Monday, April 22, 2019, 11:14 (GMT+7)
The nature of the perspective on the civilization of the Military

Today, some people are advocating the so-called civilization of the Vietnam People’s Army (VPA) and demanding to hand over the right to control the VPA to the National Assembly, State, and Government, saying that “the VPA is only subject to the Constitution, not the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). What is the nature of that perspective?

1. This perspective expresses the imposition of bourgeois law on Vietnam

They use the law of bourgeois states as the yardstick and basis for all other states and regimes. More specifically, it is the theory about the civilian control of the military according to the Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution. However, there is no law that enables the executive branch and the judicial branch to exercise the state management of the military. It is the adoption of the separation of military power (a type of executive power) from the judicial power and the executive power under the Article II, Section 1: “the President has the power to run the executive branch of the government” and the Article II, Section 2: “the President shall be the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States”. Meanwhile, those who have the power to issue legal documents rely on the Article I, Section 6: "no Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office”.

It is also based on the bourgeois military legal theory that a military official is only appointed from a civilian position without the opposite direction as well as the Directive 1344.10 by the US Department of Defence: “members of the armed forces shall not perform clerical or other duties for a partisan political committee or candidate during a campaign”. In 2018, US legal documents stipulated that no one may be appointed as Secretary of Defense within seven years of serving as a commissioned officer of a regular (i.e., non-reserve) component of an armed force. They also base on the UK Queen’s Regulations for the Army: regular Service personnel are not to take any active part in the affairs of any political organization, party or movement.

However, it is common sense that legislation of a state must be decided by the people’s willpower and aspirations and remains valid within that country only. Thus, the imposition of legislation of a country upon another one is totally absurd. It is impossible to impose legislation of a bourgeois state on a socialist state or vice versa as the two kinds of state do not share the same nature.

2. The nature of “civilization” of the military in the bourgeois countries

Based on the theory about the division of powers, the legislative branch in the bourgeois countries issued numerous laws which were thought to divide the powers of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches over the state management of the military. They really believed that thanks to the legalization of the civilian control of the military, the military affairs would be under the control of the civilian system instead of the political parties or military system. However, legal practices in the bourgeois nations are contrary to the “wishful thinking” about the “division of powers”. A large number of examples in the state management of the military in the United States and many other countries worldwide have proved this. In fact, regardless of the strict regulations of the US legislation, its political parties still interfere with the powers of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches over the state management of the military. Among 45 Presidents of the United States, only the first President George Washington did not join any political party; the rest were leaders or representatives of different political parties. Most Presidents of the United Stated consistently implement their political party’s lines. For instance, during his election campaign, Donald Trump (representative of the Republican Party) stated that he would withdraw the US troops from the Middle East if being elected. He has now done what he said. It is clear to see that in fact, it is the party control of the military, and there is no “so-called” civilian control of the military.

In 1950, the US President Truman appointed George Marshall, who had retired as Chief of Staff of the United States Army for only 5 years, to be the US Defence Secretary. Meanwhile, according to the US National Security Act of 1947, “there shall be a Secretary of Defence, who shall be appointed from civilian life by the

President…  A person who has within ten years been on active duty as a commissioned officer in a Regular component of the armed services shall not be eligible for appointment as Secretary of

Defence”. Marine General James Mattis, who had retired as Commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command for just only 3 years, was appointed as the Secretary of Defence and confirmed by the Senate on January 20th 2017 while the National Security Act prohibited active-duty commissioned officers from serving as defence secretary for a period of seven years after their retirement. This proved that the legalized regulations on the civilian control of the military have not been strictly observed.

In many other countries worldwide, such as Russia, Ukraine, South Korea, China, Laos, and Cambodia, their defence ministers are military officers. In Russia, the first Defence Minister who who had been appointed from civilian life was Sergei Ivanov in 2001. However, in 2012, Russian President Putin decided to appoint General Shoygu as Defence Minister, which was highly appreciated by military experts. They believe that a defence minister must have good military knowledge, and that a defence minister from civilian life will hardly take assertive actions particularly when dealing with the contingencies under pressure.

Obviously, the nature of the legalized regulations on the head of the military (defence minister) in United States and some other countries is not the “civilization” of the military; in fact, those countries only use civilian officials to control the military operations. It is clear to see that this legalized regulation is not always observed as evidenced by the aforementioned examples. Thus, the request for “civilizing” the VPA and the viewpoint “the VPA is only subject to the Constitution, not the CPV” by some people represent their ignorance of law and state management of the military.

3. The request for “civilizing” the VPA is aimed at combining “peaceful evolution” with “self-evolution” and “self-transformation” within the VPA

Requesting the “civilization” of the VPA, some people swap “the civilian control of the military” for the “civilization” of the military. They equate the civilian control of the military with the transformation from the military affairs into civilian affairs, thereby making other people misunderstand the nature of this issue. Although the legalized regulation on the civilian control of the military in the bourgeois countries has not been executed completely as mentioned above, those who demand the civilization of the VPA have never touched on this fact. They devote efforts to glorifying and advocating the bourgeois legislation and making other people mistakenly believe that the civilization of the military in the bourgeois nations is a good thing, and socialist countries could easily follow that way. This is an evil plot which incorporates “peaceful evolution” into the promotion of “self-evolution” and “self-transformation” within Vietnam. Their support for the civilization of the military is in fact aimed at changing the Party’s guidelines on the mechanism of the CPV’s absolute, direct leadership over the VPA.
To conclude, the ultimate political goal of the perspective on civilizing the VPA is to remove the VPA’s leadership over the VPA and military operations, which was legalized in the Constitution by the State of Vietnam. This is a malicious plot and artifice in the “peaceful evolution” strategy by the hostile forces. They plot to swap the conception, change the mechanism for the CPV’s leadership over the VPA and military operations, and encourage “self-evolution” and “self-transformation” within the VPA. Therefore, we need to maintain vigilance against, prevent and combat this wrongful perspective.

Sr. Col., Associate Prof. Nguyen Van Quang, PhD

The Institution for Military Social Sciences and Humanities, Ministry of National Defence

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