How the military feels about politics in the US is subject to lots of misconceptions and bias. In detailing the political and social views of the Army, Dempsey demolishes a number of myths and misconceptions.
Anyway, Our Army, from Jason Dempsey, presents some real facts about what’s going on, focusing on the Army. Check it out on Amazon and also its Facebook fan page. Note the (implicit) Millenial effect.
- Studies of officer corps drive public perceptions of the Army (conservative and Republican), and most observers have assumed that the rest of the Army mimics the officer corps.
- This study reveals that the assumption is wrong, and that the Army overall looks very much like America, (there are proportionally as many ‘liberals’ in the Army as in the population overall) although it confirms strong Rep and Conservative ID among sr. officers
- Officer ID is primarily due to a generational effect, and the military does little to shape
- However, due to public perceptions of the Army, there is an expectation among officers-to-be that they should ID Republican and conservative, leading to a self-selection effect in the officer corps—the Army’s public image is shaping the pool of potential recruits
- Officer homogeneity has also led many to believe that it is acceptable to mix personal political views and their professional views (or even fail to understand the distinction— particularly salient to: 1. Military manpower policies and 2. Overall national defense strategy)
- The second-order effect of this homogeneity is that it has increased the political worth of those soldiers willing to ID as Dem or liberal, leading to more active recruitment of veterans into politics as Dems seek to counteract the perceived/implicit endorsement of the military
- Result—Army engaged in partisan politics to a degree that threatens its apolitical reputation
- Fix—acknowledgement of the issue and proactive efforts to educate officers on appropriate civ-mil norms. Simultaneously, military leaders must avoid actions that can be interpreted as partisan and distance itself from retirees/veterans who would use their service as a basis for endorsing party candidates.
Overall, the book is a great primer for those who want to learn more about an institution that not many of us have direct contact with.