Civil-Military Relations in Perspective: Strategy, Structure and Policy

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Further, the present century has seen a rising arc in the use of armed violence on the part of non-state actors, including terrorists, to considerable political effect. Civil-military relations in the United States, and their implications for US and allied security policies, is the focus of most discussions in this volume, but other contributions emphasize the comparative and cross-national dimensions of the relationship between the use or threat of force and public policy.

Authors contributing to this study examine a wide range of issues, including: Contributors include civilian academic and policy analysts as well as military officers with considerable academic expertise and experience with the subject matter at hand. For academics, policy makers, and military professionals, this is a must read.

It ranges from prior to WWI through the Arab Spring and includes an impressive group of contributors who have examined military and civil leaders under stress in the counterinsurgency and stability environments. Contributors include civilian academic and policy analysts and military officers with considerable academic expertise and experience with the subject matter. Growing Military Professionalism across Generations. The American AllVolunteer Force. Implications for CivilMilitary Relations.

Strategy, Structure and Policy Stephen J. Civil-Military Relations in Perspective: The reason for this continued dominance is its elegance as an ambitious treatment of civil—military relations and the fact that his prescriptions for how best to structure civil—military relations continue to find a very receptive ear within the American officer corps Feaver Most recent attempts to reconstruct the theoretical edifice of civil—military relations constitute refinements of Huntington and Janowitz rather than providing a new theoretical alternative Avant ; Desch For instance, one of Huntington's testable hypotheses was that a liberal society such as the United States would not produce sufficient military might to survive the Cold War.

But in fact, the United States did prevail during the Cold War despite the fact that the country did not abandon liberalism Feaver The continued divergence between civilian and military preferences during the Cold War casts doubt on the predictive power of Huntington's empirical theory. The same problems affect Huntington's prescriptive theory. Feaver concludes that the disjunction between Huntington's theory and the available evidence requires another theory. The problem that agency theory seeks to analyze is this: The major question for the principal is the extent to which he will monitor the agent.

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Civil–Military Relations

Will monitoring be intrusive or non-intrusive? This decision is affected by the cost of monitoring. The higher the cost of monitoring, the less intrusive the monitoring is likely to be. The agent's incentives for working or shirking are affected by the likelihood that shirking will be detected by the principal and that the agent will then be punished for it. The less intrusive the principal's monitoring, the less likely that the agent's shirking will be detected.

Feaver argues that shirking by the military takes many forms: Feaver posits four general patterns of civil—military relations: He then shows that Huntington's postulated outcomes are in fact special cases of his own more general agency theory of civil—military relations: Feaver uses the Cold War to test Huntington's prescriptive theory. Huntington had argued that the best way to ensure both military effectiveness and subordination to civilian control was through pattern 3 — objective control Feaver However, it turns out that the civil—military relations pattern during the Cold War that most corresponds to the evidence is pattern 1 — Huntington's nightmare civil—military scenario — subjective control Feaver Indeed, agency theory predicts that pattern 1 will prevail when there is a wide gap between the preferences of the civilians and the military, when the costs of intrusive monitoring are relatively low, and when the military thinks the likelihood of punishment for shirking are fairly high.

Feaver argues persuasively that the evidence from this period supports these hypotheses. Yet according to Huntington's own criteria for professionalism — expertise, responsibility, and corporateness Huntington Of critical importance in establishing Cold War civil—military relations was the firing of a popular military hero MacArthur by an unpopular president Truman.

This dramatic action shaped the expectations of the military concerning the likelihood of punishment for shirking during the Cold War period Feaver Feaver argues that civil—military relations pattern 2 prevailed during the s: The preferences of civilian and military elites diverged in many important ways, increasing incentives for the military to pursue its own preferences.

Finally, the expectation of punishment for shirking decreased as a result of the election of Bill Clinton, whose equivocal relationship with the military made punishment unlikely. Feaver observes that civil—military relations are obviously better when there are good civilian leaders and worse when civilian leadership is bad. One issue is how to hold civilians accountable to the same or greater degree than the military is held accountable.

Bad policy, after all, presumably comes from civilian principals. Let civilian voters punish civilian leaders for wrong decisions.

Let the military advise against foolish adventures, even advising strenuously when circumstances demand. But let the military execute those orders faithfully. The republic would be better served even by foolish working than by enlightened shirking. After all, the claim that the military should not do what civilians want because what they want is bad for the country shapes the rhetoric of every coup leader who justifies his seizure of power as the rescue of a state from the consequences of an inept government.

Rebecca Schiff has argued on behalf of a theory that questions the assumptions that underlie both Huntington and Feaver: Concordance theory is concerned with predicting and preventing military intervention in the domestic affairs of a state. According to Schiff, concordance theory resolves two problems associated with separation theory, as explicated by Huntington and Feaver.

The first is the tendency of separation theorists to treat the particular institutional arrangements arising from the experience of the post—World War II United States as universal, applicable to all states regardless of their particular historical conditions and culture. The second problem is methodological. But, according to Schiff, these objections ask concordance theory to be something it is not: Its causal objective is more limited: Risa Brooks argues that patterns of civil—military relations affect national security because of their impact on strategic assessment.

Brooks identifies two variables that determine the pattern of civil—military relations: Next she identifies four sets of institutional processes that constitute the element of strategic assessment. The first is the routine for information sharing. The second is strategic coordination regarding the assessment of strategic alternatives, risk and cost, and the integration of political and military policies and strategies.

