Civil-Military Relations

views updated Jun 08 2018

Civil-Military Relations

Military and nonmilitary groups

Traditional and modernizing societies

The modern state

Military interventions in politics


The term “civil–military relations” refers to the role of the armed forces in a society. It is not, perhaps, a happy phrase. It implies that the relations between the military and the civilian population are like labor-management relations, legislative-executive relations, or Soviet-American relations, where two concrete, organized groups with real conflicting interests contend and bargain with each other. It thus suggests a basic dichotomy and opposition between the civilian and the military viewpoints. This is a false opposition. First, in many societies little unity of interest, skill, or viewpoint exists among the military. Second, even where there is a distinct and identifiable military viewpoint, interest, and institution, in no society is there ever comparable unity among civilians. The word “civil” in the phrase civil–military relations simply means nonmilitary. Publicists and authors often talk about civil-military relations and, more especially, about civilian control as if there were a single civilian interest. In practice, they simply identify their own interest and viewpoint as the civilian interest and viewpoint in opposition to a hostile military interest and view-point. Any society, however, which is sufficiently well developed to have distinct military institutions also has a wide variety of civilian interests, institutions, and attitudes, the differences between any two of which may be much greater than the difference between any one of them and the military Thus, civil–military relations involve a multiplicity of relationships between military men, institutions, and interests, on the one hand, and diverse and often conflicting nonmilitary men, institutions, and interests, on the other. It is not a one-to-one relationship but a one-among-many relationship.

Military and nonmilitary groups

Civil–military relations in any society reflect the over-all nature and level of development of the society and its political system. The key question is the extent to which military men and interests are differentiated from nonmilitary men and interests. This differentiation may take place on three levels: (1) the relation between the armed forces as a whole and society as a whole; (2) the relation between the leadership of the armed forces (the officer corps) as an elite group and other elite groups; and (3) the relation between the commanders of the armed forces and the top political leaders of society. Thus, at the society level the military forces may be an integral part of society, reflecting and embodying its dominant social forces and ideologies. The military order, indeed, may be coextensive with society, with all meḿbers of society also performing military roles. At the opposite extreme the military order may be highly differentiated, its members playing no important roles except military ones. At the second level, connections between military officers and other leadership groups in society may be very close; the same people may be military, economic, and political leaders. At the other end of the continuum, military officership may be an exclusive professional career, incompatible with other roles. Finally, at the top level the same individuals may exercise both political and military leadership roles, or these roles may be quite distinct and their occupants recruited from different sources through different channels.

In general, high differentiation on one level tends to be associated with high differentiation on other levels, but this is by no means invariable. In the European armies of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, for instance, social, economic, political, and military leadership functions were all concentrated in the person of the monarch. Similarly, officership was, in general, a perquisite of the aristocracy; aristocrats acquired by ascription military as well as social, economic, and political leadership roles. The rank and file of the European armies, however, was recruited from the lower ranks of society for long periods of service, and their ties with any groups in civilian society were often tenuous at best.

In the nineteenth century these relations tended to be reversed. Political and military leadership roles became differentiated. Prime ministers and cabinets emerged from parliaments and party politics; commanding generals and chiefs of staff were the products of the military bureaucracy. Similarly, the military officership became professionalized; entry was usually at the lowest ranks and required specialized training. A career as a military officer became incompatible with other leadership careers. The relation of the enlisted personnel to society, however, tended to become closer. The core of modern armies remained the long-service soldier, but the rank and file was increasingly supplemented by large numbers of short-term “citizen-soldiers” initially recruited through conscription or universal military service and then organized into reserves, militia, territorial army, National Guard, or Landwehr.

At each level of civil-military relations military groups may differ from nonmilitary groups in terms of skills, values, and institutions. Military men may differ from nonmilitary men in their skill in the use of violence or in the management of violence. In a frontier society, such as eighteenth-century America, the differentiation was relatively small. The average farmer possessed most of the skills of the soldier; the social, economic, and political leaders of the society either possessed or could easily acquire most of the skills necessary to command armies. During the nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth century military skills tended to become more sharply differentiated from civilian skills. In the mid-twentieth century in the advanced societies the difference between military and other skills may again be decreasing (Janowitz 1960).

Military men may also differ from civilian groups in terms of their attitudes and values. In most societies presumably the outlook of the military more closely resembles that of some civilian groups than it does that of other civilian groups. In the history of the West military values were often closely associated with aristocratic and conservative beliefs. In many of the modernizing countries in the second half of the twentieth century, the values of the dominant groups in the armed forces closely paralleled those of upward mobile, nationalistic, reformist middle-class civilians. The development of a professionalized officer corps generally stimulates distinctive attitudes and values (often referred to as “the military mind”) that may differ significantly from the attitudes and values dominant within the society. The professional military ethic tends to be conservative in character. If the basic values of the society are liberal, fascist, or socialist, the tensions between the military and political leadership may be intense, particularly if the military leaders occupy a position of power or potential power in the political system or if the political leaders feel that they must insist upon a high degree of ideological uniformity on the part of all elements in the society, including the military. In these circumstances nationalism may furnish a common ground for the accommodation of the revolutionary ideology of the political leadership and the conservative outlook of the military.

Military institutions may also be differentiated in varying degrees from civilian institutions. The key questions here concern the extent to which the armed forces are made up of long-service career enlisted men and professional career officers; the extent to which men and officers are recruited from special segments of the population and trained in special educational institutions; the organizational position of the armed forces in the governmental structure; and the structure of authority relationships between the leaders of the armed forces and the political leadership of the society. At one extreme, military institutions may be so differentiated from other social institutions that they become virtually a “state within a state.” In these circumstances they may become relatively impervious to control by the legislative and executive institutions of government. In societies with a tradition of hierarchy and executive leadership, such as Japan be-fore 1945 and Germany before 1933, efforts by the legislature to exercise control over the military institutions may become futile in the face of opposition from both the military and the strongly entrenched and authoritative executive. In some societies, such as Burma and a few Latin American republics, the military may become not just a state within a state but a society within a society, performing many economic and social functions and achieving a high degree of economic self-sufficiency. At the other extreme, in societies with a “nation-in-arms” pattern of civil-military relations, the differentiation of military institutions from other institutions may be very slight, and the armed forces may be identical with society as a whole (see Rapaport 1962).

Traditional and modernizing societies

In general, the more primitive a society, the less differentiated are military skills, values, and institutions from those of other groups. In tribal systems the military forces typically consist of all adult males, and the tribal chiefs are the leaders in war as well as peace. In more highly organized fashion a somewhat similar system existed in the classical city-states of Greece and Rome. The military role was a responsibility of citizenship; the army was the citizen body organized for war. “The citizens of a free state,” Aristotle remarked, “ought to consist of those only who bear arms.” In feudal society military, political, and economic roles were all differentiated on a class rather than on a functional basis. The peasants or serfs occupied subordinate positions in all three capacities; the nobility and knights combined political authority, economic control of the land, and military leadership. In the centralized bureaucratic empires, such as those analyzed by Shmuel N. Eisenstadt (1963), the military was one component of the bureaucratic structure and usually did not reach a high level of differentiation in skills, values, or institutions. The military group was, however, more differentiated than it was in the city-state or feudal society, and at times military leaders played autonomous roles in the political struggle.

