Is military service no longer a requirement for President/Vice President of the United States?
I remember when Dan Quayle was looked on with derision because he "only" served in the National Guard. Yet 2012 could mark the first US election where no one on the ticket for either major party has served in ANY military capacity, National Guard or otherwise. Have we seen the last of the military-turned-politician types? And if so, why?
Voters in all jurisdictions have almost always embraced military heroes. Caesar never would have become dictator of Rome without Gaul, nor Jackson president of the US without his various campaigns. When with WWII, continuing into the Cold War, the US government rediscovered that war and militarism are perhaps the most effective ways to expand, take extraconstitutional authority, and accumulate wealth & power, military service was ensconced as a de facto qualification for office. That didn't apply to the presidency alone, it spread to congress, even to judicial appointments. If you didn't have a service record, you might as well not waste your time seeking a nomination.
That unwritten requirement began to evaporate with the unpopular Viet Nam War. When universal military service was ended and the US shifted from manpower to technology to maintain its prowess, the ground of it fell away. Still, it lingered in the public mind, largely with the WWII generation, which is now dying out. Presidential candidates through Kerry continued to attempt to paint themselves as military heroes. His campaign also made the first partisan attempt to make service a negative for his opponent. That theme continued through the next election. It didn't work politically. Most Americans now never having been in uniform, the public no longer relates to it well. For this election the theme appears to have been dropped but for a few party loyalists who seem not to have gotten the memo.
It never was a requirement. First off, Quayle was a coward who hid in the national guard to keep from being drafted into Vietnam. Lots of rich kids with political pull did that back in the 60s and it was a scandal. George W Bush did the same thing before he deserted from the TX National Guard. Clinton at least was honest and dodged the thing altogether. Many "soldiers" were crony appointments (Reagan--made WWII training films; Nixon--B.S. navy logistics tasking; Johnson--served 2 seconds as a Lt Commander who made one report and got the Silver Star) Few presidents or candidates were professional military men. Fewer served in combat (Eisenhower of West Point--nada; Jimmy Carter of Annapolis--nada). Those who were in combat, usually failed (Bush Sr--shot down; McCain--shot down; Kennedy--sunk his ship) The president has other jobs other than that of commanding the armed forces. We are a Commercial Republic. Our system is based on law and economics. That means lawyers and businessmen are most qualified to run our government. Soldiers don't usually understand these things and we are already up to our eyeballs in debt and recession thanks to our wars. In the Vietnam and post-Vietnam era, military service was no longer considered an honorable profession by high society and so I think we will start seeing fewer and fewer former-military men in office.
It never was a specific requirement of the job but it used to be something valued a bit more than it is today by voters. In essence up until recently it was difficult if not nearly impossible to win the Presidency without at least some military experience. Throughout our history there have been 12 presidents without military experience and only 2 since World War II (Obama and Clinton). Also, George W. Bush also did not have combat experience. I think that military experience is something that has long been valued, but I do think that to a degree since the Vietnam War there has been a decline in its value. Also, I think that we now have a much smaller percentage of the population serving in the military. It is important to note that during WWI and WWII the draft led to nearly everyone of fight age being forced to join the military in some capacity. That has not nearly been the case since and even the Vietnam was, while there was a draft engaged a smaller percentage of the population and left a lot of loop-holes for those with higher incomes (thus those also more likely to pursue higher office) to be able to increase their chances of avoiding war.
I think these two factors alone have played the largest role in reducing the likelihood that our commander in chief has had military experience.
As many have pointed out, having military experience is not a requirement to being President. I totally respect and value anyone who has this experience, but do not feel it needs to be a prerequisite. However, I believe that if there is evidence that a person lied to dodge the draft, THAT person should be disqualified as a candidate for President.
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