Making the rounds on social media and The Blaze this weekend is the rash of photos by (allegedly) current US military service members protesting the looming attack on Syria. Soldiers in uniform write their protest on paper, which covers their faces.
BLUF- (Bottom Line Up Front for you civilians)
1) Members of the US military are free to express political opinions, but never, ever, while in uniform. 2) Displaying your rank and uniform to protest but not your name or face is a special type of cowardice. 3) The military doesn’t decide which fights are justified, we follow the Constitution.
First, I spent 18 months on stateside active duty in 2011-2012, so I have a solid understanding of military regulations regarding political speech and activities. I was free to express my opinion as a citizen, but never to imply that my opinion was condoned or approved by the Army. The list of activities prohibited by the military is long, but specific; A member of the Armed Forces on active duty shall not-
“use official authority or influence to interfere with an election, affect the course or outcome of an election, solicit votes for a particular candidate or issue”
Wearing your uniform and displaying your rank is the essence of using official authority to influence the outcome of a Congressional vote to authorize military action in Syria.
And for those barracks lawyers out there who think they can get off on a technicality, there is the catchall- All members of the Armed Forces on or off active duty may take part in political events as long as;
“the member is not in uniform and does not otherwise act in a manner that could reasonably give rise to the inference or appearance of official sponsorship, approval or endorsement.”
Political statements while in uniform, even if they are non-partisan, are never allowed, never appropriate, and never condoned by the military.
Second, the US military revolves around the ideal of personal courage. It is the final element of the Army Values, and is expected of every service member, whether we are in combat or in our barracks. But the soldiers and Marines garnering all the attention this weekend are cowards. They are proclaiming that they will not fight if ordered to in Syria, because they don’t agree with the politics of the cause. But without putting their names to their statements, they are hiding behind anonymity in order to stay safe.
They are using their uniforms to draw attention, but concealing their identity. In doing so, it has to be considered that all of the photos in question may be faked. Stolen Valor has been an ongoing problem, with individuals claiming awards they didn’t earn, or service they never gave. Without names to go with their statements, there is no way to know of the people wearing the uniform are actually who they say they are. We saw dozens of anti-war protesters in the President Bush era that faked, misled, or simply lied about the extent of their service in combat. I see no reason to take any of these uniformed protesters at their word because they are hiding their identity.
Lastly, it is not up to individual members of the military to decide what wars are just and which are not. The oath I gave when I enlisted (and every time I re-enlisted over the last 21 years) is-
“I, David John Thul, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
Those aren’t just words. If the president gives an order, I have to follow it unless I think it is an illegal order. (more on that Pandora’s Box tomorrow). There is no provision in military regulations that let’s me fight the wars I feel are just, and sit out the ones I don’t agree with. Conservatives agreed that this concept was wrong during the Pres Bush years-it must still be valid during the Pres Obama years.
Most Important Takeaway-
Despite the tendency to crow over the lack of anti war protesters, the sudden Democrat Party preference for military action, or the irony of another instance of WMD’s in a Middle Eastern Country, conservatives, libertarians and Republicans CANNOT resort to or condone the same pathetic protest tactics we saw in 2003-2007. There are plenty of ways to disagree with the president’s plan for military action in Syria without celebrating disorder in the US military.
Please, do not give these military protesters (or poseurs) any more attention than they have already received. No matter what you think on Syria, good order and discipline in the military is not a partisan issue, and we can’t win by celebrating soldiers and Marines who break the rules.
Commetns welcome at Foreign and Domestic, all opinions expressed are my own and do not represent the views of the MN National Guard, the US Army of the military in general.