Clausewitz and Involvement of Military in Politics

I’m republishing this piece for the readers of this blog.

In Presidential Sweepstakes McCain Sees Stars

By William M. Arkin

Washington Post December 19, 2007

A response by Con George-Kotzabasis

If Clausewitz’s dictum is correct that ‘war is the continuation of politics by other means’, then Arkin’s “dictum” that ‘the military…stays out of politics,’ is a caricature of reality.

I am using Clausewitz’s dictum to illustrate that one cannot separate war from politics if the military arm which is engaged in hostilities is going to be successful in defeating an enemy. Politicians to make the right decisions about a war must rely for their concrete data on those engaged directly in war, i.e., the military, even if these data could be influenced by the beliefs and values of the latter. Therefore the “rule” that decrees that the military should not be involved in politics, as Arkin argues, is an oxymoron.

It’s a farcical rule and goes against the grain of all experience. A perfect admittance of this reality was the questioning of General Petraeus by Congress, of the former’s military report on Iraq, when its democrat representatives, and indeed, many from the media and the anti-War movement, like MoveOn org, accused Petraeus of being involved in politics, since they all considered his report of being politically biased as it purportedly supported the policy of the Bush administration on Iraq.

Ironically, the critics of Petraeus while upholding the fiction that the military should not be involved in politics were admitting at the same time that the general’s military report was influencing politics. As indeed it should have done. Where else politicians would get their information so they could make their judgment about the policies that are needed for the conduct of war?

It’s absurd! One cannot put the political beliefs and values of the military in general, and of its commanders in particular, that inevitably flow into the political process, in the straitjacket of an unrealistic rule that ordains that the military stays out of politics.

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