Civilian Control

Kevin Drum's right about this but also wrong. Yes, I would like the principle of civilian control over the military to be upheld whether or not I like the civilians who are running the military. But in the real world the way the principle of civilian control operates is that when Republicans are president, we do what Republicans want with the military, whereas when Democrats are president, we do what Republicans want with the military. We all recall how Colin Powell relentlessly battled civilian policymakers and for his trouble became a reviled national figure huge media star.

It'll be the same when Barack Obama is president. If a single four-star general agrees on the merits with the GOP talking points of the day, suddenly General Republican will become the greatest military thinker in American history and disagreeing with him is basically the same as pissing on the corpses of our dead troops. We remember the surge flip-flop, don't we, where disagreeing with Bush's Iraq policy was considered treason until Bush decided he wanted to shift policy, cashiered his old generals, brough in some different guys, and then blindly supporting Petraeus became de rigeur.

That's just the way it is, just like the press is suddenly going to rediscover "the rule of law" as a concept.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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