Monday July 16, 2018
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Should Retired Military Officers Endorse Presidential Candidates?

Many retired military leaders think that it would lead to dangerous politicisation of the military while others say that not speaking out was more dangerous than keeping quiet

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as he speaks with retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn during a town hall in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Source: VOA
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  • During the US Presidential election campaign, many retired military officials decided to show their support by endorsing their favourite presidential candidate at the Democratic and the Republican National Conventions in July this year
  • This week, Donald Trump’s campaign staff released a list to the public with 88 names of senior military officials who supported the Republican nominee, whereas, to counter that list, Hillary’s campaign staff released a list of names of 95 Senior military officials who support her
  • This led to a fresh debate on whether retired military officials should be involved in politics
  • Many senior military officials commented that this may lead to politicisation of the military, whereas, while some officials believe that not taking part would be more dangerous

September 8, 2016: Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn held nothing back as he gave a speech at the Republican National Convention in July, in support of the party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

Flynn criticized President Barack Obama, the commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces, as “weak and spineless.” He called Hillary Clinton “reckless” and “crooked.”

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And when the crowd began screaming for the Democratic nominee to be imprisoned, Flynn joined in. “That’s right. Lock her up,” said Flynn, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

While the speech clearly fired up those gathered in Cleveland, some of Flynn’s colleagues were not impressed, viewing it as a dangerous politicization of the military.

Retired General Martin Dempsey, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, slammed his former colleague in a letter to The Washington Post days after the speech.

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“The American people should not wonder where their military leaders draw the line between military advice and political preference,” Dempsey said. He also chastised retired Marine General John Allen, who gave his own passionate speech in defense of Clinton at the Democratic National Convention.

Competing lists

The speeches sparked fresh debate about whether retired senior military officers should become involved in politics. The issue has become even more relevant lately, as both Clinton and Trump roll out long lists of former admirals and generals who endorse their campaigns.

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Trump’s campaign staff released an open letter this week, signed by 88 former military leaders who said they thought the Republican nominee would oversee a “long-overdue course correction” in U.S. foreign policy.

Retired Gen. John Allen stands with veterans as he speaks on the final day of the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016. Source: VOA
Retired Gen. John Allen stands with veterans as he speaks on the final day of the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016.
Source: VOA

Not be outdone, Clinton’s camp quickly responded with a list of 95 generals and admirals who support her, boasting that her list of endorsements was greater than that of any other recent Democratic nominee for president.

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The potential benefits of releasing such lists are obvious: They bolster a candidate’s national security credentials and help create the perception that the nation’s military leaders support the candidate, not the opponent.

Dividing line

But when military generals become highly partisan cheerleaders for political candidates, does that blur a necessary line between politics and the military? It depends on whom you ask.

Harley Hughes, a retired Air Force lieutenant general, laughed off the question.

“That couldn’t be more ridiculous,” said Hughes, who signed the letter in support of Trump. In Hughes’ view, not speaking out was more dangerous than any theoretical conversation about the relationship between politics and the military.

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“The stakes of this election are enormous,” Hughes told VOA. “We won’t have very many more chances to make mistakes. That’s why folks like me speak up.”

John Castellaw, a retired Marine lieutenant general who supports Clinton, said he was apolitical during his time in the military, but in retirement, he feels obligated to use his expertise for the good of the country.

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“I think it’s good for military people [to be involved in politics],” Castellaw said. “We tend to be analytical and methodical. We tend to think about what we are going to do before we take action. Our words in most cases are moderate and measured.”

Not illegal

It’s not illegal for retired military figures to enter politics. They have the same rights as any other citizen to run for office and to endorse or criticize those who are. Many retired military leaders have themselves run for elected office, even the presidency.

But some have made the argument that officers’ responsibilities extend into retirement, not least of all because they continue to be paid by the military and they keep their military ranks.

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That’s part of what seemed to upset many about Flynn’s and Allen’s convention speeches: They were introduced as generals and spoke as generals, not simply as “John” or “Mike.”

For many ex-military and intelligence officials, that amounts to a violation of a norm they are not so quick to break.

“I don’t think it’s good for the nation,” said Dennis Wilder, who retired in April after serving for over three decades in several senior intelligence and diplomatic roles. “It’s the precedent it sets.”