Civil—military relations in modern societies differ from those in these earlier societies because of the existence of an autonomous, professionalized officer corps. The emergence of such an officer corps is a key aspect of the process of modernization. In western Europe and the United States the professional officer corps was a product of the nineteenth century. From the breakdown of feudalism in Europe to the latter part of the seventeenth century, armies were usually led by mercenary officers who raised companies of men for hire to kings and princes. In consolidating their power in the seventeenth century, the national monarchs felt the need for permanent military forces to protect their dominions and support their rule. Consequently, they created standing armies and recruited the aristocrats they were subordinating to officer them. Thus, from the end of the seventeenth century to the French Revolution, officers, except in the artillery and engineer units, were usually aristocrats who assumed their posts with little regard to professional qualifications, experience, or talent.

The lead in developing a professional officer corps was taken by Prussia during the Napoleonic Wars. On August 6, 1808, a decree formally opened officer ranks to all in Prussian society on the basis of education, professional knowledge, valor, and perception (Überblick). During the subsequent century Prussia took the lead in introducing educational requirements for entry into the officer corps; prescribing a system of advancement within the corps on the basis of experience, ability, and achievements; creating a system of professional military education culminating in the Kriegsakademie; and developing a general staff system. The other continental European countries followed in the wake of Prussia, the professionalization of European officership being concentrated during two periods: during and immediately after the Napoleonic Wars and in the 1860s and 1870s, after the victories of the professional Prussian armies over the Danes, Austrians, and French. By the end of the nineteenth century most of the European countries had made military officership at least in theory a career open to all, although in practice a high proportion of the officers continued to be recruited from the aristocracy. They had also instituted requirements of general education and specialized training for entry into the officer corps; provided for advancement within the corps on the basis of examinations, achievement, and experience; created a hierarchy of military schools and colleges; brought into existence staff systems for the systematic analysis and planning of war; and through these devices created a distinct, autonomous social group with its own sense of corporate unity and responsibility. Similar developments also took place in Great Britain and the United States, although the insular position of these two countries caused them to lag behind the less secure countries on the European continent.

The pattern of military and political modernization in Europe and the United States contrasts with that in many of the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In Europe and the United States, political modernization usually preceded the development of a modern, professional officer corps. Only in those countries, such as France, where constitutional issues remained unresolved did military interventions play a critical role in politics. In other countries, such as Germany, the military played a significant but less overt role in politics as a result of the conflicting claims to legitimacy and authority on the part of monarchical and parliamentary institutions. In general, however, the professional officer corps developed within the framework of an established political order.

In the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, by contrast, the military leaders have often also been the leaders in modernization. Countries that retained some degree of independence from European colonialism frequently felt compelled to engage in “defensive modernization” and to transform their traditional military institutions into modern ones that might offer some resistance to European penetration. As a result the army often became the most modern and effective institution in the society and its leaders the most ardent exponents of modernization, nationalism, and progressive reform. In these circumstances the military frequently possessed advantages over other groups and institutions because of its greater organizational coherence and discipline and hence its ability to get things done; its identification with society as a whole and its concern with national goals rather than with the parochial interests of class, party, ethnic, or communal group; and its technical expertise in terms of literacy, education, and engineering and mechanical skills. Thus, the Young Turks who seized power in the Ottoman Empire in 1908 came out of the Westernized military schools that the sultans had created in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Similarly, in the post-World War II era the military overthrew more traditional oligarchical regimes and seized the leadership in modernization in such countries as Egypt and Iraq.

In former colonies the military often seized power shortly after the achievement of independence, ousting what it held to be corrupt party regimes of civilian politicians and attempting to organize the society for more effective modernization (for example, in the Sudan, Pakistan, and Burma in 1958; in South Korea in 1961; and in South Vietnam in 1963).

In Latin America the relation of the military to modernization was somewhat more complex. During the nineteenth century neither effective political institutions nor professionalized officer corps existed in most Latin American countries. During the first part of the twentieth century the military officers became increasingly professionalized, increasingly middle class, and increasingly in favor of progress and reform. This led to a new period of military interventions in politics beginning in the 1930s. In Latin America, as in Asia and Africa, however, military interventions in politics may produce short-run gains in terms of modernization at the expense of continued long-term weakness of civilian political institutions. Only those countries that either have inherited strong political institutions (parties and civilian bureaucracies) from the colonial era (for example, India) or have been able to create effective modern political institutions through revolution (Mexico) or reform (Uruguay) have been able to minimize the military role in politics and to maintain nonpolitical professional military forces. [SeeModernization.]

The modern state

“The great modern fact,” Gaetano Mosca wrote in 1896, “is the huge standing army that is a severe custodian of the law, is obedient to the orders of a civil authority and has very little influence, exercising indirectly at best such influence as it has.” This unique product of modern civilization, Mosca went on to note, is “a most fortunate exception, if it is not absolutely without parallel, in human history” ([1896] 1939, p. 229).

The phenomenon that amazed Mosca was the product of the emergence of constitutional consensus in the modern state and the increasing differentiation of the military from other social groups. In all societies military men differ from nonmilitary men by the possession of arms. In primitive tribes and in the nation in arms, this difference in theory is eliminated in fact by dispersing military functions among the citizens at large. In more advanced and differentiated systems only a portion of the population bears arms. Prior to the development of the professionalized officer corps in the nineteenth century, however, few inhibitions prevented such military forces from exploiting their monopoly of violence for their own advantage. The military could use its arms for purposes contrary to those of the acknowledged leaders of the polity or the dominant groups in the society. In traditional societies the problem of minimizing the role of force and violence and, hence, the dominance of the military in politics was the major continuing problem of civil–military relations. In the modern state, however, the line between politics and military affairs is much sharper, and the officer corps is a distinct professionalized body whose leaders devote their careers to the study and practice of the management of violence. The role of violence in the political order is latent; only during constitutional crisis and intense social conflict does force become the arbiter of politics. The more pervasive problem of civil–military relations concerns not the role of force in politics but the role of expertise in politics. The parallels to the modern problem of civil–military relations are to be found not in the Praetorian Guard but in the relations that exist in modern states between political leaders, on the one hand, and such specialists as diplomats, civil servants, scientists, and economists on the other.

