The US military’s role in a contested election

What role, if any, might the United States military play if the results of the upcoming presidential election are contested? Concerns have been raised that the president could call in the military to quell protests before or after the election, or that the military will be called in to remove the president if he loses and refuses to leave. How does the military remain apolitical and not succumb to electoral politics? How might an election-related crisis affect the relationship between the American people and the U.S. military, which polls continue to say is the most trusted institution in America? And what are the military’s constitutional responsibilities, should the president refuse to leave office in a contested election? Please join Quincy Institute President Andrew Bacevich for this critical discussion with Amber Smith, a veteran Army pilot who flew missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and served in the Trump Administration’s DoD as a Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Defense; and Mark Hertling, former Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe and the Seventh Army and adjunct professor to the Modern War Institute at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Quincy Institute Senior Advisor Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, will moderate. The panel will take place on Wednesday, October 28, from 2-3 pm ET.


Andrew Bacevich

Andrew J. Bacevich is the President of the Quincy Institute. He is a graduate of West Point, a retired Army colonel, and Vietnam war veteran. He is Professor Emeritus of International Relations and History at the Boston University, and author, co-author, or editor of more than a dozen books, among them: The New American Militarism (2005), The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (2008), Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War (2010), America’s War for the Greater Middle East (2016), and his latest, The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered Its Cold War Victory (January 2020).

Amber Smith

Amber Smith is the author of the recent book Danger Close: My Epic Journey as a Combat Helicopter Pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan. She is a former U.S. Army OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter pilot and air mission commander in the 101st Airborne Division, and flew two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. After her service, she was appointed Special Assistant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for the Trump Administration and later, Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Outreach in Public Affairs. In addition to overseeing the DoD’s community service initiatives, she served as the Secretary’s principal liaison to the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, national veterans and military service organizations, and national defense-related organizations.

Mark Hertling

Mark Hertling served for 37 years in the US Army, retiring as the Commanding General, US Army Europe and Seventh Army. Previously, he was the Assistant Division Commander of the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad in 2003 to 2004, and he later commanded that same Division in Germany, preparing it to become the 30,000-strong US Task Force Iron in Northern Iraq from 2007 to 2009. Since retiring from the Army in 2013, he was appointed by President Obama to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, became a senior vice president at Florida Hospital, and serves as a national security, intelligence and terrorism analyst for CNN.

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, Moderator

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos is a Senior Advisor at the Quincy Institute and a Contributing Editor at For the past three years, Vlahos served as The American Conservative’s executive editor, and she continues to co-host the magazine's Empire Has No Clothes podcast. Vlahos previously served as a contributing editor to the magazine, reporting and publishing regular articles on U.S. war policy, civil liberties, foreign policy, veterans, and Washington politics since 2007.