I would never actively cheer an administrational death, but, paraphrasing Clarence Darrow, I did smile a bit while reading Michael Flynn’s resignation in the newspaper. It wasn’t for any personal ill will or partisan reason (my stance on political neutrality is well documented), but my grin formed because Flynn’s actions in retirement have directly contradicted two pillars of the Profession of Arms—its apolitical tradition and truth-telling character. And the end of his short tenure as national security advisor provides the Profession a ponderous moment to reflect on what Flynn hath wrought.
The Profession’s obligation is to hold an apolitical stance and provide absolute truth to maintain society’s trust and support. Many forget, but retired officers are still members of this Profession of Arms because they still hold their commissions—particularly generals and admirals, due to their outsize influence on the public’s opinion. What they do matters greatly to those actively serving. Even after the uniform comes off, an individual can do immense damage to the Profession.
Which is an unfortunate trend that’s grown over time. Beginning in the modern era with retired Adm. William Crowe’s endorsement of then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton, the apolitical tradition of the Profession of Arms has experienced decay, continually corroded by the now-quadrennial race amongst retired officers to publicly vouch for political candidates (these partisan lists of retired generals and admirals now typically approaches the hundreds). While retired officers, as citizens, may have the right to exercise such speech, their choices make, in the words of former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, “the task of their successors—who continue to serve in uniform and are accountable for our security—more complicated.”
But Flynn’s example during this election cycle was demonstrably different. During the presidential campaign, he went further than any other current or former retired senior officer. No one has ever been so brazenly over-the-top in breaking the neutrality norm in thought, word, and deed. His Twitter thumb pushed eyebrow-raising ideas for which he was heavily criticized, including by fellow retired officers who went so far as to call his behavior “demented” and “unhinged.” His comments went beyond mere political speech and ultimately veered into his leading a chorus of criminal charges against his candidate’s opponent. Flynn leapt over every previously established line, by a long margin in any modern comparison (even with retired Gen. John Allen, who faced his own criticism for his overt support of Hillary Clinton).
Then Flynn’s candidate won; he profited from breaking the Profession’s norms and became the new president’s national security advisor. For a twenty-four–day–long moment it seemed like he would suffer no personal or professional consequences from the behavior for which he was so heavily criticized. But then his predilection for “dubious pronouncements” (AKA “Flynn facts”) caught up with him and his short tenure in the new administration came to an end after he “inadvertently” misled the vice president-elect about the nature of phone calls he held with the Russian ambassador to the United States. In a press conference, the president’s spokesman called Flynn’s firing “a matter of trust.” And so Flynn, a commission-holding retired military officer, was very, very publicly deemed dishonest.
These events should shock the Profession of Arms into asking some questions: Is this OK? Is it alright for retired members of our Profession to so vigorously, angrily, and publicly advance political arguments? If we do not oppose such behavior can we continue to call ourselves a “profession”? What form should such opposition take? Will Flynn become the standard, or is he an anomaly? Has he set a new norm or was he just a strange outlier? These are important questions that bear directly on our Profession’s continued health and special relationship with society.
For myself, and myself alone, I believe our traditions can suffer one Michael Flynn, yet worry we could not survive a second without severe erosion of those foundational traditions. For such cases, my sense is this threat is so grave and the need to deter similar actions so great that the Profession of Arms should consider morally justified censure—a symbolic withdrawal of honorific titles from offending individuals, as was done in other eras. Such behavior demands serious consequences; we ought to at least consider a tangible professional punishment.
Others, perhaps many, will disagree with this suggestion. That’s arguable and understandable. But the greater agreement that matters most is that the Profession of Arms thinks hard about this unique case; incorporates it into ethics classes and professional development. In the end, with careful study, Flynn’s turbulent time in partisan politics may end up being a net benefit to the Profession of Arms. But that remains to be seen.
Image credit: Mass Communication Specialist Senior Chief Kevin Elliott, US Navy
SES and Flag ranks are over populated with PC rent seekers. Embracing pseudoscience of Global Warming, advancing underqualified diversity tokens – these are the earmarks of an achiever today. That Flynn was a maverick before retirement and a target in ultra progressive dominated DC and MSM speaks well of his character.
Pseudoscience? Diversity tokens? Maverick is reserved for those who do buck the system; Flynn used the system for his own advancement and still managed to cock it up.
The “MSM” didn’t have it out for him; he made himself a target by his own actions.
Pseudo science of global warming? Really? When every single weather bureau in every single country in the world, every single NOAA, NASA equivalent and esteemed universities everywhere agree, ‘you’ think they are wrong? When 177 countries sign-up to an agreement, each with their own pools of advisers and analysts, you think they got it wrong? Really? Do you know that special interest groups fund pseudo-anti-climate science ‘experts’ and agencies? It is well documented. So you’d believe them rather than a single properly trained meteorologist or agency? Would all those – millions – of weather people, scientists etc all be in on a conspiracy and noone coming forward? Really??
