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Jim Golby @jimgolby
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<Thread> There's a lot going on so I missed this yesterday, but the media is reporting GEN (Ret) Jack Keane is under consideration to replace Secretary Mattis if/when he departs.

I'm not a sociologist, but I want to talk a little bit about norms. 1/…
Others have covered the ground on why the norm of not having retired generals or admirals serve as SecDef is important. @ahfdc, for example, says even having a really good retired general serve as SecDef can threaten civilian control of the military: 2/…
@charlie_simpson argues that retired generals & admirals (& Secretary Mattis in particular) hate management & administration so they rarely make good bureaucrats: 3/
@Carter_PE & @LorenRaeDeJ say failing to uphold this tradition can contribute to the politicization of the military: 4/…
Despite all these risks, @tomricks1 and others made the case that Secretary Mattis was so talented & the current political situation so unique that Congress should make an exception and waive the law requiring retired officers to wait 7 years before serving as SecDef. 5/
Nevertheless, although there is always some disagreement & the Pentagon has come under criticism for transparency & other issues, Secretary Mattis generally has received passing to high marks for his performance. 6/
But the possibility of naming another retired general highlights some of the risks of making an exception to a norm in the first place. Once you break a norm, it seems more normal & it becomes easier to break the next time around. 7/
Now, one might argue that another GO appt might just be an artifact of President Trump's supposed preference for retired officers. Maybe, but this could affect future appts in at least 2 ways: (1) It will likely add generals to consideration lists for the foreseeable future, 8/
(2) It could create the perception that Dems need to "counter" this move, either through a future SecDef appt or by marshaling other retired (or active) generals to their "side." 9/
We've recently seen a lot of norms in U.S. politics & in U.S. civil-military relations in general fall, including the participation of retired officers in partisan politics and electoral campaigns. 10/…
Political polarization is adding pressures to civ-mil relations that it is to the rest of society, but a few really important norms remain - even though they increasingly are under threat. 11/
One is that overt politicization by retired officers has not (yet) translated into overt politicization of active duty officers, tho my dissertation shows that pol ldrs try & often succeed in appointing active duty generals based on their pol ideology. 12/
But this is one reason why @KoriSchake & I are often extremely careful to correct people who forget to add "retired" after a retired officer's rank. Failing to make this distinction blurs the lines for the public, and they are already blurry. 13/
Another norm that still holds is not using the military (or its legitimacy) to settle domestic political disputes, tho veterans are playing a more active role in organizing and elections. Most of this behavior among vets is unproblematic, but it can lead to blurred lines. 14/
And as I have argued at @smallwars, there are troubling signs that the active duty force is becoming more partisan. 15/…
A final norm that still holds is the use of the military for domestic violence or coercion, esp against political opponents. Historically, this usually is the last to fall & falls after others have come under threat. 16/
In any individual case, it can be easy to justify why it is acceptable to break a norm as @CarrieALee1 shows here in @warontherocks about ADM (Ret) McRaven's letter. 17/
But it is probably past time for us to start thinking about individual norms violations on their own. We need to think about how they fit into the broader patterns of the last 30-40 years, and those trends are not encouraging. 18/
And we also need to realize that once civil-military norms are violated, they are difficult to repair & restore. So before we violate them - even for good reason - we to think hard about the long-term costs & tradeoffs. 19/
@LorenRaeDeJ makes a similar & key pt talking about the bureaucracy: "Too much of the outrage...forgets that there will be a world after him, one where the new president will need these institutions to be greater and stronger than they were before..." 20/…
It can also be tempting to judge norms violations based on whether or not the action agrees with our own views rather than judging the action based on whether it aligns with our shared values. See @Carter_PE here: 21/…
@m_robinson771's research suggests we already do judge retired GOs based on whether their messages align with our partisan beliefs. His research & mine both show that currently there is a partisan asymmetry, where Republicans generally benefit more. 22/…
And Peter Feaver & I presented work at @APSAtweets suggesting that military partisanship (& our own) shapes our confidence in the military institution. We like the military more when it is on our (partisan) side, and less when we think it is on the other side. 23/
Civilian control of the mil is a foundation of the American republic. The erosion of norms on many fronts is creating challenges, but civ-mil norms are unique.

A competition of "our" generals vs. "their" generals poses great risk to these norms & makes each step easier. 24/
The military cannot save the republic from itself. If we try to make it, it could help push us closer or beyond the edge.

And, even if norms violations don't do damage in the near term, each one makes it harder for us to pull back from the brink in the future. 25/25
Shoot, I missed the link to @CarrieALee1’s piece at @WarOnTheRocks. Sorry!…
Ugh. And I screwed up the link to @m_robinson771’s article here:…
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