Courtesy Reuters

The Challenge to Military Professionalism

The mounting tension in civil-military relations within our Government is made up of many factors-especially, perhaps, the tightening of civilian control and the postwar changes in the nature of war and of the military profession itself. The conflicts are reported almost daily by the Pentagon press corps, and the frustrations of the military are made evident in the writings of Generals Gavin, Ridgway, Taylor, Medaris, White and Admiral Anderson. It is not that these men question the principle of civilian control. Nor is the struggle simply a contest for power. What the military are principally reacting to is the implicit challenge to their professionalism.

Undoubtedly, there exist certain elements of a power struggle for the control of defense policy. A succession of Secretaries of Defense have discovered that it is no easy job to exercise control over officers accustomed to lead and command. The very fact that Mr. McNamara has sought to exercise a greater degree of direction than has any of his predecessors is certainly one cause of the conflict. Yet this fact alone is not sufficient to explain the extent of present tensions in civil-military relationships in Washington.

Although the American military have not always been submissive to the civilian controllers, they have never seriously challenged the right or the tradition of civil control. They have recognized that the ultimate decision- maker must balance military recommendations against other considerations. It is not too difficult for a military man to accept an adverse decision based on nonmilitary considerations. It becomes extremely difficult, however, for him to reconcile himself to an adverse decision by his civilian superior based on military considerations. This strikes at the very raison d'être of the military man. It challenges his military professionalism.

The maintenance of a high degree of military professionalism is essential to the preservation of our nation's security without sacrifice of basic American values. The challenge to military professionalism is reflected in each of what Samuel P. Huntington calls the essential characteristics of

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