Q: What is politicization of the military? Why is it a problem?
A: A politicized military exercises loyalty to a single political party and/or consistently advocates for and defends partisan political positions and fortunes. An apolitical, nonpartisan military is one of the norms underpinning democracy and a feature of military professionalism.
The military serves the Constitution through obedience to democratically elected civilian officials without regard for political party or partisan positions.
This idea underwrites the peaceful transfer of power between presidential administrations and ensures that the people can make governance choices free from the threat of coercion. Knowing that partisan intentions do not inform professional military advice also allows elected officials to trust the expertise and advice provided by senior officers. Moreover, if the military took partisan positions or exercised partisan loyalties, voters might reasonably assume that the opposition party would not be able to control the military if voted into office. In other words, the democratically elected representatives of the people would not be able to count on the faithful execution of national security policy if the military expressly favored the other party. Such conditions would break down the public’s confidence in either the disfavored party or in the military itself and damage the functioning of the government.
Another critical result of a nonpartisan force is that it protects the military: because the military serves elected representatives from different political parties equally, there is no reason for those representatives to treat the military differently based on partisan affiliation. Decisions about the funding, size, shape, and use of the military are much less likely to be motivated by a desire to defend partisan power and much more likely to be driven by wider strategic, economic, and public values. Moreover, service personnel management can remain a professional—not political—process.
The military services treat the principle of nonpartisan service as a bedrock element of the military profession.