Military readiness is a key component to achieving the US Department of Defense’s mission of protecting the security of our country. Support for the troops is conveyed in advertisements and professional sports, and by politicians and citizens across the country. However, the role of the military spouse is not often thought of being crucial to military readiness. Yet, a military spouse can strongly impact readiness through service member retention.
A military spouse’s outlook regarding the military is closely linked with a current service member’s likelihood to stay in the military. The more positive the military spouse views his or her time as a part of a military family, the more likely the service member is to stay in the military. A military spouse is more likely to have positive views of the military if he or she is afforded sufficient educational and professional opportunities.
This essay argues that a complete scrutiny of norm-breaking and “crises” within strategic-level American civil-military relationships ought to consider more than the impact of the breach or the value of the actor’s apparent justification for transgression.
Rather, considering how an actor understood the norm, and whether he or she accepted it before breaching it, uncovers two important factors that have been left under-examined in civil-military norms and relations literature: whether that norm ought to be considered the norm any longer, and whether there is a more nuanced way to determine an actor’s culpability or blameworthiness for the violation.
Exploring the willfulness and mindset of the individual parties, who seem to breach norms or fail to establish a baseline of workable mutual expectations, is a step in the direction of understanding the peculiar character of that choice beyond its effect and the actor’s reasoning.
This essay proposes that we borrow the scalable legal concept of “intent” from criminal law—described as “the degree of informed intentionality” of a civil-military relationship actor. Informing this proposal is a look at some recent norm-busting events “ripped from the headlines.”