Despite these similarities civil–military relations are an object of concern in the modern state in a way in which “civil–diplomacy” or “civil–science” relations are not. This concern may be attributed to a variety of factors. First, among many civilian groups there is a legacy of fear concerning past military participation in politics. Military officers and the armed forces are seen as alien and sinister in a way in which the other expert groups are not. Second, the organizational coherence and discipline of the armed forces contrast with the more egalitarian and voluntaristic organizational patterns characteristic of constitutional democracies. The military often seems to have a potential for disciplined political action not possessed by other groups. Third, in times of war and of prolonged international crisis the military may exercise control over a substantial portion of the resources of society. Forty per cent of the American gross national product during World War II and about 10 per cent during the cold war years from 1947 to 1964 was devoted to military purposes; the Soviet Union allocated about 18 per cent of its gross national product to military purposes in the latter period. Finally, the military is often identified with war and is viewed as the major protagonist of war. Actually, in most modern societies, including the United States, the officer corps and its leaders have played a moderating, restraining role in the conduct of foreign policy. Bellicosity has been far more typical of civilian groups and political movements than of the professional military. Nonetheless, the traditional identification of the military with war has lingered on and has manifested itself in the view that more political power for the military and the allocation of more resources to the military will increase the probability of war.

These traditional attitudes toward the military are found, in varying degrees, in most Western societies. In other ways, however, the image of the military has changed significantly. The creation of a professionalized officer corps has been generally accompanied by a long-term decline in the prestige and general status of the military. In eighteenth-century European society the military and the aristocracy were closely linked in fact and in image. Since then in most modern societies first upper-middle-class and then lower-middle-class elements have increasingly made their appearance in the officer corps. The result has been to break the identification of the military with the ruling class.

The decline in social status has been accompanied by increasing technical expertise. The aristocratic image of the officer has, in large measure, been replaced by the expert image. In many instances military leaders have elaborated upon and employed the complexities of modern military science to erect a defensive wall against pressures from civilian politicians and to invoke the authority of esoteric knowledge to buttress their policy recommendations. During periods of rapid change in warfare, however, military leaders, committed to the truths of another day, may lag behind civilians in adjusting military concepts and techniques to drastically changed conditions. In World War i, Lloyd George and other civilian politicians, not the Imperial General Staff, first appreciated the implications of total war. In the United States after World War II civilian experts and intellectuals played a more important role than military officers in pointing out the implications of nuclear weapons for American strategy.

In the modern state the top military leaders have three general responsibilities: (1) to represent the needs of military security within the governmental framework, making claims on political leaders for the resources they believe necessary for security; (2) to advise the political leaders on the military implications of proposed courses of actions and to prepare plans for possible military contingencies; and (3) to implement in the military sphere the policy decisions of the political leaders. These responsibilities bring the higher military leaders into continuing conflicts with the political leaders and with the civilian branches of government. The military typically want more money, more weapons, and more men than the political leaders are prepared to allocate, their claims on resources conflicting with the demands of civilian agencies and other groups in society. The military also typically want political leaders to give them explicit and precise definitions of policy to use as the basis for their military plans. At the political level, however, policy inevitably has a tentative, ambiguous, and contingent quality, and the art of political leadership frequently lies in avoiding decision and blurring commitments. Generally, military leaders also want to have full control over the resources that may be necessary to the security of the state. They are, consequently, likely to place less confidence in treaties and alliances than do political leaders.

These differences in viewpoint give rise to the most typical controversies in civil–military relations in the modern state. At the bureaucratic level these controversies regularly involve the foreign office and the financial offices. The foreign office has general responsibility for external relations and consequently has the initiative in defining the circumstances in which military action may be necessary. The financial agencies (in the United States, the Treasury and the Bureau of the Budget; in the United Kingdom, the Exchequer) supervise the allocation of resources within the government and are usually the principal institutional interests attempting to reduce military spending. As a result, the military agencies often claim to be caught between a foreign office that is expanding their responsibilities and a financial office that is reducing their resources. These controversies, of course, are mediated and arbitrated by the political leaders of the state. To assist in this process, most constitutional states have created interagency committees (in the United States, the National Security Council in the United Kingdom, the Defence and Oversea Policy Committee) composed of the interested parties and designed to serve as forums for consultation, bargaining, and advising the political leaders on the integration of foreign, financial, and military policies. These interagency conflicts and controversies reflect the functionally different roles of the military and other agencies in the modern state. They are thus a normal aspect of modern politics.

The organizational position of the military forces in the modern state varies with the nature of the political system. Both fascist and communist totalitarian states have taken extreme measures to ensure against undue military influence in government. In Germany and the Soviet Union the military were at one time deprived of their monopoly of violence, and large armed forces there created under the control of the secret police. In communist countries the party organization permeates the military forces, and often the military chain of command is paralleled by an independent or autonomous hierarchy of political commissars or political officers.

Constitutional systems do not rely on such methods of control. In parliamentary systems the chief of state usually is the titular commander in chief of the armed forces, but actual control is vested in the prime minister and cabinet. In the United States the president is both head of government and constitutional commander in chief. In constitutional democracies the minister in charge of the armed forces is usually a civilian, although practice varies from country to country and from time to time. The minister is normally assisted by a group of permanent civil servants. Modern states usually have at least three services, each with its military head. After World War n almost all modern states also had a superservice national military chief of staff or military commander who was the senior military officer in the country, who was assisted by a military general staff, and who exercised varying degrees of control or command over all the military services. In the United States, for instance, the position of chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was created in 1949 and strengthened several times during the next 15 years. The service chiefs together with the national military chief were formed into a collegial organization, such as the Chiefs of Staff Committee (U.K.), Joint Chiefs of Staff (U.S.), or Military Council (U.S.S.R.). This committee usually had extensive authority over military planning, its actual powers varying inversely with the authority and influence of the national military chief. Before the increasing complexity of modern war required continual close coordination among the air, sea, and land forces, each of these services, in Western democracies, was headed by a civilian minister. The integration of the armed forces and the emergence in almost all states of the position of minister of defense or minister of the armed forces have significantly reduced the stature and power of the service minister.

The degree of influence of the military and other groups in day-to-day politics is also affected by their degree of unity. The parliamentary-cabinet system, especially as it functions in Great Britain, unifies executive and legislative leadership and tends to maximize the authority of the political leaders in relation to the military. In the United States, on the other hand, control over military affairs is divided between the president and Congress. Top military leaders are thus compelled to be more political than they are in Great Britain. At times this may be awkward and embarrassing; at other times the leaders may be able to benefit from it. The military services often can generate support in Congress for particular projects; on the other hand, they may often find themselves used by the executive leaders to support projects which the executive leaders particularly favor. The definition of their lines of responsibility to the president and secretary of defense, on the one hand, and to the Congress, on the other, represents a continuing problem for American military leaders. In the 20 years after World War n the American Congress often appropriated more money to particular military services and programs than was requested by the president. In general, however, these 20 years saw a decline in the role of Congress in military affairs and an increasing centralization of power in the civilian leadership of the Defense Department.

