Gen. Lloyd Austin’s nomination for defense secretary has prompted many civil-military experts to criticize the pick as damaging to civilian control over the military. But the categorical assumptions the experts make are flawed.
Lt. Col. Dan Maurer is a judge advocate and assistant professor of law at the U.S. Military Academy, and a nonresident fellow with the Modern War Institute at West Point. He has published widely on criminal law and civil-military relations subjects, and is a former prosecutor, appellate counsel, and an Army installation’s chief of military justice. His most recent scholarly article, “Paved With Good Intentions? Civil-Military Norms, Breaches, and Why Mindset Matters,” appears in Volume 11, Issue 1, of the Journal of National Security Law & Policy. The opinions in this essay are the author’s alone, and do not reflect the official position or policy of the U.S. Military Academy, the Judge Advocate General’s Corps or any other governmental organization.
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There’s a new expert report out on potential reforms to the military justice system. The report raises some good ideas but has its flaws.
The president’s use of his Article II power to pardon war crimes raises fundamental issues of the rule of law.
Some commentators have advocated for the National Security Council staffer to be court-martialed for obeying a congressional subpoena over the objection of the executive branch. But there are a number of problems with this argument.
The final two months of 2018 have been a remarkably eventful period for observers of American civil-military relations—even for the Trump administration. In just the final two months of 2018, there was the pre-midterm election deployment of troops to the southwest border in response to the supposed “invasion” of the migrant caravan.
At the end of the last term, the Supreme Court decided in a 7-2 opinion that the high court exercises appellate jurisdiction over the United States’ military justice system—a system it says begins at the court-martial level, or trial level, through each Service’s Court of Criminal Appeals, up to the court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF), a tribunal with five president-appointed, Senate-confirmed civilian judges.
They shall have wars and pay for their presumption. —Shakespeare, Henry VI
Like many a new president before him, President Trump is opening his administration with bold—and sometimes contradictory—actions that have many wondering what to make of his relationships with his most senior admirals and generals. The cost of such uncertainty, as Shakespeare might suggest, could be unbearably high.