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answering your letter, I felt that I should present your inquiry to the members of the National Security Commission of the American Legion, who met in Washington, D.C., February 27-March 2, 1962. Although this is not a policymaking body of the American Legion, it has the primary responsibility within The American Legion for considering the matters mentioned in your letter. At my request, this group gave study to and made comment upon the four areas of inquiry presented in your letter to me. These comments have been reviewed by my own advisory committee and are as follows:
1. The question of the proper role of the military in national security affairs
The American Legion supports the principle that the military is subject to ultimate civilian authority and that their primary mission is one of defending the United States against an enemy through military action. The American Legion, long before other elements of our society, recognized the danger posed by international communism. We view the military as a capable, well-informed body of men who should be utilized in areting the American public of this danger. We believe that officers selected to present facts on the Communist threat, or any threat to overthrow our form of government, should be competent officers, well versed in their subject. By this, we do not approve or condone political statements or statements contrary to national policy. 2. Adequacy of troop information and education
At this time, we do not have sufficient information to arrive at a satisfactory determination of the adequacy of existing troop information and education programs. We believe a sound troop information and education program should include instruction on the basic tenets of Americanism. Servicemen should also receive instructions on Communist doctrine and design, and its dangers. By these means, our servicemen will be better prepared to serve their Nation. 3. Participation of military personnel in national security seminars”
For several years the American Legion has been one of the sponsors of the national security seminars of the Military Industrial Conference. By and large, these have been extremely worthwhile and have served to alert various levels of American society to the dangers of communism. The National Security Seminar held at the National War College in Washington, D.C., was a direct outgrowth of the Military Industrial Conference. We favor the continuation and increased use of this method of reporting to the people.
We suggest that great care should be taken in assuring that all such seminars, serving as vehicles to educate the American people to these dangers, be under the sponsorship of responsible organizations. Every effort should be made to determine that the subjects and speakers on such programs would not be embarrassing to the military representatives. 4. The proper use of military personnel in educating the American public to
the dangers of the cold war menace
Properly informed and responsible officers of the Armed Forces of the United States should be used in educating the American public to the dangers of communism. Recognizing the seriousness of the threat posed by international communism, America cannot afford to neglect the well-informed, dedicated officers of the U.S. Armed Forces as a resource which can be utilized in this protracted conflict. We would recommend that the services of such officers be used to educate the people to the nature and scope of the Communist conspiracy.
In view of existing problems and their importance to the national interest, we would recommend that there be constituted a body to review public statements by members of the military services. In order for the reviewing body to discharge this responsibility, national policy should be clearly defined to them in written form. We further recommend that this body be comprised of high level persons from the armed services and the Departments of Defense and State. We believe it to be in the national interest
that the names of these persons be made public. I am honored that you inquired as to our views on these matters and I am pleased to present these comments for your consideration. Sincerely,
CHARLES L. BACON.
NOVEMBER 14, 1961. Senator John STENNIS, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C.
DEAR SENATOR STENNIS: Receipt of your November 3 letter is acknowledged.
Undoubtedly it is quite difficult to set a clear line of distinction as to the duties, responsibilities, and privileges of career officers of our military services. First I would say that I do not believe that regular officers of the services lose their citizenship by putting on a uniform. However, I am also of the opinion that career Regular officers should never engage in activities for or against any of our recognized political parties. This, of course, is more binding to such officers while on active duty although may have less application after retirement.
When it comes to the question of communism, however, I am sure that any regular officer worth his commission should exert his influence against it. We are spending billions of dollars each year to meet the threat of communism from without, and it certainly follows that our Regular officers should have some concern for whatever threats there may be from within.
Unless I am mistaken, our Regular officers were severely criticized during the late unpleasantness in Korea because of the unethical behavior of many of our men after being taken prisoners. It would appear, in this instance, that possibly not enough attention was paid to their indoctrination as to the real threat of communism. Sincerely,
Gen. CARL A. SPAATZ (USAF Retired). CHEVY CHASE, MD.
PALM SPRINGS, CALIF., December 1, 1961. Hon. JOHN STENNIS, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C.
MY DEAR SENATOR STENNIS: Thank you for your letter of November regarding the interest of your subcommittee in the use of military personnel and facilities in cold war educational activities.
I regard it as a privilege to make whatever contribution I can to any enterprise with which you are associated.
These are times when all of us must be alert to influences which tend to weaken or destroy respect for law and constituted authority regardless of whether such authority is military or civilian. While I have been disturbed by the tendency in some quarters to limit the free expression of views by military officers, I think that it is incumbent on all of us to retain a balanced view of the matter.
I am not one who believes that the valor of military officers in times of national danger gives them any monopoly on patriotism or a superior knowledge of what is best for the country. In the years of my military service I learned to have a high regard for the patriotism and wisdom of our civilian governmental leadership.
