Military readiness. Protecting American lives. That’s all you need to say in order to get people to do almost anything. It is also the card U.S. military chiefs are playing in opposing legislation sponsored by Senator Gillibrand that would take sexual assault cases out of the hands of commanders.
As described by the Washington Post, the chiefs oppose new legislation that “would give uniformed prosecutors, instead of commanders, the authority to open criminal investigations into sexual-assault cases and bring them to trial.” Says General James F. Amos, the commander of the Marine Corps: “A commander is responsible and accountable for everything that happens in his or her unit. Victims need to know that their commanders hold offenders accountable, not some unknown third-party prosecutor.”
This, of course, is absolutely ridiculous. Senator Gillibrand points out that the chiefs resisted elimination of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on the same grounds of morale and military readiness, a concern that turns out to have been equally misplaced. What’s more, by defying reality, this crazy notion that the rank-and-file need to view their commanders as all-knowing and all-powerful may actually be part of the problem.
U.S. commanders should do what they are good at, which is preparing for war, and leave matters of criminal justice to the lawyers. If there is anything that is unpatriotic, it is believing that the rank-and-file members of our military are not smart enough to appreciate the distinction.