Friday, July 25, 2008

Reading Assignment

Josh Marshall is so dead-on, I don't know how to cut his post down for a blockquote. Here's the whole thing...
In the post immediately below I referred to Obama's audition for the role of 'head of state/commander-in-chief'. And as a potential wartime president and in the rhetorical universe we're now living in, this CINC test is inevitable and important for Obama to pass. But we should not forget how novel and in many ways pernicious the elevation of this term is.

At some points during the Republican primary campaign especially, CINC was being used almost as a synonym for president -- much as we might substitute 'chief executive' for president. And the growing use of the term in this sense is an effective barometer of the progressive militarization of our concept of the presidency and our government itself.

We see it here in its semantic form but we can observe its concrete effect in the Bush administration's claims of almost absolute presidential power well outside of war-fighting -- almost as if the president is a kind of warlord simultaneously directing the military and the civilian governments with similar fiat powers.

We need to re-familiarize ourselves with the fact that the point of the constitution's explicitly giving the president the title of commander-in-chief was not to make him into a quasi-military figure. It was precisely the opposite -- to create no doubt that the armed forces answered not to a chief of staff or senior general or even a Secretary of Defense (originally, Secretaries of War and Navy) but to a civilian elected officeholder who operates with the constrained and limited power of that world rather than the unbound authority of military command.

We've gotten the relationship seriously out of whack.

--Josh Marshall


1 comment:

Smitty said...

Until he said it, I didn't really read into things that way. But now that he said that you've provided that...yeah. Dead-on. The neocons have taken that old concenpt and twisted it exactly 180-degrees so that we have a Frederick the Great/Prussian Militarism understanding of that concept, not a free society created by people too familiar with what it means to have the military be in charge understanding of that concept.

Given that, I hope Obama plays this right, in terms of providing a critical view of our actions with a bent towards civilian leadership, not DoD sycophancy.