Just as the unity of political leaders varies from country to country, so also does the unity of the military themselves. Particularly during peacetime the competition between military services for money and men may be extreme. Significantly, there seems to be some correlation between military unity and political unity. Interservice competition exists in all modern states, but there is little doubt that it achieved the most extreme forms in the United States, where the political leadership was also less unified than it is in most states. This interservice competition has major effects on civil–military relations. The inability of the military services to act together enhances the power of the political leaders and of the civilian bureaucratic agencies. In the United States after World War n, for instance, reductions in the military budget often exacerbated interservice relations much more than they did civil–military relations. Potential civil–military conflict was deflected into intramilitary conflict.

Military interventions in politics

The principal causes of military intervention in politics lie in politics, not in the military. In the absence of a professional officer corps, the line between military affairs and politics is never sharp. Even with a professionalized military establishment, however, military intervention may occur when the political institutions of society become weak and divided. Military intervention is encouraged by the absence of constitutional consensus and by intense conflict between classes, regions, and ethnic or communal groups.

In a modernizing country in which the traditional political institutions have been overthrown and modern ones have yet to achieve legitimacy, military intervention in politics is often continuous. In such societies civil–military relations assume a praetorian form with a recurring cycle of coups and countercoups (see Rapaport 1962). In those modern societies in which significant elements of the population deny legitimacy to the political system (such as in the Weimar Republic and the Third, Fourth, and Fifth French republics), the military are likely to play an active role in politics. Even in societies with a generally authoritative and legitimate political system, succession crises may enhance the role of the military. The intense struggle for power which followed the death of Stalin in the Soviet Union also strengthened the political position of the Soviet Army and enabled Marshal Zhukov to play a brief but important role in Soviet politics, a role which was quickly and decisively terminated once Khrushchev consolidated his political power.

Military intervention is also encouraged whenever the competence and decisiveness of a government are called into question. Defeat in war and blunders in diplomacy often provoke political action by the military. The most severe crisis in American civil–military relations after World War II occurred during the prolonged and frustrating Korean War, in which the government attempted to pursue political goals short of all-out military victory. In a more extreme case, military intervention triggered the end of the Fourth French Republic when its governments proved incapable of either maintaining or disposing of an empire.

Legitimate and effective political institutions are thus the first requirement for civilian control. The requirements on the military side of the equation have been a subject of controversy. The key issue has been the relation of civilian control to military professionalism and the differentiation of the military from other groups. Huntington (1957) argues that a high degree of civilian control can be achieved in the modern state only by a high degree of differentiation of military institutions from other social institutions and the creation of a thoroughly professional officer corps (“objective civilian control”). A professional officer corps, he argues, is jealous of its own limited sphere of competence but recognizes its incompetence in matters that lie outside the professional military sphere and hence is willing to accept its role as a subordinate instrument of the state. The less professionalized the officer corps, on the other hand, the less differentiation there is between military and political roles and therefore the less justification for military obedience to political authority.

Other authors have challenged Huntington’s argument. Finer (1962) argues that professionalism alone does not prevent military intervention in politics. Military officers must also have an independent adherence to the principle of civilian control. They may also be deterred from intervention by fear for the fighting capacity of their forces, fear of dividing the military forces against themselves, and fear for the future of their institution if their intervention should fail. In addition, Finer argues that professionalism by itself may spur the military to political intervention because they may see themselves as the servants of the state rather than of the government in power, because they may become so obsessed with the needs of military security that they will act to override other values, and because they object to being used to maintain domestic order.

Civil–military relations in wartime differ somewhat from those which prevail in peace. The principal difference is simply quantitative. More resources are allocated to military purposes. Undoubtedly, war also tends to increase the power of the military, but the experience of the two world wars suggests that it is difficult to make any generalizations. The military played a key role in the conduct of the war in Germany in World War i and in Japan and in the United States during World War ii. They rivaled the political leaders in France and Great Britain in World War i. They played distinctly subordinate roles in Britain and Germany in World War ii and in Russia in both world wars. War does tend, however, to make generals, particularly successful ones, into popular heroes and hence to give them political influence, particularly in democracies. Hindenburg, Eisenhower, and de Gaulle became presidents of their countries largely as a result of their wartime reputations. Stalin was perhaps prudent to exile Zhukov to an obscure provincial command after World War II. In general, however, reputations made during a war can be politically exploited only after the war.

The continuing international tension which began in the late 1930s stimulated arguments that the modern polity was tending to become a “garrison state.” The “trend of the time,” in the words of Harold D. Lasswell, “is away from the dominance of the specialist on bargaining, who is the the businessman, and toward the supremacy of the specialist on violence, the soldier” (1941, p. 455). In the garrison state military values dominate, and all activities are subordinated to war and the preparation for war. Reviewing his concept in the early 1960s, Lasswell concluded that it was still relevant and that “the garrison hypothesis provides a probable image of the past and future of our epoch” (1962, p. 67). In The Power Elite, C. Wright Mills made a parallel analysis, arguing that in the United States power was becoming increasingly centralized in a national bureaucratic elite dominated by big businessmen and top military leaders. Similarly, in his farewell address, President Eisenhower warned that the United States “must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist” (1961, p. 180).

These images of increasing military power in the United States were, however, at best only partially true. In actuality, military influence in the processes of government and in the formulation of military policy declined continuously after World War II. The growth of a large and permanent armaments industry, on the other hand, was a new phenomenon. The combined military, political, and economic pressures from this complex made it more difficult to reduce military spending. In addition, the emergence of vested economic and regional interests in certain types of military activity enormously complicated the problem of adapting the military machine to new requirements, eliminating old weapons and unneeded facilities, and securing the most efficient use of military resources. Instead of a division between military and civilian interests as a whole, top political and military leaders of the executive branch tended to favor rationalizing the military establishment, while subordinate military groups, local interests, defense businesses, and congressmen backed the continuation of particular military programs and facilities. The available evidence suggests that Khrushchev and other Soviet political leaders have faced comparable problems in dealing with the vested interests of the heavy industry and military bureaucracies in their efforts to reduce and to rationalize Soviet military activities. In both countries, the “military–industrial complex” poses problems for military efficiency as well as for civilian control.

Samuel P. Huntington

[See alsoMilitary; Military policy.]


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Civil‐Military Relations: Civilian Control Of The Military

views updated May 23 2018

Civil‐Military Relations: Civilian Control Of The Military. By the time that the United States became an independent nation, civilian control of the military was already firmly established as an axiom of government. On the basis of history and political theory, Americans considered standing armies to be instruments of despotism as well as defense. With their weapons and discipline, soldiers possessed the means to overthrow a government and destroy liberty. In the state constitutions written after independence, in the Articles of Confederation, and in the Constitution of 1787, the generation that founded the United States explicitly subordinated military forces to elected officials so that all the great decisions relating to war and peace, to raising and organizing armies and navies, to governing them internally, and to their use and support, rested in the hands of the representatives of the people, or those appointed by them to administer military affairs.

