The Military Oath of Enlistment is Self-Contradictory

By Dylan Anders | @realdylananders

A popular belief in a purpose of government is to provide the common defense. Ask any civics teacher, refer to a textbook, or take a look at the Constitution: this is quite evident. Despite the founding fathers’ intentions, though, the common defense came in the form of a standing army during times of peace and war alike. This defense’s primary duty was to protect the liberties that the new Americans had fought for. As such, specific guidelines bound soldiers. When joining, they must take an oath of enlistment in order to pledge themselves to that supposed goal.

What is the Oath?

The Armed Forces’ ‘Oath of Enlistment’ contains statements which a soldier is legally obligated to follow. However, the oath itself, especially in today’s political climate, is self-contradictory. It leads one into confusion as to what the true objectives of the soldier are. Below is the oath that all enlisting soldiers take (or with some minor variation):

I, (name of enlistee), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

Let me emphasize that the several provisions of the oath may not necessarily contradict each other. This is solely dependent on the presence of a presidential infringement of the Constitution. A dilemma occurs that the oath completely disregards. When the president commits a crime, be that one against the Constitution or another high crime or misdemeanor, Article 2, Section 4 provides the president should no longer hold office.

Despite the harsh reality that this punishment has never come to fruition, the contradictory nature of the Oath remains. If the president infringes on his limits of the Constitution, especially a part regarding executive powers during a war, he directly opposes the Constitution that every soldier swears to protect. Of course, the president would deserve a trial to prove his guilt before anyone takes action against him.

A Broken Oath of Enlistment

This is the ultimate catch 22. If a soldier abides by the Constitution, then he or she may be breaking line with the president, thus breaking the oath. But by following the words of the president, and breaking the Constitution, the soldier also goes against the oath. So, every time the president breaks from the Constitution, the oath goes out the window.

This raises the most crucial question: Who really is the military protecting the Constitution against? The absolute modifier ‘all’ in the Oath implies that the military would use force to defend the values of the Constitution against any enemy. However, the military would not feasibly defend against the executive power. So, the hope of justice lies not on the military’s oath. This thus furthers the realization that a nation’s military force and their head of state become one, exploitable for the executive’s motives.

What is the value of the oath? If the president truly is guilty, prior to any legal action at all, then the soldiers are subject to a guilty leader’s will. The common soldier, faithfully and honorably held under oath, is a threat to the Constitution at any time, at any order of the President of United States. 

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