Political Scientist Warns America: Separation Of Military And State Crucial For Functioning Democracies

As President-elect Donald Trump fills his cabinet with retired generals, one military expert sees a disturbing future for liberal democracy.

Donald Trump has been populating his Cabinet with retired generals, and one expert says this violates democratic norms. Furthermore, it puts him at risk of being thwarted by a military coup.

Political scientist Steve Saidemana, from Ottawa’s Carleton University, said he’s concerned that Trump seems to be ending civilian control of the U.S. military — which he says is a necessary condition of a functioning democracy.

Trump has appointed retired Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis as his Secretary of Defense, a man known to have violent tendencies.In order to serve just three years after his retirement, Mattis requires a congressional waiver. In addition, Trump named Michael Flynn and John Kelly as his National Security Advisor and Secretary of Homeland Security, respectively.

“Civilian control of the military is both means and end,” Saideman wrote. “It is not just about concentrations of power, but of subservience of the folks with the guns to the people elected to run the country. This is not about the founders of the U.S. or about what makes the U.S. special, but what is essential for modern democracy.”

“The limit on officers serving immediately after retirement is not an accident but a good policy that should not be tossed away simply because Trump admires generals (sort of),” Saideman continued. “We should put the U.S. military, active and retired, further away from the controls of the U.S. government, not closer.”

“Trump’s inherent flaws, including his appeals to white supremacy, and – (more) importantly – his lack of respect for and adherence to the various norms that make the institutions operate, make civilian control of the military more, not less, important,” Saideman argued.

Even if the threat of a military coup wasn’t there, Saideman says civilian control of the military is a necessity to preserve American democracy.

“Simply put, when many of the norms and institutions are under attack, we need to be more, not less, careful about the role of the military in our society,” he wrote. “It is, of course, not so much about coups, but about controlling the military so that it does what civilians want.”

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