Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 22:26 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 22:26 | SYDNEY

Politicians in uniform


Andrew Carr


This post is part of the What is 'strategy'? debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

18 August 2011 13:45

This post is part of the What is 'strategy'? debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

The latest Republican to nominate for the US presidency, Texas Governor Rick Perry, made an interesting claim about the relationship between the military and civilian leadership:

'I want to make sure that every young man and woman who puts on the uniform of the United States respects highly the president of the United States.' He later 'clarified' by saying that 'If you polled the military, the active duty and veterans, and said 'would you rather have a president of the United States that never served a day in the military or someone who is a veteran?' They’ve going to say, I would venture, that they would like to have a veteran.'

It may well be that military personnel prefer veterans (in 2008, McCain seemed to beat Obama among military voters), but the last five US presidential election losers are John McCain, John Kerry, Al Gore, Bob Dole and George Bush Snr (pictured; courtesy of Wikipedia) — all of them had a superior military record to their opponents.

Meanwhile, in Australia, the last Prime Minister to wear the uniform was Gough Whitlam. While eight of our twenty-seven Prime Ministers have served in the military, only Bruce and Gorton used their service as a notable part of their public image.

Rick Perry's real intention, of course, is to paint Obama as something other than a true commander-in-chief during wartime. But Perry, like McCain and Kerry before him, shouldn't expect that the war and turmoil the US faces overseas will lead the public to support a veteran. The public seems very comfortable with the concept of a civilian as chief strategist, as Anton Kuruc argues.