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Get retired generals out of politics now; ‘Shut up and go home to your farm’

One of the major points of consensus at the Chapel Hill conference was that retired generals need to get out of the "potted plant" role of endorsing presidential candidates. Today, said Army Col. Matthew Moten, a West Point historian who is on sabbatical at Chapel Hill, "a small but vocal group of retired flag officers" ...

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

One of the major points of consensus at the Chapel Hill conference was that retired generals need to get out of the "potted plant" role of endorsing presidential candidates.

Today, said Army Col. Matthew Moten, a West Point historian who is on sabbatical at Chapel Hill, "a small but vocal group of retired flag officers" are undercutting the apolitical stance of the U.S. officer corps. Moten also made the interesting point that retired officers also are "part of the problem" in another area, that of protecting the professional jurisdiction of the military, because of the role some have played in provide security contractors, which as he noted are a form of mercenary. 

Retired Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was on the same panel, and said he generally agreed with Moten. "Being used as a potted palm at political conventions really does a disservice" to the military, he said. 

Retired Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, who was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, agreed that, "it’s important for the retired guys to stay out" of politics.

Marine Gen. James Mattis, speaking earlier, also mentioned this, saying that "flag officers must remain apolitical." He also said that officers who retire because of qualms over policy or other disagreements should "shut up and go home to your farm."

Myers said the thinks that "we probably need" some sort of "guidelines for senior retired officers," but said he didn’t think that such advice should be issued by the service chiefs.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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