Retired GEN John Allen spoke at the Democratic National Convention last week. He has since explained that he felt he had to speak up because Donald Trump advocates that the military violate the recognized rules of war. See ABC news report. Yes, there are what we call “rules of war.” One of those rules is that we do not torture captured combatants. We do not murder families of terrorists. The rules of war are developed from various international treaties and agreements. These rules have existed for the U.S. Army since before World War II. So, when Donald Trump endorses “enhanced interrogation techniques,” he places every commissioned and noncommissioned officer between a rock and hard place. I previously wrote about the candidate’s support for unlawful orders here.
The concern, as GEN Allen (R) points out, is that if Mr. Trump becomes president and does indeed order torture, every officer and every NCO will be required to refuse that order. We have been trained since the post-Viet Nam war era to refuse any unlawful order. So, yes, as John Allene points, his ascendancy to the presidency would have dire consequences for civil military relationships.
And, if we change our regulations to require that all order be obeyed? Then, we return to the days when a Mai Lai massacre can occur. Worse, in my view, military order and discipline become that much more tenuous.
I was fortunate to command three different Infantry companies, in two states. Two companies were top notch. The third was more challenging. In a unit with leadership issues, it is essential that the leaders set the example in every way possible. The troops see everything. Cutting corners, relaxing rules, allowing torture here or there would threaten discipline for every soldier. Donald Trump has no idea, just no idea.