The system adopted at the end of the eighteenth century derived from English practice and American colonial experience. At the time of settlement in the early 1600s, military forces belonged to the crown. During and after the English Civil War of the 1640s, when Parliament sought control of the armed forces, executed the king who resisted this claim, and was then replaced by a military dictatorship under Oliver Cromwell, civilian control broke down. The Stuart monarchs who were restored to the throne after 1660 reasserted military command, but seemed to threaten arbitrary rule by using the new standing army as their instrument. In the constitutional settlement of the Glorious Revolution of 1688–89, Parliament took control of military finance and discipline in what proved to be a watershed for English liberty. Henceforth, civilian control rested on dividing authority over the military between Crown and Commons so that neither could rule by force: Parliament would approve the existence of a military establishment through its power of the purse (appropriating money annually) and by passage of a mutiny act to govern the internal order of the forces. The monarchy retained command, deployed the regiments and ships, and raised and administered them in peace and in war.

In the century before independence, the colonies experienced a similar struggle between legislative and executive. Legislatures created militias or authorized the raising of volunteers or conscripts, voting the funds and setting the conditions of service by law, while command and administration rested with the governors. Gradually, using mostly the power of appropriation, the assemblies increased their influence when governors, desperate for forces for defense against European and Native American foes, compromised their authority in return for money, supplies, and permission to raise men. The governors, many of whom were military officers, wielded great influence, but fear of military rule was muted because local defense depended on militia or citizen volunteers—the adult white male population, officered by members of the local elite who rarely had reason to attempt to overturn the established order. During the struggles with France beginning in 1689, however, conflict with the British army, friction with the population, and the regulars' disdain for provincial forces all reinforced colonial antipathy to royal forces. By the time of the Revolution, the standing army had become a symbol of repressive authority and arbitrary rule. The Boston Massacre in 1770, when redcoats fired into a threatening mob, killing five civilians, and the imposition of military government in Massachusetts under the Coercive Acts in 1774, engraved a century's concern with controlling military force into the American political tradition, confirming the belief that the safest way to defend a free people was to rely on citizen‐soldiers.

During the Revolutionary War, military and civilian leaders took care to ensure civilian control of the forces raised. As commander of the Continental army, George Washington conspicuously deferred to Congress's authority. Throughout the war, he treated state and local officials with respect, working to minimize conflict. Even during the most desperate periods, there was no serious consideration of suspending civilian rule. And at the end, in spite of intense bitterness over the prospect of demobilization without back pay or promised pensions, the officers at the main cantonment near Newburgh, New York, rejected a call to revolt or resign en masse in the so‐called Newburgh “Conspiracy.” Washington's intervention in the crisis, the refusal of the officers to defy civilian authority, and Washington's solemn return of his commission to Congress a few months later, began a national tradition of loyalty and subordination that has characterized American military forces ever since.

The Constitution of 1787, following English and American custom, provided for civilian control by distributing authority over the military to the three branches of government and to the states, so that none could use force to seize power. Congress could “raise and support Armies,” “provide and maintain a Navy,” and specify their organization and governance, but appropriations for the army were limited to two years, forcing every new Congress to consent to land forces. As commander in chief, the president would command and deploy the nation's armed forces and conduct war once Congress declared it, but Congress must approve all the president's nominations of officers and even, if desired, their assignments to duty. While Congress could “provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia,” the states appointed officers and retained authority over the forces unless called into federal service. Because the military operated under law, and the national government acted directly on the citizenry rather than on the states as under the Articles of Confederation, the judiciary could hold members of the military personally accountable. Finally, supposing that an armed citizenry provided the ultimate safeguard against an army overthrowing republicanism, the Second Amendment guaranteed “the right . . . to keep and bear Arms,” preventing the government from destroying the militia by disarming the population.

For the next century and a half under this constitutional arrangement, the nation's military forces remained subordinate to civilian authority in spite of frequent tension and occasional conflict. Geographic separation from Europe and disentanglement from great power rivalry allowed the United States to keep its regular military forces very small, and devoted largely to exploration, patrolling against Indians and pirates, and other constabulary activities. Defense rested upon mobilizing the population behind a shield of coast artillery and naval forces, with the regulars providing training, leadership, and weapons for the citizen forces raised. Congress exercised its powers under the Constitution in laws specifying the size, shape, organization, character, funding, and function of the armed forces (including in part the state militias), periodically expanding and contracting the forces, authorizing new installations and weapons, investigating problems, and generally dictating the broader policies and procedures under which the military operated. On a day‐to‐day basis, civilian control became an administrative matter, carried out by the secretaries of war and of the navy, who directed the armed services with the help (and sometimes over the resistance) of senior military officers commanding forces or managing bureaus in the two cabinet departments.

Most important, civilian control functioned successfully because it was assumed by the public and internalized within the armed forces. Belief in the rule of law, combined with reverence for the Constitution as the legitimate foundation of civic society, meant that any open disobedience would fail and invoke punishment—or plunge the country into crisis. As part of their professionalization during the first half of the nineteenth century, the officer corps of the navy and army began to disassociate themselves from partisan politics, viewing the armed services as the neutral instruments of the state and themselves as soldiers or sailors loyal to the government regardless of which party held sway. During the political upheavals of Reconstruction and the labor disorders of the last quarter of the nineteenth century, when the army ruled the South and was dragged into riot duty and law enforcement, Congress (with officers' blessing) in the Posse Comitatus Act (1878) prohibited the use of the regular army to execute the laws or to act under the command of local or federal officials other than the military chain of command as specified in the Constitution or law. The willing subordination of a nonpartisan military establishment has assured civilian supremacy down to the present day.

Yet beneath a seemingly placid surface, the peacetime relationship between the military and civilian leadership was filled with discord and struggles for influence that sometimes flared into open conflict. After the War of 1812, strong secretaries of war and of the navy had to establish the supremacy of their offices in confrontations with uniformed leaders. Top army generals fought with cabinet secretaries and with Congress over issues as personal as rank and as significant as their own authority, or the organization and funding of their armed service. Occasionally, the senior general and secretary were not even on speaking terms. Agitation by naval officers in the 1880s, by reform‐minded army officers in the 1890s, and by army airpower advocates in the 1920s and 1930s were catalysts in the modernization of both services, but at the same time provoked schisms inside the officer corps and in Congress and the executive branch. In the case of Billy Mitchell, the controversy led to a spectacular trial for insubordination.