I know, too, that the best minds in the civilian echelons of Government have always had a high regard for the opinions of our military leaders. And it is only in an environment of such mutual respect and confidence that our system can function successfully.
The military leader of today is no longer the narrow militarist of earlier periods of the world's history. American military leaders in particular have been distinguished by their ability to rise above purely military consideration and to function on the level of statesmanship. Our military leaders from General Washington to Generals George Marshall and Dwight D. Eisenhower have certainly displayed unusual capacity for the broad problems of diplomacy and statecraft.
If we are to encourage the development of military leaders who have this broader view of things, we must begin by extending to our military people a decent respect for their views and opinions, even those opinions with which we may disagree.
I believe that there must be an opportunity for a military leader to speak his mind and to express his convictions. Not to do so is to sacrifice much that can be of value to the Nation.
How military officers can most appropriately express their views is a matter for the services themselves to determine. It is a problem of self-discipline because it is only a small step between expressing public disagreement with one's civilian superiors and publicly disagreeing with the orders and commands of a superior military officer.
And so in response to your letter, my plea is for a greater respect; both on the military side of the fence and on the civilian side for the opinions and actions of others. I do not believe that present tendencies to “muzzle” military leaders, to the extent that they exist, can be handled by legislation or regulation. In my judgment, the situation demands the calm judgment of men like yourself and Senator Russell to lay down some guidelines for appropriate behavior in these difficult areas. I am sure that both the civilian and military leadership would be responsive to such suggestions. With warmest regards, I am, Sincerely,
O. S. IRVINE, Lieutenant General, USAF (retired.)
(By Maj. Gen. John B. Medaris, U.S. Army, retired) Of the many freedoms we enjoy, the right to express our opinions openly is perhaps our most cherished. Whether or not the average American can define freedom of speech, he practices it with gusto. If he doesn't like a given policy of his Government, he says so. If he wants his Government to espouse a different policy, he says so. And he is likely to resent anything he regards as an attempt to silence him.
It is, therefore, understandable that military officers who proclaim their differences with national policy usually find considerable public sympathy. It is understandable, but in my opinion neither the dissent of the officer nor the sympathy of the public is always justified.
The rights of the private individual and the rights of a Government spokesman are not identical. When he speaks out on public issues, the military officer becomes, in effect, a Government spokesman, subject to the same restrictions as other officials. The very nature of his duties demands, at times, a suspension of his right to disagree publicly with Government policy.
The suspension of this right is inevitable. Effective organized human effort requires agreement on the method by which an end is to be achieved. It re quires individual interests to give way to the interests of society at large. It is impossible to maintain a civilization in any other way.
These larger interests set definite limits on the military commander. In brief: He cannot take public issue with national policy. He cannot publicly say that a decision by a public official is wrong. And he cannot publicly oppose a given political doctrine unless national policy opposes that doctrine.
After all, the purpose of the military is to carry out—not to formulate the policies of its country. Military action, according to classic definition, is the implementation of foreign policy by force when all other means have failed. It is for this reason that our Department of Defense receives its basic policy guidelines from the Department of State.
To be sure, military commanders are not automatons. There is no reason to suppose that they are in entire agreement with all national policies. They are citizens first, and their opinions are likely to reflect the full spectrum of public opinion. But their own constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech as private citizens is dependent on their loyalty to a system of discipline. One purpose of that discipline is to defend the same guarantee for all citizens. If their loyalty to the military stems from an essential belief in the desirability of their citizenship, then they must regard that system as the most effective means to a more important end—the end being the preservation of basic individual freedom for everyone.
There are two instances in which the military officer is perfectly free to speak his piece. The one most frequently in the public's eye is when he is called to appear before Congress. There he must answer direct questions openly. In my opinion, that is only proper. But I also believe that he is obliged to do more than criticize. He must criticize constructively.
The second concerns matters of military planning Contrary to widespread opinion, there is plenty of room for disagreement in this field. The suspicion, that military higherups have refused to listen to disgruntled officers prompts many citizens to conclude that the services are dominated by a shortsighted leadership which automatically rejects subordinate opinion. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, the so-called rigid military system of the United States makes careful room for the uninhibited expression of opinions in the course of formulating military policy.
But this freedom of speech in command councils must not be construed to extend to what the officer is allowed to say to his troops. The restrictions here have special significance of late and therefore deserve special consideration. Essentially they are the same as those imposed on his public speech.
I do not believe, for example, that it is a prerogative of a military commander to pass judgment before his troops on the political intent of Government officials or of the Nation's elected representatives. Neither is he free to express opinions on U.S. political parties or factions except those judged subversive by the Gov. ernment itself. Should he do so, he is still speaking as a Government spokesman and is therefore out of bounds.
