Traditionally, prominent politicians, especially in Republican circles, went out of their way to appear aligned with U.S. military leaders. In recent years, however, a variety of prominent GOP voices have gone in a very different direction.
As regular readers may recall, Donald Trump didn’t just look askance at military service, he was especially derisive of generals and admirals, questioning their competence, blaming military leaders for failed missions he approved, and even going on the offensive against his own former defense secretary, retired Gen. James Mattis — whom he accused of acting like a “Democrat” for questioning the Republican’s less-defensible national security moves.
Trump has also reportedly lashed out at generals privately as “a bunch of dopes and babies.”
Evidently, Blake Masters, the Republican U.S. Senate nominee in Arizona, has argued along similar lines. Vice News reported:
Blake Masters, the Republican nominee for Senate in Arizona, has repeatedly said the U.S. should clean house on the senior ranks of the military, pushing the claim that all the generals and admirals are “woke” and “left-wing” losers who’ve never won a war. His solution? Fire them all, and promote “the most conservative colonels.”
At an August 2021 event, for example, a few months after launching his Senate campaign, Masters derided generals as “left-wing,” adding, “I would love to see all the generals get fired.” A month later, he went to tell an audience, “I think you probably want to fire most or all the generals and replace them with apolitical colonels, who will probably have conservative politics.” Two months after that, the Republican referred to leading generals as “woke corporate bozos.”
The report added, “Masters explicitly called for a wholesale firing of the generals at least seven times between August 2021 and March 2022, according to a VICE News review of his remarks, and harshly criticized military leadership numerous other times.”
To be sure, it’s a free country. Politicians are not required to support the military or its leaders. It’s certainly unusual for a Senate hopeful to repeatedly call for the ouster of his own country’s generals, but Masters is well within his rights to do so.
But it’s worth emphasizing just how misguided an idea this is. In authoritarian regimes, politicians take power, oust military leaders whose ideologies are deemed suspect, and promote those considered to be aligned politically with the country’s rulers.
In the United States, we know better — or at least, we’re supposed to.
In theory, it’s tempting to shrug off rhetoric like this, and dismiss Masters’ nonsense as hollow posturing from a far-right hard-liner. But there’s a broader principle at stake: The more Republicans talk about politicizing the military, the more unsettling their rhetoric becomes.