Global Role of Military in Politics


The Globalist (1/27/04) culled information from a variety of sources to answer the question: How many US generals became US Commander-in-Chief, i.e. president? Of America's 43 presidents, 12 have been former generals. How does this stack up to other occupations? Being a general is second only to being a lawyer in terms of the most common occupation of those who become president. When entering politics, which party have generals tended to chose? Of the 12 generals who became president, eight were of the Republican persuasion : William H. Harrison (Whig), Zachary Taylor (Whig), Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Benjamin Harrison and Dwight D. Eisenhower. And how many Democrats were there? Of the generals elected to the presidency, only three were Democrats: Andrew Jackson, Franklin Pierce and Andrew Johnson.
What about the one remaining former general? The only general to become president without being a member of a particular party was George Washington. The last Democratic president to have been a general was Andrew Johnson, who lost the presidency in 1869. Since that year, there have been six Republican presidents who were former generals.

What role did military success play in some of these generals coming into the White House? George Washington came into office directly after winning the War of Independence. Andrew Jackson was elected after defeating the British at the Battle of New Orleans. Zachary Taylor came into office after defeating Mexico in the U.S.-Mexican War. Ulysses Grant became President soon after forcing three Confederate armies to surrender. And Dwight Eisenhower was elected soon after the defeat of Germany in World War II. Since the 1850s, only two former generals who waged successful military campaigns were able to ride this momentum into the White House — Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

RH: From this survey it is clear that the US military have been more closely associated with the Republican than the Democratic Party. In Europe, with some exceptions like Hindenburg, de Gaulle and Franco, few military men have become heads of state or government. The country where the generals have played a comparable role is Argentina, but there they have seized power rather than won it in an election and they have ruled as dictators.. Whether it is good for the military to play an important role is running a country is a matter of dispute. In the past armies fought each other. Now the top military around the world seem to be forming a kind of international, one of whose main tasks will be to fight terrorism. It might be called the globalization of the military. The globalization of political parties lags far behind. We may face a world run by the military rather than the politicians. The key word there is "may".