Between the Civil War and World War II, officers grew gradually more estranged from American society, which they viewed as undisciplined, unprincipled, and preoccupied with commercialism. In peacetime, the armed forces suffered lean budgets, pork barrel expenditures, skeletal forces, deteriorating equipment, and low combat readiness. But at the same time the increasing participation of the United States in world politics, and the growing complexity of warmaking, particularly logistics and operations, gave professional officers greater influence in military affairs. And the maturation of the armed services into cohesive institutions, configured on the basis of doctrines of war fighting and attuned to their own organizational needs, gave their advice—now institutionalized in staffs and agencies in Washington—more authority.

War tended to mute the friction, but it never disappeared. After a weak beginning in the War of 1812, the dominance of the president in wartime was established by Presidents James K. Polk and Abraham Lincoln: managing mobilization, overseeing strategy, negotiating with allies and enemies, and even on occasion ordering operations. Except for a brief effort to oversee the conduct of the Civil War, Congress deferred to presidents, supporting requests for larger forces, new weapons, increased appropriations, and expanded executive authority. Disagreement between military and civilian leaders, largely over strategy, generally remained out of public view. Except for rare instances, such as the struggle between Lincoln and Gen. George B. McClellan over taking the offensive during the Civil War, military commanders acceded to presidential wishes even when opposed to a particular policy or course of action. Presidents understood how quickly wartime heroes could become presidential aspirants (as numerous generals from Andrew Jackson through Dwight D. Eisenhower have done) and how difficult they could be to manage, which contributed to the tension. Polk, Lincoln, William McKinley, and Woodrow Wilson kept a tight rein over the direction of their conflicts, Wilson personally making overall policy while leaving the details of implementation, tactics, and fighting to the military.

The mobilization for World War II that began in 1940 spread the influence of the military more deeply into the fabric of American society than ever before. When the government, applying its World War I experience and plans readied during the interwar years, took control of society by drafting men into the armed forces, converting production to munitions, controlling raw materials and wages and prices, and harnessing virtually all activity to achieving victory over the Axis, the military became powerful arbiters in American life. Franklin D. Roosevelt never ceded any authority; he directed the war effort in broad outline and sometimes in small detail. But the needs of the military forces and the judgments of the uniformed leadership framed many choices, and extended deeply into foreign policy and economic life. In ways both obvious and subtle, the power and prestige of the professional military reached a zenith in the American experience.

The creation of a permanent military establishment in the 1950s to contain the Soviet Union and deter nuclear war overloaded the traditional procedures by which civilian control functioned. The military institutions were simply too large, their activities too diverse, and their influence too pervasive for effective oversight by the legislative and bureaucratic procedures historically used by civilians on Capitol Hill and in the executive branch. Vicious struggles broke out between the armed services over roles, missions, strategy, and budgets, which the civilians, struggling to balance military needs with finite financial resources and lacking any consensus about how to meet the threat, could not contain, even under the new, more unified organizational structure of the Department of Defense (DoD). The need to control atomic weapons and to harmonize military operations with broad national objectives, particularly to keep limited wars from escalating into a general conflagration, drove civilians to invade what had become the customary prerogatives of military commanders in the field. In 1951, in the most public civil‐military confrontation in American history, President Harry S. Truman relieved Douglas MacArthur, one of the century's most celebrated commanders, for openly opposing the administration's effort to keep the war in Korea limited to the peninsula and to conventional weapons. By 1961, the century's only professional soldier‐president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, had become so concerned about restraining defense spending and conflicts with (and between) the armed services that he left office warning about a “military‐industrial complex” whose “influence, whether sought or unsought,” had the “potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power.”

The Kennedy and Johnson administrations reasserted civilian control by installing new bureaucratic procedures in the Pentagon to unite strategy and policy with force structure and budgets, and by imposing special instructions or operational restrictions on commanders, notably during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the fighting in Southeast Asia. But over the next three decades—partly in reaction to the disaster in Vietnam, partly in response to Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara's peremptory rule, and partly because the Republicans, dominating the presidency, became such vocal champions of national defense—influence over military affairs began gradually to shift back toward the uniformed leadership. Congress, controlled for most of the period by the Democrats, added staff and began to exert more power through appropriations and directives in legislation. But the Goldwater‐Nichols Act (1986), a defense reorganization law, gave the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and senior commanders in the field more weight inside the DoD. Successful interventions abroad, especially the Persian Gulf War, restored the military's prestige. And a new generation of officers—more determined to resist policies that would damage military effectiveness or involve U.S. forces in quagmires abroad, less sensitive to the historical restraints involved in subordination to civilian authority, and more adept at political maneuvering inside the bureaucracy and on Capitol Hill—gained greater success in promulgating their views in policy and decision making, even after the end of the Cold War. During the 1990s, after losing a public battle with the military and Congress over permitting homosexuals to serve openly in the armed forces, President Bill Clinton's administration relinquished much of its power over the military establishment in the areas of budget, organization, and strategy. Only in foreign interventions did the president assert his authority, and then within limits negotiated with a military leadership wary of deploying American forces abroad.

Thus, at the close of the century, civilian control remained the same sometimes smooth, sometimes awkward, but always situational process it had been throughout American history: shaped by the issues and personalities of the moment; characterized by consultation but also negotiation, tension, and conflict; and measured by the relative influence of the professional military and civilian authorities in policy and decision making. Congress and the president continued to pass the laws and decide upon war and peace, and the military to operate under law and civilian authority. At the same time, military and civilian leaders struggled in uneasy partnership to reconcile frequently diverging perspectives in pursuit of the common defense, in an increasingly uncertain world.
[See also Conscription; Gay Men and Lesbians in the Military; Militia Acts; Militia and National Guard; Commander in Chief, President as.]


Louis Smith , American Democracy and Military Power: A Study of Civil Control of the Military Power in the United States, 1951.
Arthur A. Ekirch, Jr. , The Civilian and the Military, 1956.
Samuel P. Huntington , The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil‐Military Relations, 1957.
Morris Janowitz , The Professional Soldier: A Social and Political Portrait, 1960.
Ernest R. May, ed., The Ultimate Decision: The President as Commander in Chief, 1960.
Richard K. Betts , Soldiers, Statesmen, and Cold War Crises, 1977.
Allan R. Millett , The American Political System and Civilian Control of the Military: A Historical Perspective [Mershon Center Position Papers in the Policy Sciences, 4], 1979.
Richard H. Kohn, ed., The United States Military Under the Constitution of the United States, 1789–1989, 1991.
Russell F. Weigley , The American Military and the Principle of Civilian Control from McClellan to Powell, Journal of Military History, vol. 57, no. 5 (October 1993), pp. 27–59.
Richard H. Kohn , Out of Control: The Crisis in Civil‐Military Relations, The National Interest, 35 (Spring 1994), pp. 3–17.

Richard H. Kohn

Civil‐Military Relations: Military Government and Occupation

views updated Jun 27 2018

Civil‐Military Relations: Military Government and Occupation. Americans have traditionally been suspicious of military governance, a distrust that stems from their belief in individual liberty, representative government, and civilian control of the military. That view was reinforced during the Revolutionary War when the British army occupied and established military rule in a number of American cities. As the new republic expanded westward, the U.S. government's policy was to put new territory under civilian administration as rapidly as possible. Nevertheless, the U.S. military has often acted as an occupying and governing force.

