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Our military was not built for such a partisan nation

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Can the United States maintain its national security and governmental stability after the secretary of defense, Jim Mattis, leaves office Tuesday?

It’s a good question, but here’s a better one: What does it say about our political system’s basic health that it was widely believed to depend on continued supervision of the military by a recently retired Marine Corps general — a general who could only serve as secretary in the first place because Congress waived provisions of a 1947 law called the National Security Act?

Clearly the lines of warmaking authority between the legislative and executive branches, and between the soldier and the state, have not quite developed as the Founding Fathers envisioned. The tangling began long before President Trump and seems likely to get worse before it gets better.

Per the Constitution, Congress has the power to declare war, fund the armed forces and establish the rules under which the military will operate. The president is commander in chief and the primary authority in day-to-day diplomacy.

This division of labor worked imperfectly in practice, even in the early Republic, but there was always clarity about its goals — the rule of law and civilian control of the military.

The rise of the United States internationally in the 20th century shifted power from Congress to the president and, through him, to the uniformed officer corps.

After Vietnam, Congress added statutory........

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