Opinion: Push to Rename Military Bases is Misguided (Part I)

I am really concerned about our senior Military Officers. Up until the election of President Trump, I had a lot of respect for Flag Officers. Although there were one or two in my career that I didn’t particularly care for, there was only one who was flat out stupid (actually admitted to cheating on a Military Test…in front of the 2-Star and the 3-Star who were present to pin on her 1st (and only) star). By and large, all of these officers were smart…I mean really smart; Which is what bothers me about some of the statements I’ve been hearing from some of these Flag Officers.

The latest outrage is again from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Senior Military Officer in the United States. General Mark Milley stated to a congressional committee:

“The American Civil War … was an act of treason at the time against the Union, against the Stars and Stripes, against the U.S. Constitution — and those officers turned their backs on their oath.”

Read: Joint Chiefs Chairman Defies Trump on Bases Named After Confederate Traitors

Milley’s remarks were in response to Congressional questions about renaming some military bases , currently named for Confederate Officers. General Milley called the Confederate Generals ‘traitors,” and intimated that the base names had some ill effect on the moral of Black and other minority Soldiers. I’ll get to that aspect in another article.

Let’s talk about his “traitors” accusation. General Milley is swinging after the bell on this one. He’s judging these officers by today’s standards. He’s accusing them of a crime that not even everyone in the North agreed they had committed.

What most Americans today keep ignoring, or more likely just don’t know, is that the states severally, were the focus and power back then. The Federal government was put in place as a servant of the people and the states, not the reverse. Most people in the mid 1800’s remembered that. They also understood that secession wasn’t the cut and dried thing that some today believe it is. General Milley should certainly understand that.

Even President Eisenhower, felt obligated to explain this to a citizen who had written to castigate him for keeping a picture of Robert E. Lee in the Oval Office writing in part:

I do not understand how any American can include Robert E. Lee as a person to be emulated, and why the President of the United States of America should do so is certainly beyond me.

The President responded also in part:

Dear Dr. Scott:

Respecting your August 1 inquiry calling attention to my often expressed admiration for General Robert E. Lee, I would say, first, that we need to understand that at the time of the War between the States the issue of secession had remained unresolved for more than 70 years. Men of probity, character, public standing and unquestioned loyalty, both North and South, had disagreed over this issue as a matter of principle from the day our Constitution was adopted….

Read both letters in their entirety here: Dwight D. Eisenhower in Defense of Robert E. Lee

I’m deeply disappointed that General Milley has decided to pander to the left on this issue. I’m even more disappointed that he did so with so little historical basis. He knows that Treason can only be against your own sovereign. The Confederate Officers legally resigned their commissions. They resigned and went home to their respective states, thus legally transferring their fealty. The United States was no longer their sovereign. President and former General of the Army, Eisenhower understood that this was still an issue of contention on both sides and certainly not grounds for an accusation of treason. I’ll take Ike’s view. After all—he’s actually won a war.

Mike Ford
Mike Ford, a retired Infantry Officer, writes on Military, Foreign Affairs and occasionally dabbles in Political and Economic matters. 
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