Honoring an oath

A Marine sergeant on recruiting duty in San Diego has kicked up a fire storm that, on first glance, pits the rights of U.S. citizens to engage in free speech against the rules and regulations imposed by service in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Gary Stein, who maintains a Facebook page on behalf of what he calls the Armed Forces Tea Party, faces dismissal from the Marines on allegations that he violated long-standing military policy prohibiting its members from participating in political activities.

Stein maintains the prohibition violates his right to free speech, but most legal experts, even the American Civil Liberties Union, disagree.

Since the Civil War, the military has prohibited troops from taking part in overtly political activities -- including, but not limited to, criticizing the commander-in-chief and secretary of defense.

Although it may seem unfair to prohibit activities that are guaranteed in the basic building blocks of this country’s laws, that decision is both solid and correct. This country cannot afford to have a military that operates along politically partisan lines.

History is crammed with military coups, many staged when political ideologies clash: In 88 B.C., a Roman general named Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix led a coup against a rival named Marius; in 1973, Chilean President Salvador Allende was overthrown by a military-led coup; and in 1977, Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was overthrown by his army chief of staff.

History has proven that mixing military and politics can bring government into chaos.

Whether or not he is popular with the electorate, the commander-in-chief of this nation has the right to expect the men and women in the military to serve without questioning his orders.