The third is the military's structural competence in conducting sound net assessment. The fourth is the authorization process for approving or vetoing political-military actions Brooks Brooks then hypothesizes how the various configurations of power and preference divergence affect the quality of strategic assessment, using case studies to illustrate the relation between various patterns and strategic assessment.

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Of course, the quality of a state's strategic assessment is not the only determinant of a state's success or failure in the international arena. The competing strategies of other states and other exogenous factors may well trump even the best strategic assessment. Michael Desch has employed a similar methodology to show that the alleged military advantage of democratic states in international relations is overstated Desch There is no more important question facing a state than the place of its military relative to civil society and the roles that the military exercises.

The coercive power that a military institution possesses always makes it, at least theoretically, a threat to the regime. Clearly, there are many possible patterns of civil—military relations that provide different answers to the five questions posed at the beginning of this essay. Nor, given the variety and complexity of civil—military patterns is one likely or desirable. Institutional theory and agency theory focus on control of the military and the military's role.

Sociology usefully investigates the question of who serves. For a variety of reasons, Huntington's institutional theory remains the dominant paradigm for examining civil—military relations. First, it deals with the central problem of such relations: Huntington was the first to attempt a systematic analysis of the civil—military problematique. Second, despite the claims of many of those who look at US civil—military relations through the lens of sociology, analytically distinct military and civilian spheres do appear to exist.

But as the discussion above of Feaver's critique of Huntington makes clear, there are many problems with Huntington's argument. Finer argued that Huntington had severely understated the problem of civilian control Finer He contended that a professional military does not necessarily keep officers out of politics, but indeed might incline them to engage in politics He also observed that differences in national experience limit the applicability of Huntington's theory.

Schiff agrees, arguing that Huntington's theory is particular to the American experience and is therefore not applicable to other countries Schiff Indeed, she argues that it does not even apply to the United States during all historical periods In addition, empirical studies have not confirmed some of Huntington's key assertions or predictions. It is also the case that some of Huntington's historical arguments are questionable. For instance, the US Army in the late nineteenth century was not nearly as isolated as Huntington contended it was Gates ; Owens This particular problem illustrates the importance of keeping historical context in mind when examining civil—military relations.

Historians such as Russell Weigley, Richard Kohn, and Lawrence Cress have made significant contributions to the study of civil—military relations Kohn ; Cress ; Weigley Finally as Eliot Cohen, perhaps Huntington's most accomplished student, has pointed out, some of the most successful democratic war leaders have paid very little attention to the divide that Huntington's objective control demands E. When it comes to the question of civilian control of the military, Feaver's agency theory corrects some of the flaws in Huntington's theory.

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Agency theory seems to do a better job of describing the problem of civilian control than Huntington's theory. It is also does better with regard to the predictive aspect of the theory. One reason for this is that agency theory does not depend on the non-rigorous and therefore problematic concepts of professionalism and autonomy to predict how and under what circumstances civilians will best be able to control the military instrument.

Finally, it follows that if agency theory fulfills both the descriptive and predictive functions of a theory better than Huntington's institutional theory, its prescriptive element will also be more useful than what Huntington laid down. Nonetheless, critics argue that as applied to civil—military relations, agency theory achieves analytical rigor by severely limiting its scope.

The theory is too parsimonious; it fails to explain enough in the world.


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The writers who take their bearings from Janowitz have indeed moved the question of demographics, ethnicity, and recruitment to center stage in a way that transcends the American experience Moskos et al. But even as they argue that the concept of separation between the two spheres is theoretically and empirically flawed, these writers still maintain the analytical distinction between the military and civilians. In the case of concordance theory, critics charge that the definition of military intervention sets the bar too low to be meaningful. The cooperative relationships that are necessary to avoid military intervention themselves look like intervention unless the standard for civilian control is merely the absence of a military coup.

In many respects, the current state of theorizing about civil—military relations brings to mind the story of the three blind men examining an elephant.

Since each can only sense what he is touching the trunk, a leg, and the tail and has no concept of the elephant as a whole, each concludes that the beast is something different from what it really is. Research agendas might well include: Citizenship, Culture, and Military Service. Lessons from Peripheral War. How Americans Are Seduced by War. Armed Forces and Society , 26, 7— Canadian-American Public Policy 41, 1— American Military Styles in Strategy and Analysis.

Johns Hopkins University Press. Armed Forces and Society 19, — Armed Forces in a Turbulent World , 2nd edn. A Study of Conflict and the Policy Process. Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime. University of California Press. University of North Carolina Press. The Fallacy of Democratic Triumphalism. Parameters Winter , 2— Huntington, Janowitz, and the Question of Civilian Control. Armed Forces and Society 23, — Washington Quarterly 20 4 , 15— Army Officers in the Lateth Century.

Journal of the U. Army War College 10 3 , 32— Reflections on Men in Battle.


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Classical Strategic Thought , 3rd rev. Between Mosque and Military. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The Arrogance of Power. University Press of Kansas. A Social and Political Portrait. University of Chicago Press. The Politics of Survival. National Defense University Press. The Beginnings of the Military Establishment in America. The Crisis in Civil—Military Relations.

Civil-Military Relations in Perspective: Strategy, Structure and Policy (Hardback) - Routledge

National Interest 35, 3— Naval War College Review 55 3 , 8— A Crisis in Civil—Military Relations. World Affairs 3 , 69— American Journal of Sociology 46 4 , — Dictators, Despots, and Tyrants. Commentary 97 5 , 29—