As the U.S. Army marched through Mexico during the Mexican War (1846–48), Gen. Winfield Scott, faced with the need to deal with Mexican civilians, issued General Order No. 20 on 19 February 1847, providing a code of conduct that emphasized respect for the rights and property of innocent civilians. In his sensible and humanitarian guidelines, Scott ordered U.S. military governors to rule through local officials where possible.

During the Civil War, as it occupied increasing areas of the Confederacy, the Union army had to control a hostile civilian population, protect freed slaves and friendly Unionists, and ensure essential services. The broad aim of military government was to restore the Union by suppressing the secession and establishing loyal state governments. To guide the army, the War Department issued General Order No. 100, 23 April 1863, later published as an army manual, Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field, the first formal attempt by a national government to codify the “laws of war.”

The Union army became the major instrument of the U.S. government in the occupied South during the war and through most of Reconstruction. In 1867, the Republican Congress divided the conquered South into five military districts. Each state had to guarantee suffrage to adult black males and ratify the Fourteenth Amendment before military rule was ended in 1870.

Following the Spanish‐American War, the far‐flung empire obtained by the United States was initially governed by the military occupation forces. The army governed Cuba, 1898–1903 (again in 1906–09); Puerto Rico, 1898–1900; and the Philippine Islands, 1899–1901. The U.S. Navy governed Guam, 1899–1950; and American Samoa, 1899–1951. In the Caribbean, naval and Marine forces governed—sometimes directly, sometimes through local leaders—in Haiti, 1915–34; the Dominican Republic, 1916–24; Honduras, 1924–25; and Nicaragua, 1909–10, 1912–25, and 1926–33. The army's governance of the Panama Canal Zone began in 1903 and was scheduled to end in 2000.

World War I led to the first U.S. military occupation in Europe: after the armistice in 1918, the U.S. Army was assigned an Allied occupation sector in the Rhineland. Despite French pleas to remain, the U.S. force was rapidly reduced and its role ended in 1923.

America's world role during and after World War II was accompanied by unprecedented responsibilities in military occupation and governance. Before U.S. entry into the war, the army prepared two field manuals on the subject: The Rules of Land Warfare (1939) and Military Government (1940). Because of the initial wartime experience, another manual, Army‐Navy Manual of Military Government and Civil Affairs (1943), emphasized assisting military operations rather than winning over the population. U.S. policy, however, continued to insist on “just and reasonable” treatment of civilians and prompt rehabilitation of the civilian economy.

In Europe, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower allowed considerable independence to his field commanders over occupation and governance policies. In Italy, the policy favored rapid reconstruction of local and regional governments and the civil service, drawing upon all except original and clearly committed Fascists. In Germany and Austria, the U.S. Army played a role in aiding millions of refugees, in arranging for reparations, in conducting a denazification program, and in prosecuting war crimes.

Because of the Cold War, U.S. military government continued in Europe long after the German surrender in May 1945. Although the Allied military occupation of Italy ended in 1947 with the signing of a peace treaty there, Germany remained divided into separate military occupation zones. The U.S. Zone was in the south, plus part of jointly occupied Berlin; in 1945–49, it was governed by Gen. Lucius Clay. With the containment policy beginning in 1947, the United States and Britain merged their two zones, first economically, and then, along with the French, entirely in order to create the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949. (In East Germany, West Berlin remained an Allied occupation zone.) However, U.S. occupation and governance, under High Commissioner John J. McCloy, did not end until the Federal Republic rearmed and joined NATO in 1955; the occupation of Austria ended the same year.

In contrast to General Eisenhower's decentralized occupation policy, Gen. Douglas MacArthur established highly centralized control of occupied Japan in 1945. The United States was also the sole occupying force in Micronesia (the Carolines, Marianas, and Marshalls), Okinawa, and Iwo Jima.

Supported by President Harry S. Truman, MacArthur planned to “reform” Japan and replace its militaristic roots with centrist Western liberalism. MacArthur's military government expanded civil rights, broadened the franchise, officially emancipated women, established new political parties and labor unions, created land reform, and began antitrust proceedings against giant Japanese conglomerates. Furthermore, an International Military Tribunal tried Japanese war criminals. After the Communists gained power in China in 1949, however, the emphasis shifted to building up Japan as a bastion against communism. A formal peace treaty in 1951 ended U.S. military occupation and governance, although not American military bases.

U.S. military government in Korea south of the 38th parallel (1945–46) was followed by a staunch anti‐Communist civilian government headed by Syngman Rhee. The United States had removed most of its forces by the time of the North Korean invasion in 1950.

The active global role pursued by the United States after World War II led to a number of military interventions, some followed by occupation and governance, and sometimes serious attempts at remolding local government or creating entirely new political institutions. Such attempts in South Vietnam ultimately failed with the North's victory. However, the U.S. military was successful in its intervention and occupations in Grenada (1983) and Panama (1989–90).

Although the United States did not set up a military government during the Persian Gulf War of 1991, the army did mount its largest military–civil affairs operation since World War II in Kuwait, seeking to restore the shattered country.

Results were mixed in other missions involving U.S. occupation and direct or assisted military governance. As part of a United Nations force in Somalia (1992–93), the U.S. military expanded areas of humanitarian relief and order; but the overall effort to end the civil war was a failure.

Much more effective, at least initially, was the U.S. military involvement in Haiti, beginning in 1994. After the resignation of the military junta, Haiti's elected president, Jean‐Bertrand Aristide, was reinstalled and order restored.

In the Bosnian Crisis, a U.S. force joined a peacekeeping occupation in Bosnia in December 1995, and in early 1999, President Bill Clinton prepared to send another to the Yugoslavian province of Kosovo. It was not clear to what extent the American military would also engage in forms of governance and state building in that region of the former Yugoslavia.

Over the past century, American military occupation, reflecting military and foreign policy goals, has emphasized restrained use of force, and the reliance instead upon local elites, using political, economic, and cultural means to shift occupied populations toward U.S. policies. From the Civil War to the Cold War and beyond, occupation and governance have thus reflected dominant American attitudes and values as well as civil and military policy.
[See also Caribbean and Latin America, U.S. Military Involvement in the; Germany, U.S. Military Involvement in; Grenada, U.S. Intervention in; Japan, U.S. Military Involvement in; Kosovo Crisis (1999); Panama, U.S. Military Involvement in; Philippines, U.S. Military Involvement in the; Somalia, U.S. Military Involvement in.]


