Top military officer to troops: Don't politicize the military

Top military officer to troops: Don't politicize the military
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Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reminded troops in an article this month not to politicize the military during the 2016 presidential elections. 

"Every member of the Joint Force has the right to exercise his or her civic duty, including learning and discussing — even debating — the policy issues driving the election cycle and voting for his or her candidate of choice," Dunford wrote in the July issue of Joint Force Quarterly, a military academic journal. 

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"What we must collectively guard against is allowing our institution to become politicized, or even perceived as being politicized, by how we conduct ourselves during engagements with the media, the public, or in open or social forums," he wrote. 

He also reminded troops to conduct themselves in a way that the next administration has confidence it would be served by an apolitical military.  

Surveys taken of the military have shown that those who serve or have served in the military prefer presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says his advice to impeachment defense team is 'just be honest' Trump expands tariffs on steel and aluminum imports CNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group MORE over Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSanders to Clinton: 'This is not the kind of rhetoric that we need' Sekulow vows Bidens, Ukraine will be part of Trump impeachment defense Elizabeth Warren: More 'Hillary' than Hillary MORE, the presumptive Democratic candidate. A recent Military Times survey published Sunday showed that 49 percent of active service members backed Trump and 21 percent backed Clinton. 

"Beginning with General George Washington resigning his military commission, our deliberate and disciplined commitment to upholding the principle of civilian control of the military underpins not only our warrior ethos but also the expectations of how we conduct ourselves while in uniform," he wrote. 

The military has already been dragged into the center of some high-profile debates during the campaign season. 

Trump said Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSchiff shows clip of McCain in Trump impeachment trial Martha McSally fundraises off 'liberal hack' remark to CNN reporter Meghan McCain blasts NY Times: 'Everyone already knows how much you despise' conservative women MORE (R-Ariz.) was "not a war hero" for being captured during the Vietnam War. He's also suggested Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl should be executed for desertion. 

Trump has also said forces would listen to him if he ordered them to conduct waterboarding, which is against current domestic and international law, and he's questioned the relevance of NATO, the U.S.'s military alliance with European nations and Canada. 

After the news media questioned senior military leaders on Trump's remarks, Dunford issued guidance in April for them to stay out of the fray. 

Of course, that does not preclude former military officers from weighing in, which many have to a great extent, including former CIA and National Security Agency Director Gen. Michael Hayden (Ret.), former Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a Trump adviser, and other veterans such as Mark Geist, who participated in the rescue effort during the Benghazi terrorist attack and campaigns for Trump. 

Clinton has reportedly considered a high-profile retired member of the military for vice president, Adm. James Stavridis. He is a former NATO Supreme Allied Commander and is the dean at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. 

Dunford reminded troops in his article that every service member swears "to support and defend the Constitution of the United States" and to "bear true faith and allegiance to the same." 

"As military professionals, our most important asset is the trust of and credibility with the American people," he wrote. "While we must always safeguard our professional integrity, extra vigilance is required during any political transition."