|Thanksgiving, 1993 (I think), in our|
Astoria, Queens apartment.
Before I relate what Grossman said, a word about him. And this will be quite a digression. I first met Andy in grad school, in a survey course on International Relations. We soon got the nickname "reactionary corner," apparently because we took realist positions among students who tended to be far left, and for whom realism is anathema (I should add that this label was given and received with good humor, and I'll say that we both shared, and share, the most unrealist concern with the impact of warmaking on democratic practices). Anyway, Andy and I became friends, and we and a cluster of others began doing Thanksgiving together and summer croquet parties.
Andy finished his PhD long before I did, and secured a position at Albion College (Albion, Michigan), where he still teaches today. He soon turned his dissertation into a book, Neither Dead nor Red, a very fine account of the origins of Civil Defense, framed as a strand of US political development.
I finally finished in 2000 and took a visiting position at Wabash College (Crawfordsville, IN). This one-year position turned into an extended one, and there was talk of converting my position to tenure-track. In my fourth year, it became clear this wasn't going to happen. I wasn't cut out for an institution with the unspoken rule that if you can't cheerlead for all male education, then keep your trap shut (its laughable slogan back then was "Boys go to college, men go to Wabash). That said, I learned a great deal from fellow faculty there about teaching, the college fully supported my efforts to develop innovative curriculum, and I got to work with many fine students. Still, I was out of work in the summer of 2005. I'd been on market for a tenure-track position almost every year while there, had landed some interviews, but no luck.
|2012. A little party at Kim Geiger's home to|
celebrate AG's promotion to full professor and
my successful bid for tenure.
This is where Andy Grossman comes back into the story. He basically saved my academic ass. One of the faculty in his department--political science--was moving to another institution, and he was able to offer me a visiting position. That turned into a three year stint. They were three great years of almost daily chats with Andy and others in the department about teaching and our research interests. Still, it wasn't tenure-track. So I was back on the market for three more years (a grueling process, let me tell you). When I finally got an offer from Grand Valley State University (GVSU), Albion College countered with its own offer. What a conundrum. Take a position that allows me to be a Latin Americanist again, or stay with colleagues I really enjoyed? After much deliberation, I accepted the GVSU offer. Serendipitously, this turned out to be the right move. Albion College, struggling financially, soon thereafter released numerous tenure-track faculty.
So, a shout out to Andy Grossman for resuscitating my professional life. And now back to the topics of this posting: War, the US military, the Commander-in-Chief.
Another friend from grad school days, Kim Geiger, sent Andy Grossman a short piece titled "GOP congressman says he's urging American generals to resign rather than follow president's orders" (see also Tom Ricks' relevant commentary here). Here's what Grossman had to say in response.
I had not heard about this. A nice spin on this would be as follows. If generals disagree with the commander in chief, they should first resign. After said resignation, these now retired generals then can do as they please since they are now a citizens. They cannot disobey the President (in most cases--an order to commit genocide or other "crimes against humanity" would be grounds for disobeying the President) in uniform.
So here is what I think this Congressman and others are saying: if you are given an order or mission to "degrade and destroy" X--and if you deeply believe as a member of the military that this cannot be done in the fashion or within the guidance of the civilian leadership's parameters, you must resign. To carry out a policy you do not believe in is dangerous for a number of tactical and strategic reasons. From what I hear and read, almost nobody among officer corps believes it is possible to carry out the President's goals (as he enumerated them a few weeks ago) without actually using a lot of US military forces in Syria on the ground. So in this sense, generals that do NOT agree with the President must resign. What they cannot do--and if they do they should be relieved of duty and subjected to courts martial ASAP--is to disagree IN UNIFORM or to engage in the subversion of the civilian leadership's orders.
So a benign reading of the congressman's claims can actually be made, and I would support them. But is the Congressman thinking along these line of civil-military relations in a liberal democracy? I have no idea. I think to go war based on AUMF [Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists] passed on October 12, 2001 is illegal. I support the goal of destroying ISIL militarily and with brutal force, and no apologies, but as of now we are, in my view, in an extra-constitutional war that has two parties responsible: The President of the United States and the Congress of the United States. I care more about the Constitution being followed than a supposed existential threat to national security when we go to war. I also believe in a draft, higher taxes to fight such wars, and most important, an official declaration of war. Absent that, no war.
I so agree. And I'm reminded of President Johnson's presidency. Of course Barack Obama's presidency won't end like Lyndon Johnson's--a one-term residency due to the justly vilified Vietnam war. But I truly, truly hope we won't end up with the same tragedy. As the GOP Eisenhower administration initiated our involvement in Vietnam, with the Demorats Kennedy and Johnson deepening it, so has GOP George W. Bush planted us in a Middle East quagmire, with the Democrat Obama unable or unwilling to extricate us. Where is Congress on this? Where are ordinary Americans? Shopping, partying, etc.