Retired Gen. John Kelly, a general known for his openness and honesty, is now striving to keep his political opinions quiet and he’s warning other high ranking military officials to do the same. According to Kelly, and several other high-ranking military leaders, officials that are weighing in on the 2016 presidential campaign, either through endorsements or public critiques, are breaking down the “tell it like it is” integrity of United States military. Kelly states that there is a sacred wall between military and civilian politics that must be maintained.
Kelly broke his own silence during a 90-minute interview in which he condemned the “cesspool of domestic politics” and criticized both Clinton and Trump for “not being serious about the issues”. He stated that both campaigns “don’t reflect reality”
He went on to say that he would serve the White House regardless of who becomes president. However, he added that caveat that who ever wins:
“will be in desperate need — and I mean desperate need — of military and foreign policy advice, because the world out there is just getting crazier and crazier.”
Kelly has an impressive political background. He served as he Marines’congressional liaison and as senior military assistant to Defense Secretaries Leon Panetta and Robert Gates. He has an impressive background that would make him an invaluable resource for either candidate. He led troops through some of the most violent conflicts in cities that are currently being contested by ISIS and other Jihadists.
Given the volatile climate both home and abroad both candidates are actively seeking endorsements from top military brass to increase their knowledge on national security. For example, retired Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the former Joint Chiefs chairman, and retired Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis were recruited to run against Trump but opted out, in part due to Kelly’s recommendation to avoid domestic politics.
Other military officials have been drawn, sometimes forcibly, into the political sector due to domestic issues such as gun control, refugee immigration, and the threat of homegrown terrorists. The issues have caused other officials, like Joint Chiefs Chairman Joe Dunford, to draft literature reminding other senior officials to avoid the political spectrum.
Neither campaign has reached out to Kelley at this time. He stated that he fears how the next president will address the challenges Obama was incapable of resolving during his time as president.
He states that the battle against ISIS and radical Islam will continue long after Obama leave the White House. He went on to state that the battle will likely continue after his successor, regardless of who enters the White House, leave the White House as well and criticized both candidates for being reluctant to speak on the issue. He argues that the battle will be long and arduous, and will take place both on and off the battlefield. He stated:
“You’re not going to win this thing by dropping bombs on these people,”
Kelly has two sons that followed in his footsteps and became Marines. He seems to fear for their futures and has criticized both Trump and Clinton for glossing over the fact that the “sustained victory” they are both promising will require U.S. and coalition troops to be deployed in the Middle East for decades.
He ended the interview by stating that he and his colleagues should not become publicly involved in the political fray. He claims that throughout his decades of military service the toughest battles to win have been those intertwined with politics. He warns that, if he or his colleges become involved in the presidential election, they will become mere talking points. He stated:
“To join in the political fray, I don’t think it convinces anyone, It just becomes a talking point on CNN.”