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“It wasn’t appropriate for 37 years, and it’s a habit I got into that I’m not getting out of just yet,” he told VOA. “The debate on foreign policy should stop at our shores. We shouldn’t be criticizing each other overseas. I don’t think it’s good for the nation.” (VOA)

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Deadpool Actor Karan Feels the Present Time Best to Work in the US

Karan feels things would have been different if "The Simpsons" was made in recent times.

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Deadpool 2 is going to be released this month. Pixabay

Karan Soni finds the Apu controversy “cool”. The “Deadpool” actor of Indian origin says it is a great time for people of colour in Hollywood, but he cannot say the same for the entire US, especially under Donald Trump’s presidency.

“I think it is a great time (to be people of colour) in the entertainment industry. In America in general because of Trump, I don’t know. I am very lucky to live in Los Angeles, which is a diverse place where it is great to be different,” Karan told IANS in an interview over phone from Los Angeles.

“In America in general…I know there are a lot of parts where may be it is not that great to be brown or black. So, it is good specifically in Hollywood and in general it depends where you are in America and based on who voted for whom,” he added.

Karan, who got noticed as Deadpool’s Indian cab driver Dopinder in the first part, feels the Apu controversy — which emerged as Hank Azaria voiced Apu, a character from “The Simpsons” — will initiate a positive change. Apu had to grapple with the troubling stereotype of a convenience store clerk with an exaggerated, fake Indian accent since the show’s inception.

“The controversy over the character is completely justified simply because in 2018 it is weird to have a white actor doing an Indian accent on a TV show. There are so many Indian actors who can do that part and do it better.”

He doesn’t blame the makers of the series.

“It has been on for 20-plus season. Back then I don’t know if they tried to look for Indian actors for that part or they didn’t even try.

“In a weird way, I think it is a positive controversy because people don’t want a white actor doing an Indian accent or playing an Indian character in 2018. People are upset because they want to see actors from that ethnicity to play that part instead of giving it to someone who is not.”

Karan feels things would have been different if “The Simpsons” was made in recent times.

“If the show was made this year and there was an Indian or Asian character, they would not give it to a white actor. It is cool that the controversy happened.”

Nevertheless, he is proud that the “Deadpool” makers understood the importance of having a diverse cast.

The film tells the story of an adult superhero with a twisted sense of humour. Karan’s Dopinder took relationship advice from Deadpool. His role was short, but it didn’t go unnoticed.

Based on Marvel Comics’ most unconventional anti-hero, “Deadpool” is the original story of a former Special Forces operative who turns into a mercenary and is now out to seek revenge against the man who nearly destroyed his life.

The Ryan Reynolds-starrer, brought to India by Fox Star India, released on Friday.

The "Deadpool" actor of Indian origin says it is a great time for people of colour in Hollywood, but he cannot say the same for the entire US, especially under Donald Trump's presidency.
Karan Soni has acted in Deadpool 2. Pixabay

“The makers always wanted the movie to be diverse because ‘Deadpool’ movie takes place in X-Men universe. The mutants are kind of outcast, the minorities as compared to human race. They recognised it well that the cast needs to be diverse.”

In the second part, Dopinder is doing more than just driving Deadpool around. He has joined his army and is seen doing some action too.

There was a Bollywood twist in “Deadpool” in 2016 with songs like “Mera joota hai Japani” featuring in the opening credit, and “Tumse achha kaun hai” also finding a place in the narrative. But Karan says there are “fewer Indian references” in the second chapter.

After expressing his view on increasing diversity in the West, Karan, born and brought up in Delhi, hopes to see an Indian superhero crossing boundaries and entering Hollywood “in his lifetime”.

“If we look at ‘Black Panther’, it did so well. There were a bunch of supporting black characters in the movies for years and then it took a long time, but finally they did make that.

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“I am just happy to be part of the initial steps. I hope in my lifetime we will get to see an Indian superhero for sure,” said Karan, who studied at the University of South California, and soon found a way into showbiz.

He has featured in projects like “Safety Not Guaranteed”, “The Neighbors”, “Goosebumps” and “Ghostbusters”. What’s next?

“From being in ‘Deadpool’ to then going to be an Angel with ‘Harry Potter’ star Daniel Radcliffe in ‘Miracle Workers’ to then getting stuck in a cage with Sharon Stone in ‘Corporate Animals’ — there are different kinds of things.” (BollywoodCountry)