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General Allen’s departure is unfortunate but not a civil-military scandal

General Allen’s departure is unfortunate but not a civil-military scandal

It is customary for beltway types to snicker when a senior official in the government indicates that he or she is stepping away from power in order to "spend more time with my family." I think that attitude is unfortunate and regret having done my fair share of snickering in the past. The truth is that service at the highest-most levels of government can be exceptionally demanding, and it is usually the family that pays the biggest price. So I now have a rule of thumb that presumes any such claim is true unless there is strong evidence to the contrary.  

That is how I reacted to the news that will General Allen turn down a possible assignment to be SACEUR. General Allen’s explanation — that after multiple combat tours he needs to spend more time with an ailing wife — rings true to me. And after checking with some people who are in a better position to know, I am even more confident of this judgment.

Some critics have charged that General Allen was forced to step away, raising questions about a growing politicization of the military engendered by a hyper-partisan White House. The White House did do something like that with respect to General James Mattis, so the allegation was not wildly implausible. But in Allen’s case, I do not think it was correct. 

The Obama Administration has enough real civil-military challenges to manage. It does not need to be distracted by fake ones. General Allen’s departure should not become such a distraction.