On the surface, this reminds troops around the world. The message is: “We support and defend the Constitution. Any behavior that disrupts the constitutional process not only violates our traditions, values and oaths, but also violates the law.”
However, several defense officials said that the chiefs knew very well that the memo would be read globally. They have a lot to say, and every word is carefully chosen. The chiefs are not partisans, but they have a fine-tuned feel for the political atmosphere. They know when to say it, just like after the race riots last year. They knew that this memo would make them run against Trump a few days before Trump’s departure as commander-in-chief.
On Tuesday, Trump defended his remarks, which inspired his supporters to march into the Capitol and cause riots. But the chiefs protested, saying that “the right to freedom of speech and assembly does not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and rebellion.” This is their position. .
The memorandum also put forward a key point, that is, “The U.S. military will obey the legitimate orders of the civilian leadership.” This may be the most important line. Several officials at the Pentagon who are directly familiar with their thinking said that chiefs and combat commanders around the world have considered what they will do if Trump issues an illegal order. The answer is simple: they will not follow it.
All U.S. troops have been trained to only comply with legal orders. But in this prosecution environment, no one will openly talk about how the chiefs will reject an illegal order, which is unlikely to be a Trump order. But in the advanced military world, this is well known. To be legal, an order to take military action must have an effective goal, it must be moral and moral, and it must use commensurate force.
Commanders will never launch nuclear strikes, launch bombs and missiles, or cause troops to be injured without justified military action. Presidential orders have multiple legal reviews to ensure that commanders can execute these orders.
But what happens if the order is illegal? Lawyers and Pentagon leaders explained to the president why the order was illegal. If the president still does not back down, there is no choice. The commander must resign. The law prohibits them from executing illegal orders.
By issuing a statement, the joint leaders have clarified the threats they face in private and public. But what is disturbing is that no one knows whether the president is listening.