Appearance of two retired distinguished general officers at the recent Republican and Democratic conventions has reenergized long-standing debates about the underlying values and norms that define the U.S. military and its relationship to the nation it serves. Both Lieutenant General Mike Flynn, U.S. Army (Retired), and General John Allen, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired), made prominent speeches at these events, which drew numerous comments about their public involvement in partisan politics.
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) General Martin Dempsey, U.S. Army (Retired), in a letter to The Washington Post, claimed that as generals “they have an obligation to uphold our apolitical traditions.” He went on to assert, “They have just made the task of their successors—who continue to serve in uniform and are accountable for our security—more complicated. It was a mistake for them to participate as they did. It was a mistake for our presidential candidates to ask them to do so.”