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Political abstention is the simple solution: With no vote, there’s no need to convey partisan ideas.There’s no quicker way to extinguish inflammatory political small talk than to say, “I’m a military officer; I don’t vote.”By not voting, I am countering the alarming number of retired officers who damage the traditional political neutrality of the Profession of Arms by vociferously endorsing presidential candidates and being used as campaign props. Grant is an especially instructive case, because he faced the grimmest temptation to tamper with the election of 1864 during the Civil War. These giants lived in different times, but they all agreed: Military officers shouldn’t vote in national elections.I am recording my vote of confidence in America — after all, trust must flow two ways, and purposeful restraint affirms the faith I place in my fellow citizens with the selection of our commander in chief. As a profession, we’d do well to follow their lead.
At basic combat training I learned of the differences between an officer and an enlisted soldier.
But because military officers have a special responsibility to prevent politics from dividing our troops and separating us from society, it is all the more important for us to choose not to exercise that right (this is my belief, of course, and not necessarily that of the Department of Defense or the American government).
Especially when our elected officials routinely make fateful decisions about where and how we are deployed, it is vital that we maintain the constitutional division between the civilians in charge and the men and women who execute their orders.
One 2010 study found that over a quarter of military officers reported that another officer tried to influence their vote; my experience suggests this figure would be even higher today — like everyone else, officers are inundated and politicized by 24-hour news and social media.
To vote, and then rely upon a culture of secrecy to prevail, is not a successful strategy in the Facebook age.