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Lt. Gen. David Barno, USA (Ret.) and Nora Bensahel, contributing editors for War On The Rocks, discuss how political influences could impact perspectives on the military.

Both President Trump’s Salute to America bringing military hardware to the mall on July 4, and the administration’s frequent use of military bases as backdrops are raising concerns about the politicization of the armed forces. Lt. Gen. David Barno, USA (Ret.), contributing editor for War On The Rocks, says that until recently, the military’s culture had been expressly apolitical.


“It is very much part of the military culture. From your first days in uniform, you are a member of part of the U.S. government that swears oath and allegiance to the constitution of the United States and not to any one president. I can tell you that during my entire time in the military, I never knew whether someone was a Republican or a Democrat and the very idea of that conversation coming up was inappropriate,” Barno said. “I think the military collectively and still does see itself as a very apolitical institution and not aligned with either party.”


Nora Bensahel, contributing editor for War On The Rocks, says that politicizing military officials could lead to unintended, and even dangerous consequences.


“You want the president in the future, regardless of party, to be getting impartial nonpolitical advice from his or her senior military advisers. There is a real danger that if the general officer corps becomes seen as politicized, then political leaders will not lean on them for their best military advice, and will not have the benefit of their military expertise in weighing the nation’s most consequential decisions about when to fight, and when to put Americans in harm’s way,” Bensahel said.

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