Sustaining Popular Support: The Profession of Arms Challenge

  • Colonel Joel O. Alexander

The founding of the nation saw an inherent distrust of the military as an arm of the government. While this wariness is not uniquely American, it expresses society’s deeper concern with maintaining the delicate balance between protecting individual liberties and maintaining collective security. America’s military was challenged to dispel these concerns and demonstrate its value to the civilian leadership / population. Some challenges remain as a result of external political pressures or shifting societal opinions, while others are “self-inflicted”: e.g., poor communication, sexual assaults or other ethical lapses. Today, the U.S. military is viewed highly by much of the nation and enjoys a reputation as a profession of honor and respect. Yet with this cordial relationship--and overwhelming popular endorsement--the profession of arms is faced with the challenge of sustaining that support and promoting understanding of it as a valuable, civil service profession. This paper analyzes historical lessons and trends in public support of the military from America’s founding to the dawn of the 20th century and offers recommendations on how the profession of arms can best cultivate enduring, positive relationships between it and the society it represents and serves.