Some people have asked me the question, “what is your opinion about the President?” My response is the same, regardless of the specific man that might actually be in the office. I am a professional soldier, and as such, my job is to enforce policy, not make it. Does this mean I’m a mindless robot? No, it just means that the expression of my opinion is driven by discipline and professionalism, which dictate that I keep my mouth shut in public. I will not speak ill of any Commander and Chief, regardless of my personal feelings, nor would I expect anyone else to speak ill of their boss in a public setting. (My parents made it clear when I was growing up that you never air your dirty laundry in public, and as a matter of professionalism, this holds true even in the age of the internet. Maybe especially, in the age of the internet/twitter/facebook/etc.) So, for anyone who wants to know how I feel about an issue, save yourself the trouble of asking me. It is highly likely I won’t respond, and then you think I’m opposed to what you just asked. My silence on any particular policy does not mean that I either agree or disagree with it, instead, it means that I will not divulge that opinion outside where it is appropriate.
There are tons of examples of people who didn’t exactly follow this paradigm (e.g. General of the Army MacArthur attacking President Truman), and even in some military circles, this notion is becoming somewhat more “arguably justifiable” for some. (E.g. in several articles, including one provided to Quarterly Parameters, a publication of the United States Army War College.) Regardless of how someone tries to shine that fresh turd, I personally refuse to go down that road, and I also refuse to believe that this is a direction that a professional in the Armed Forces should follow. Instead, if things are so bad you can’t live with it, then you have an obligation to both yourself and your country, to either walk away or keep your mouth shut. Personally, through the years, I’ve always taken comfort in having an ample opportunity to voice an opinion, but it was always at the proper time and in the right setting. I have done it on several occasions throughout the last 30+ years, where I have not only voiced an opinion, but I have voiced it with the appropriate level of true vehemence. I can assure you that it isn’t always a popular thing to do, which is true with any boss not just our political leaders. After all, no emperor wants to be told he isn’t actually wearing anything, especially when he thinks he purchased “new clothes.”
It is my fervent belief that the time for a military professional to voice their thoughts and opinions is at the time of a plan’s formulation. In public, and when you have to execute that plan, is not such a time to start complaining. So, regardless of whether you’re politically to the Right, Left, or in the Middle; or if you’re a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, or even just wholly apathetic, please do not bother to ask me if I think “bombing such and such” is a good idea. While I will have an opinion, I will not share it outside the proper setting. I’m not trying to be rude, it is just me personally embracing what I believe to be a time honored professionalism required of the profession of arms. ~ Michael S. Pauley