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Military's Influence in Matters of State

May 12, 2003

In "Diplomats on the Defensive" (May 8) I found this paragraph particularly worrisome: "Anyone who thinks that you can conveniently separate foreign policy, diplomacy, national security and war-fighting is clueless about the realities of global affairs, power politics and modern" war, a senior Pentagon official said.

Well, George Washington, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and the 36 other clueless statesmen who signed the U.S. Constitution in 1787 disagreed. It is precisely because foreign policy, diplomacy, national security and war-fighting are so intrinsically interlinked that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention thought it wise to devise a government that would "conveniently separate" (to use the good senior Pentagon official's words) the various powers into executive, legislative and judicial branches. And it is precisely why they wisely chose to fix the office of a civilian president, not a military officer, as commander in chief of our armed forces.

It's the interaction and balance among these distinct branches and an overseeing of the military by a civilian executive that conveniently separate a democracy from a military dictatorship.

Quick, somebody run a copy of the U.S. Constitution to our leaders in Washington. They seemed to have misplaced theirs.

Bruce Scottow

Los Angeles

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The concern over the influx of the military into the governance of the U.S. is welcome, but hardly news. People throughout the world assume that, like the Foreign Service officer quoted, people cope with the reality by just pretending there has been a "military coup" in the U.S., and then everything makes sense on the job. The Foreign Service officer's reference to George C. Marshall, in his role as secretary of State -- the preferred "civilian" alternative -- is a poor example, for it ignores the detail that Gen. Marshall spent his life in the military.

The so-called civilian overseer of Iraq was Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, until he was replaced on May 6 by L. Paul Bremer III. The secretary of State (not Defense) is the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Colin Powell, and, if any doubt exists about the pretended "imaginary coup," take a look at the No. 1 priority in the budget -- the ever-expanding "defense" budget.

Alex Sheppard

Reseda

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The diplomatic corps of the U.S. Foreign Service is among the most selective departments in this country. These individuals are not only well educated, often speaking four or five languages by the end of their careers, but are schooled in the art of diplomacy.

The State Department does not need advice on ethics from Newt Gingrich, who left his wife while she was being treated for cancer, or from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, with his arrogant and warlike approach to world leadership. Kudos to Powell and his team as they struggle to represent the true values of America.

Aviva S. Monosson

Los Angeles

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