Should the U.S. President Have to Be a Veteran?

Today, I am proposing another debate question.  The question is “Should it be a requirement for someone to have served in the military BEFORE they are eligible to run for President?” Should Congress pass a law to change the eligibility requirements for the U.S. President? Under the current laws (as of 2014) here are the requirements to be eligible for U.S. President.

  • Must be natural born in U.S.
  • Must have been permanent resident for 14 years
  • Must be at least 35 years old
  • Must not have participated in a rebellion against the United States
  • Must not have been impeached by Senate

Source for Presidential eligibility requirements

Under our current laws, there are no military service requirements to run for U.S. President. As I see it, it SHOULD be a requirement to have served honorably (at least two years) in any branch of the U.S. Military BEFORE someone can be eligible to run for President. Why do I think this? First and foremost, the President is the Commander in Chief of the country’s military forces.  They get this authority from Article II, Section 2, Clause I of the U.S. Constitution.   Some of their responsibilities as Commander in Chief include:

  • They oversee the U.S. military
  • They can’t declare war, but they can order maneuvers
  • They can station troops strategically throughout the world
  • They can issue Executive Orders concerning the military
  • The President participates in military ceremonies in the U.S. and overseas
  • They can establish policies that effect the military

Of course, the President has a lot more responsibilities other than just Commander in Chief.  That being said, I can’t think of any responsibility GREATER than defending and protecting our freedom as Americans.  Can you?

I believe that a President with prior military experience would have a greater understanding and appreciation of the military. They would understand the complex issues concerning the military and if nothing else, they would be more grounded.

On the other hand, just because someone had military experience doesn’t mean they would be a good President.  Please note that I am not saying that.  I just think that NOT having military experience should keep someone from being allowed to run for President. It’s a show stopper as I see it.

If you’re going to be in charge of a country’s military forces, you should at least be a veteran yourself.

What are your thoughts?  Do you think someone should have to have military experience before they are eligible to run for President?  Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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14 thoughts on “Should the U.S. President Have to Be a Veteran?”

  1. I will also have to disagree with a President having to have military experience. As someone else said, there is no line to draw. It comes down to the voters. I believe voters should take the military experience into consideration, but it should not be mandatory.

    I believe there are quite capable individuals who could do great at running this country without military experience. There are also some who have military experience that I feel would do terrible at the office of President.

    It all comes down to the vote. The one thing I do believe should change is the Electoral college. It should be that all votes are added and counted. Illegal aliens should not be allowed to vote nor should felons until they are completely released from their punishments.

    1. I believe the vote should decide. I just think to be eligible you should have some type of military service, especially since they will become the Commander in Chief.

  2. In principle, I agree with you, Chuck, but at what point do we stop? The President is the leader of our Armed Forces, so he/she should be a veteran. The President is also the leader of the Departments of Education, Commerce, Energy, Agriculture and so on. Does that mean we would best be served someone who has been a teacher, a farmer, and a financial analyst, while having a degree in nuclear engineering? Oh yeah, and that served in the military? With those requirements, we’ve only covered four of the Departments of which the President is the leader.

    It’s not feasible for him or her to be an expert in all areas of the government. That’s why the President has the Cabinet filled with “experts” of his choice. He needs to be a good leader in general, and the details and experience come from those “experts.”

  3. I'm going to disagree with you here. Military experience can be invaluable, but being the president includes so many facets that military service is only one check mark I look for. I would rather that person dedicate themselves to learning the ins and outs of the government, military and otherwise.

    History has shown that military experience has had little or no effect on how a president will react or lead. A president with no military experience who surrounds himself with top military minds is in a better position than some guy who did 4 years in the Guard and thinks that gives him more information than the Joint Chiefs.

    You can point out presidents who were veterans that were considered good or great (at least by the majority) Reagan, Kennedy, Teddy Roosevelt.

    But then there is John Adams, Wilson and FDR. No service at all.

    And though I won't mention who as to not upset anyone, there are plenty of bad presidents with military service and some of those same presidents fumbled the military despite their "experience"

    I think the current guidelines are good enough. It's up to the American people to decide what attributes they desire. For good or bad.

  4. This is a preposterous argument. We are not Egypt, where military strongmen have ruled the country for decades with an iron fist. Or Syria or any one of a dozen backward, totalitarian states. We are America, where we believe in democracy, freedom, and civilian control over the military. Requiring that a presidential nominee serves in the military will bring the military, a bastion of apolitical activities in the US, into politics. It would eventually erode our civil liberties. The military would become the center of politics, a duty which was never intended to have. This is one of the several reasons why our Founding Fathers decided to not have a standing army in peacetime and to make it subordinate to civilians.

    1. Kurt,

      Thanks for the comment. I know it’s off point, but you could argue that we are slowly becoming one.

      Here is a definition of it: “Totalitarianism or totalitarian state is a concept used by some political scientists to describe a political system in which the state holds total authority over the society and seeks to control all aspects of public and private life wherever possible.”

      Source: Wikipedia

      I like the idea of civilian control over the military myself. The President is a civilian. I’m not saying the President should be IN the military while they are in office. I just think it would help if the President had some military experience, PRIOR to becoming President.

      In either case, I appreciate your passion on the topic.


      1. Maj. Holmes, I think that the military is vastly superior to the civilians fhag control it for myriad reasons. One of the reasons this is so, in my opinion, is because it is controlled by civilians. Quite paradoxical, no?

        The Egyptian constitution prohibits active soldiers/sailors/airmen and officers from holding the post of President (hence the resignagion of el-Sissi). Yet, those politicians all have served in the military for decades and have huge networks. Just because they’re not currently in the military doesn’t mean they don’t have pull in it. Every single President from the military has been an officer, from Washington to Bush. It’s highly unlikely that said pattern would change; actually, I tend to believe that it would just spiral to higher ranks from there.

        Even if we are becoming a totalitarian state (which is false because we still have personal liberties that people in other nations do not), such a requirement would only serve to advance that process.

        1. If you take the time to read the original post I never said the President should be a Soldier. I say they should be a veteran. There’s a big difference. Also, I am a civilian and am no longer a Major.

  5. Depends on how good of a serviceman they were. I'd rather have a good leader with no military experience than a terrible leader who on top of that was a terrible Soldier/Marine/Sailor/Airmen/Coast Guardsmen.

  6. I agree, based upon my belief that one should have served in the lower ranks of ANY organization before being given the responsibility to run it. Since the POTUS is the Commander in Chief of the US Military, I believe that he or she should have at least some basic first hand knowledge of how it runs, and how its members go about their daily activities. In any organization, upper management always benefits from having experience in the ‘trenches’. I believe that it makes them a better, more compassionate leader.

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