Troop indoctrination on the subject of communism is another case in point. Obviously we must be certain that the American soldier understands the intent and methods of communism. When one considers that most Americans grow up with little formal explanation of communism, the success of brainwashing in the Korean war becomes somewhat more understandable if no less shocking.
Educating a soldier to the evils of an ideology he has been drafted to fight is a belated education. The time and place for such education is in civilian society before he becomes a serviceman. Our experience in Korea has proved its necessity.
Unfortunately, the banner of anticommunism in this country is carried in the main by extremist organizations. For that reason, I believe that national policy should be clearly spelled out to military commanders.
That this definition of our national attitudes—our purposes and goals—be strong and complete, not temporizing nor halfhearted, is a responsibility of our Government. It is up to the citizenry and their elected representatives to assure that our official statements of opposition to communism and all of its methods are forthright and effective. There can then be no excuse, however faint, for the translation of national policy into personal opinion by any Government official.
If an officer feels that he is compromising his own principles by implementing policies with which he disagrees, he has the right and the duty to himself to doff his uniform-resign or retire and reestablish his right as a private citizen to speak out in favor of change.
Effective military organization is necessary for the preservation of freedom.' Effective military organization demands ohedient adherence to a course of action once policy has been determined. If we weaken the military structure in the name of preserving the freedom of speech of its officers, the freedom of speech of our whole society can suffer. The price is too dear.
WARRENTON, VA., January 20, 1962. Senator JOHN STENNIS, Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C.
DEAR SENATOR STENNIS: In reply to your letter requesting my views on the use of military personnel in cold-war educational activities and the alleged "muzzling” of military officers, I respectfully submit the following thoughts for consideration of the special subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Armed Services of which you are chairman.
In view of the constitutional rights of every citizen to exercise freedom of speech, I believe that it is improper to curtail or "muzzle" officers of the Armed Forces in their public expressions so long as the individual concerned does not overstep the bounds of established ethical standards.
With this inherent right, however, there rests a moral obligation upon every public servant, whether he be military or civilian, to refrain from criticism in public of national of domestic policies which might embarrass our Government.
Military personnel should always loyally uphold the decisions of their superiors and faithfully carry out directives received from those in authority.
In other words military personnel are not free agents and should not make statements, either orally or in writing, which openly censure the promulgated directives of the President or his official representatives. I do not intend to convey the impression that military personnel should be prevented from expressing their views on matters of current interest. They should however exercise proper judgment on what they say and to whom their remarks are addressed. If poor judgment is shown the individual concerned is subject to censure by his superiors.
In reference to the participation of service personnel in alerting the public to the military and political menace posed by a potential enemy, I feel they should be not only permitted but encouraged to express their views provided their remarks are based on factual references and do not divulge classified material. It may be desirable for the Department of Defense to provide certain guidelines in this respect but these should be sufficiently broad to permit the public to become fully informed of the military status and courses of action open to a potential enemy. Here again discretion must be used.
I feel that it is especially important that all commanders keep their subordinates informed of the military capabilities of our potential enemies and that they be indoctrinated in the dangers of world communism as well as the stimulation of unswerving devotion to the United States and the ideals for which our country stands.
Since my retirement in 1956 as Commandant of the Marine Corps I have not kept abreast of the restrictions imposed on military personnel in the field of public relations. For this reason I am not in a position to intelligently comment in detail on the subject matter that your subcommittee has under investigation. Permission is granted, however, to place this statement in the record of your hearings if you so desire. Sincerely,
LEMUEL C. SHEPHERD, JR.,
WASHINGTON, D.C., November 13, 1961. Hon. JOHN STENNIS, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.O.
DEAR SENATOR STENNIS: This replies to your letter of November 1, 1961, in which you requested my views on the subjects now under study by your subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
First, let me state that my last active duty in the Navy Department terminated in 1953. Consequently, I am not current on many of the affairs of the Department of Defense today. However, I have examined existing directives pertaining to the matters which you are investigating and I find nothing of substance that changes the situation which existed while I was there—this to the best of my recollection.
The necessity for information and education programs in the armed services has been amply demonstrated. As I see it, these programs are conducted for internal service purposes only. I do not consider it to be a proper function of military personnel to enter the field of alerting the public to the military and political menace posed by our potential enemy. On the other hand, senior officers are frequently invited to speak at functions where it may be appropriate to assist the audience in comprehending our situation. The speaker should rely on his good judgment, particularly in making it clear that he is not indulging in propagandizing his audience.
As for partisan politics, I had never enjoyed the privilege of voting while I was on active duty, and since retirement have been a resident of the District of Columbia. I have no affiliation with any political party. On the other hand, I see no objection to a member of the armed services having such an affiliation. Nevertheless, I do not consider it proper for an officer to attempt to influence his subordinates in this field.
In furtherance of the foregoing, I am in complete agreement with the following excerpt from an editorial on this subject in the New York Times issue of Saturday, November 4, 1961: