Though it possesses explicit constitutional recognition (and the concomitant respect that derives therefrom), we mustn't let this fool us into forgetting the simple fact that the military is still a government enterprise and, therefore, suffers from all of the corruption, incompetence, and lethargy common to such enterprises. I'm reminded of this by the following (especially annoying) example.
For some 18 months now, the head of US Africa Command, 4-star General William "Kip" Ward, has been under investigation by the DoD Inspector General for suspicious spending activity. The resulting report from said investigation levies serious allegations (with plenty of evidence) at Ward. According to The Daily Mail, Gen. Ward's alleged malfeasance includes:
-$129,000 on an 11-day trip to Washington with his wife and 13 staff where he only had short engagements on the first three days of the trip. The cost covers the hotel and 'other' costs such as transportation.
-$10,000 on hotels rooms for himself and staff during a 'refueling stop' in Bermuda on the way to an engagement in Germany. He and his wife stayed in a $750 suite. The bill does not include transport or other costs.
-$18,500 on producing and publishing 2,000 books about the Command's plush residence in Germany and its first three years of work.
-One staffer stayed in the Ritz Carlton Hotel in McLean, Virginia for 49 consecutive nights in early 2010—even though Ward was in the area for just 18 of the nights.
-Use of government-rented vehicles to run errands including collecting flowers, books, football game tickets and snacks.
-Dinner and a Broadway show—paid for by a government contractor—before meeting Denzel Washington and staying in the five-star Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
-Wife joined him on 52 of his 79 trips even though she had no official capacity.
-Ward also set officials meetings after being refused the use of military aircraft for personal travel.
Any one of these qualifies as a serious offense. One would therefore presume, if the same man committed all of these transgressions, the legal reaction would be swift and severely punitive.
Unfortunately, such is not the case - not even close. According to Fox News, 4-star Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has just recently voiced his opposition to demoting Gen. Ward and his wish that Ward retire at his 4-star rank. Though the decision to demote or not to demote lies with Secretary Panetta, we've every reason to take Gen. Dempsey's suggestion seriously since he is, after all, the top officer within the US Army.
The response from every enlisted soldier I've spoken to concerning this nonsense has, rather predictably, been the same. If an NCO or junior officer committed just one of any of these or similar infractions, they reply, he'd be tarred and feathered, and the punishment would be certain. By contrast, it appears as if Secretary Panetta is brooding over whether or not the Uniform Code of Military Justice should even apply to Gen. Ward. There's no reason to suspect, however unfortunately, that Ward's violations will ever be redressed. My speculation is that such spendthrifts are not uncommon among flag officers, and that Ward's expenditures merely surpassed some pre-existing level of permitted financial indiscretion within the upper echelon.
If the Army ever published a monograph entitled "How to Stoke Enlisted Cynicism", this fiasco would be an exquisite example of step number 1: administer justice in a non-uniform fashion. But even though we enlisted folk lack the advantages of the officer corps, e.g., better education, better training, better pay, etc., we have at least this consolation with us: we're not afraid of the rules.