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"When asked how they feel about President-elect Barack Obama as commander in chief, six out of 10 active-duty service members say they are uncertain or pessimistic." Says the Army (and Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps) Times.
More specifically, only 25 percent say "pessimistic". Thirty-three percent responded "optimistic", and a slightly larger group (35%) answered "uncertain" - with another eight percent claiming "no opinion". Some may be inclined to offer exclamation points to those results, but this analysis sounds about right to me:
Peter Feaver, a political science professor at Duke University who has written extensively about civil-military relations, said a degree of uncertainty among service members toward Obama is appropriate, given their questions about how he will govern as commander in chief.The survey results are from just under 1,400 respondents. From personal experience I'd speculate that if there's any difference between these results and those from a hypothetical survey of every man, woman and child in the US military today it would be a larger percentage of "uncertain" responses at the expense of the optimistic and pessimistic crowds in this result. But uncertainty is anathema to the military mind; in training, planning, and execution of military operations one hundred percent of the effort is aimed at reducing it. In a change of Commander-in-Chief a degree of uncertainty is unavoidable, amplified when his or her political affiliation is different from that of the previous CinC, and immeasurable in the specific case of Barack Obama, whose exposure to military members (and political experience in general) is perhaps less by orders of magnitude (if such things were measurable by some unit) than any previous president-elect. This is not to imply he's unqualified for the job, doomed to failure, or undeserving of the support of the troops - far from it, in fact. Just that "uncertainty" is the only sensible response to the question, and that uncertainty makes most military people uncomfortable (most people, for that matter), to say the least.
“Those numbers don’t convince me he has got a big problem on his hands because what he is seeing is not military hostility, but rather military caution, and caution that is reasonable because he has never been in the position of this office,” Feaver said. “It’s sensible and understandable that they have doubts about him.
But most can accept a degree of temporary uncertainty. A large percentage of military members tend to be pragmatic (if not jaded), and with a history of being promised much and given little tend to be of the "I'll believe it when I see it" variety - and apply that philosophy to forecasts of doom or improvement. "Plan for the worst and hope for the best" is a well-honed sword (or perhaps solid shield) found in the arsenal of all successful military leaders. Some might say "I'm hoping for the best, therefore I'm optimistic", others that "I'm planning for the worst, therefore I'm pessimistic" - but there's little real distinction in their positions. Likewise there's not much separation from those who have "no opinion" or express uncertainty; all are describing the same terrain from their own perspective, but all are standing on common ground.
Having served under four presidents myself I offer generic advice to younger troops: "You will be disappointed and delighted by events of the next four years". That and "hope for the best, expect the worst, plan for both and everything in between".
I'd say all bets are off (or on, depending on your perspective) until he actually DOES something (good or bad, right or wrong...) The military is just like the rest of us: trying not to prejudge him (with no viable record of achievement, it's tough to decide either way) but we'll all be watching carefully.Posted by Some Soldier's Mom at January 2, 2009 10:14 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(1) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)