‘Diversity’ – have you looked at the modern battlefield lately? Do you see how Daesh use women? The rise of female combatants? The ‘war among the people’ trend? The women who murder North Korean dictator’s brother? It’s about adapting to the ‘real world’. It’s about using talent and focusing upon merit. Rather than men who can carry heavy stuff being automatically assumed to be tactical and strategic geniuses because of an over-blown confident manner, often resulting in crash and burn approaches. “Oh. I didn’t think of that…”
I recommend you really do your own homework on Global Warming.
The originators and promoters of the global warming hoax have spoken frankly of their intent – even while terrorizing school children into believing their evil parents (that would be us) were killing them with lies about man caused global warming.
//quotes from prominent IPCC and global warming hoax proponents//
"We need to get some broad based support, to capture the public's imagination. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements and make little mention of any doubts. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest." Stephen Schneider, Stanford Professor of Climatology, lead author of many IPCC reports
"Unless we announce disasters no one will listen." Sir John Houghton, first chairman of IPCC
"It doesn't matter what is true, it only matters what people believe is true." Paul Watson, co-founder of Greenpeace
"We've got to ride this global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic and environmental policy." Timothy Wirth, President of the UN Foundation
"No matter if the science of global warming is all phony climate change provides the greatest opportunity to bring about justice and equality in the world." Christine Stewart, fmr Canadian Minister of the Environment
"The only way to get our society to truly change is to frighten people with the possibility of a catastrophe." emeritus professor Daniel Botkin
"The only hope for the world is to make sure there is not another United States. We cant let other countries have the same number of cars, the amount of industrialization, we have in the US. We have to stop these Third World countries right where they are." Michael Oppenheimer, Environmental Defense Fund
I watched the clown show that was the first ‘Earth Day’ roll out in Philadelphia. A communist was the MC (later best known as the ‘Unicron Killer’). The American hating far left (formerly known as communists) didn't hijack the environmentalist movement. They invented it. And continue to run it. (ex. 'former' Communist becomes tree hugger – https://www.gcint.org/who-we-are/our-people/mikhail-gorbachev/ ).
As for the diversity delusions, you probably have to be younger and wiser then me not to see stories like this as proof our DOD’s lost any common sense …
The military's lingering readiness problem: Lack of daycare –
If retired military leaders are to remain apolitical in order to “protect the profession”, hasn’t that horse left that barn way back with Eisenhower? Or even way earlier?
By the way, it’s telling that the most “incriminating” info about Flynn’s commentary comes from editorial sources such as Washington Post, or your own one-phrase dismissals such as “eyebrow-raising”. They are tantamount to “Can you believe he said that?” – rather than even a barest analytical critique of Flynn’s actual statements. That’s fine if your audience is true believers, but for skeptics this does nothing.
Frank, the two major points are that 1) Flynn screwed the pooch by engaging in “ex parte” communications with the Russian official before he was in the official position to do so, then 2) lied to his boss (and everyone else) about it.
I have written on this topic but from a different angle. Hope you enjoy.
The fallacy here is that service as an officer in the US Armed Forces is a profession. That train left the station with the establishment of the 20-30 year career (over a lifetime profession) in the late 40’s. It may have taken 40 years, but we as a society are reaping what we have sown. If society desires an apolitical officer corps into retirement, establish a military where lifetime professional service is the norm, not just a career.
The problem isn’t Flynn. Nothing we saw from him over the past 18 months would surprise anyone who spent time around him–he ignores the rules, has total faith in his own judgment, and loves nothing more than his own latest idea. The problem is, as Colin Powell recognized, that such a person could get promoted beyond O6. He should have been fired when he gave OGA reporting on the Haqqanis to the Pakistanis, and he DEFINITELY should have been fired (along with a few others) when he got liquored up and trahed the civilian leadershio of the US in front of a Rolling Stone reporter in a Paris bar. General officers have beomce like the College of Cardinals. They’re not disciplined when they screw-up, that wouldn’t be collegial. They just get moved around and kicked upstairs. The Army foisted this clown on the Republic.
While Michael Flynn may be obnoxious, he’s not guilty of betraying his oath to the Constitution by endorsing a political candidate or taking a political appointment after retiring. At no time did he represent himself as anyone other than a former military officer…emphasis on former. Yes, we retain our commissions in retirement, and yes, we’re subject to recall for a period of time…but that didn’t prevent officers from Washington onward from holding office or accepting political appointments after they retired. In fact, it doesn’t prevent Reserve or National Guard officers from holding political office even while they’re still active in the Reserve or Guard.
Watching retired flag officers jump emerge from their active duty non-partisan shells and start campaigning may be distasteful, it’s not wrong, and it’s not even new.
Last, the Army needs to lead the way in dropping unnecessary capitalization. We’re part of the profession of arms, not a Profession. Soldiers, sailors and airman are just that, not Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen. (Marines are a little different…but we knew that!)