This was written in response to a thread on the facebook group, The Constitution of the United States of America, titled, Do you think a President should have to serve in the military because he is Commander in Chief?
To ask, “Do you think a President should have to serve in the military because he is Commander in Chief?” is completely the wrong way of posing this question. The proper way of framing it is, “Do you think that the Commander-in-Chief should always be a civilian, elected President, in order to secure a democratic republic from military control?”
As James Madison said: “In time of actual war, great discretionary powers are constantly given to the Executive Magistrate. Constant apprehension of War, has the same tendency to render the head too large for the body. A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive, will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defense against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.” 
This principle of civilian control has been and remains the fundamental precept upon which the command and control of the US Armed Forces depends and from which it draws its legitimacy:
“From the birth of democracy in ancient Greece, the idea of the citizen-soldier has been the single most important factor to shape the Western way of war. In a democracy, combatants bear arms as equals, fighting to defend their ideals and way of life. They are citizens with a stake in the society they have vowed to defend. They do not fight as mercenaries, nor are they guided by coercion or allegiance to the whims of a dictatorial leader. Rather, their motivation stems from a selfless commitment to an idea that far exceeds the interests of any individual member of the society. For the armed forces officer of the United States, this ethos began with the militiamen who defended their homes, secured the frontier, and won a war of independence against the most formidable military power of that era. The American military tradition has since been governed by a strict adherence to the primacy of civilian control and, within that framework, has continued to champion the role of the citizen-soldier as the defender of the nation’s ideals.” 
 Max Farrand. 1911. Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1:465. Civilian control of the military
Copyright © 2010 Henry Edward Hardy