suffer if they participate in anything that is against the law or the rules they are pledged to follow.

I just take it as a reminder to personnel that they’re not above the law and the Army won’t tolerate lawlessness.

I wonder to what extent commanders are held accountable for subordinates’ actions here. There is precedent for it; when I was in service, the saying was if you ever want to meet a general in person, get a DUI.

It’s a top-level big deal that affects most of the chain of command, with officers being the most acutely affected since basically any black mark can keep you off the promotion list. So I’d be curious if officers are stepping up oversight and counseling of their troops w/r/t extremist ties.

Civilian control of the military is an absolutely core concept of American democracy, and all military personnel swear an oath to the Constitution, not to whoever happens to be serving as President. They also have a long-recognized duty to refuse to obey unlawful orders.

This all bears repeating, especially in such times as these.

The U.S.A.F. should get the same warning.

They did. The memo was signed by all of the Joint Chiefs and sent to all armed forces. It also said, “On Jan. 20, 2021, in accordance with the Constitution, confirmed by the states and the courts, and certified by Congress, President-elect Biden will be inaugurated and will become our 46th commander in chief.” It’s a weird sign of the times that it was necessary to remind or inform them of this.

I think it was more of a just-in-case kind of thing, and a response to the fact that there were several former service members involved in the riots, so presumably there are some non-retired people who might think that getting involved is a good idea. Better to remind them of their duty than to just assume they’re going to do the right thing automatically.

I think the reminder is important both to protect those whose were already determined to uphold their oath and as a warning to those who might not.

On the one hand, it makes clear that anyone given an illegal order can disobey it with the full protection and support of their higher superiors.

On the other hand, bringing the issue front and center makes clear that “I was just obeying orders” is not going to hold up as a credible defense to sedition and insurrection. It raises the stakes for any potential traitor. They had better be damn sure that an sedition results in a successful coup, or they are doing hard time.

More on this issue a bit farther down in this article:

There’s a commentator on NPR right now who says that a white supremacist insurgent movement has “deeply penetrated” the military