E. Grant Meade , American Military Government in Korea, 1951.
James E. Sefton , The U.S. Army and Reconstruction, 1967.
John Morgan Gates , Schoolbooks and Krags: The United States Army in the Philippines, 1898–1902, 1973.
Keith L. Nelson , Victors Divided: America and the Allies in Germany, 1918–1923, 1975.
Robert Wolfe, ed., Americans as Proconsuls: U.S. Military Government in Germany and Japan, 1944–1952, 1984.
Michael Schaller , The American Occupation of Japan: The Origins of the Cold War in Asia, 1985.
Thomas A. Schwartz , America's Germany: John J. McCloy and the Federal Republic of Germany, 1991.
John T. Fishel , Taking Responsibility for Our Actions? Establishing Order and Stability in Panama, Military Review, 71 (April 1992), pp. 66–78.

John Whiteclay Chambers II

Civil-Military Relations

views updated May 18 2018


CIVIL-MILITARY RELATIONS India is one of the few countries in the developing world never to have been under military rule. It has had democratic governance for over fifty years. Even when a national emergency was declared in June 1975 and democracy remained suspended for over two years, the military remained entirely neutral. Civil-military relations in India have been somewhat atypical. The British kept the military separate, both physically and ideologically, from the rest of the nation and from politics, a tradition that has endured in India. In neighboring Pakistan and in many other postcolonial countries, the military has often taken over governance.

Civil-military relations are not merely about military intervention. It is the interaction between the government, represented by political leaders, and military authorities in the management of national security. The challenge lies in ensuring that the military, while remaining strong, cohesive, and responsive to deal with external aggression and internal threats, is guided and controlled entirely by political leadership. This calls for building structures, procedures, and institutional norms, carefully developed and scrupulously observed by all.

The First Phase

Independent India inherited a large army bred in the colonial tradition and a system of civil-military relationship that was out of tune with a democracy. The new government wisely retained the military precisely as it was and began to set up a structure of civilian control modified to the new requirements. It adopted the liberal model of civil-military relations, with total parliamentary accountability.

Four conditions determined the way in which India's civil-military relations evolved. The first was the ignorance of the political leaders, including Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (in office 1947–1964), about military affairs, and hence their reluctance to deal with them. Second was Nehru's towering personality and his dedication to democracy and its elective institutions, which ensured that the military could never dare to challenge them. Third, the war in Jammu and Kashmir ensured that there could be no major changes in military affairs. Finally, senior military commanders agreed that the military had no role in civil governance and must remain subordinate to democratic political leadership.

Two options were available to India's government at independence to structure higher command functions. One was to adopt the integrated Joint Chiefs of Staff system with the three services reporting directly to a strong defense ministry, through integrated service councils, as in the United Kingdom. The other option was that service chiefs should function as independent commanders of their respective services, with civilian control exercised over them through a system of committees under a ministry of defense. The government adopted the latter approach.

The service heads, therefore, initially retained their ranks of commanders in chief. Though the nomenclature was changed in 1955 to "chiefs of staff," it made no substantive difference. Without simultaneously creating integrated service councils, the chiefs continued to function much as before, which meant that the chiefs retained nearly total autonomy in all purely military matters, including organizations and operations. In all other aspects—finance, policy, and civilian affairs—the services were guided entirely by the Ministry of Defence.

Civilian control was implemented through two committees: the Defence Committee of the Cabinet, presided over by the prime minister, with selected ministers as members and service chiefs, cabinet secretary, and selected secretaries in attendance; and the Defence Minister's Committee with the three service chiefs, the defense secretary, and the financial secretary as members. For the first decade of independence, these two committees met as required, but very infrequently, as no major issues of policy challenged the nation. Meanwhile a small army of civil bureaucrats entered the Ministry of Defence and studied all military proposals. That committee was headed by a secretary from the civilian administrative service, who in all probability had no military experience. He emerged as the defense minister's trusted adviser on all military issues, exercising a role, therefore, that should normally have been served by either the senior military commander or the elected political executive.

Civil-military relations were severely strained from 1957 to 1962, when V. K. Krishna Menon was appointed defense minister. Self-confident to the point of "megalomania," in the opinion of some senior generals, Menon argued angrily and bitterly with his most experienced and popular army chief, General Thimayya, playing favorites in his own appointments to higher military ranks. He was wrongly convinced that China would never attack India. When the Chinese army poured over the Northern Tier and India was roundly defeated, Krishna Menon was forced to resign. Nehru died a year and a half later, shattered by the defeat.

The Second Phase

After the Chinese aggression, the strength of India's armed forces was increased by more than three times, and there was substantial reorganization in all services. The Ministry of Defence expanded as well, but the changes in higher management were slow. The Defence Committee of the Cabinet never met again and was discontinued. Instead, defense and foreign policy issues were discussed at the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs, where service heads were seldom if ever present. A Defence Planning Committee was created, under the Cabinet Committee, consisting of a number of key secretaries and including the three service chiefs. The Defence Minister's Committee was replaced by the Defence Minister's morning meetings, attended by the service chiefs, and defense and production secretaries. Those largely informal meetings proved useful for the coordination of major issues and provided a high-level forum for periodic discussions.

Civil-military relations that emerged in the decade following the Chinese invasion and the India-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971, has been defined as a Clausewitzian bargain. The political leadership was to set the goals and provide its strategic vision. The military was left to deal with operational matters, virtually without supervision. This allowed the political and bureaucratic leadership to avoid blame if things went wrong and permitted freedom of operations to the military, for which its high command had long clamored. As an example, it was General Chaudhury who recommended the expansion of the war in 1965 to the Punjab, to which Prime Minister Shastri entirely agreed. In 1971 India's next prime minister, Indira Gandhi, accepted Field Marshal Manekshaw's advice against those of many members of her Cabinet, to wait for nine months before moving India's army into the newly independent Bangladesh.

Over India's first three to four decades, the military's position steadily declined against their civil counterparts. First to be affected was pay. The special allowances that the military had enjoyed under the British were removed without compensatory benefits, making military salaries distinctly less favorable. Some of these anomalies were corrected only in the 1990s. The other factor was the official "order of precedence," which, though viewed by many as a superficial matter of protocol, is still quite important in India. The military's position has declined steadily in both of these areas over the years.

Operational delegation to the military was accompanied by intrusive monitoring by the civil bureaucracy on all other areas of military functioning. The civil bureaucracy vetted all significant troop movements. All officer promotions above the rank of colonel, recommended by a purely military board, had to be approved by the Ministry of Defence. Initially, these were routine vettings ensuring adherence to established norms and precedence. In later years, political connections would lead to special recommendations and waivers, altering the original lists. Civilian officials also emerged as a front-end of the defense establishment. With the object of insulating the armed forces from political interference, civil bureaucrats answered questions from Parliament and the media, and negotiated with the rest of the government on military issues. Comparatively junior civilian officers were to clear service proposals sent by the chiefs. Civilians would head weapons acquisition negotiating teams and formulate and approve military acquisition contracts. