There is simply no precedent in modern US history for so many prominent retired generals and admirals—including former secretary of defense and retired general James Mattis, three former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, former service chiefs and combat commanders, and many others—to publicly criticise the judgment of a sitting president. The only incident that comes remotely close is the so-called revolt of the generals in 2006, when a handful of retired military leaders spoke out against then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s handling of the Iraq War.
This time, the dam broke on June 1, when US President Donald Trump threatened to use active-duty military to exert “overwhelming force” to “dominate” US cities, and when the nation’s top military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, walked with Trump in his combat uniform to a photo-op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church through an area that had just been violently cleared of demonstrators. On June 11, Milley issued a remarkable apology, admitting his presence “created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”
USSC non-resident research fellow Jim Golby writes in this article for Foreign Policy that the military (and retired generals) should stay out of politics.