A Quick Note, Provoked By Senator Rand Paul (Junior Senator, KY)

January 23, 2013, 6:37 pm

Senator Rand Paul, to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today:

Mr. Paul told Secretary Clinton if he had been president at the time of the Benghazi attack that he would have relieved her from her job, for not knowing about appeals for more security.

“I would have relieved you of your post,” he said “I think it’s inexcusable that you did not know about this.”

That is military terminology. Secretary Clinton is not in the military, in the military chain of command, or have any official military connection. She is a civilian official. I wig out about this because it plugs into another bit of annoying militaristic verbal imprecision, the use of “commander in chief.” I would note that these four men–George H.W. Bush, William Jefferson Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama–have something in common. They are not, nor have they ever been, anyone’s commander in chief, unless that person was a member of the military during their Presidency. The United States is not organized along military lines, does not have an official hierarchy of command, does not bow to our sovereign, and does not have a commander in chief. We do have a civilian government, with a President who serves as the commander in chief of the US military. We do have civilian control of the military, something we resolutely do not want to obscure by letting military language slide unabated into the civilian world.

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