For decades, the relationship between the President and the military has ebbed and flowed, with each President taking a varied stance on how he viewed the power of being the Commander in Chief. President Trump is no different; his initial presidential campaign complained of past mistakes of other Presidents, telling his supporters that once in office, his relationship with the military would be better than anyone had ever seen. Following his election he frequently referred to top officers in the traditionally non partisan military as “his generals,” and appointed more generals to top positions in his administration than ever before. Since his election, his relationship with military officials and previous generals has mostly soured, in part because of his reluctance to accept the advice of experts in any field. This paper will examine the extent and effects of President Trump’s repeated ignoring of advice of the career military and national security figures he had initially hired. In lieu of listening to experts, he is instead doing what is politically convenient, often looking to please his base instead of acting in the best interests of the country. The politicization of the US military and its members has negatively affected national security and civil-military relations as the American public begins to question the apolitical nature of the organization.
The thesis argues that President Trump has politicized the US military in ways not seen before, which has negatively affected troop welfare and national security. In order to examine the recent politicization of the military, the history of civil military relations, and the overall profession of arms will be examined. The history of civil military relations are examined in order to showcase the juxtaposition to the way President Trump treats the military versus his immediate predecessors. This includes comparisons to his immediate predecessors (Clinton, Bush Jr, and Obama), alongside his non immediate predecessors, including Presidents Wilson, F.D. Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Johnson. It will examine the relations not only between the military and the President, but also with agencies such as the NSC and political appointees at Defense and State who make the bulk of foreign policy decisions. These comparisons all provide a bigger picture in helping to understand how abnormal President Trump’s actions are.