The Many Questions Trump’s Pardons Raise About Civil-Military Relations

The Many Questions Trump’s Pardons Raise About Civil-Military Relations
President Donald Trump addresses members of the military during a surprise Thanksgiving Day visit to Afghanistan, Bagram Air Field, Nov. 28, 2019 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

When President Donald Trump granted pardons to two Army officers—one convicted of war crimes, the other accused of them—and reversed the demotion of a Navy SEAL who was convicted of posing with the corpse of an enemy combatant, he exposed several troubling ambiguities about civilian-military relations in the United States. Civilian and uniformed defense officials feel most at ease when the dynamics of their relationship are clear-cut, with formal and tacit assignments of roles and responsibilities that leave little room for uncertainty. In practice, though, things are rarely so black and white. There is only one certainty so far in […]

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