At some points during the Republican primary campaign especially, CINC (commander-in-chief) was being used almost as a synonym for president — much as we might substitute ‘chief executive’ for president. And the growing use of the term in this sense is an effective barometer of the progressive militarization of our concept of the presidency and our government itself…
we can observe its concrete effect in the Bush administration’s claims of almost absolute presidential power well outside of war-fighting — almost as if the president is a kind of warlord simultaneously directing the military and the civilian governments with similar fiat powers.
We need to re-familiarize ourselves with the fact that the point of the constitution’s explicitly giving the president the title of commander-in-chief was not to make him into a quasi-military figure. It was precisely the opposite — to create no doubt that the armed forces answered not to a chief of staff or senior general or even a Secretary of Defense (originally, Secretaries of War and Navy) but to a civilian elected officeholder who operates with the constrained and limited power of that world rather than the unbound authority of military command.
We’ve gotten the relationship seriously out of whack.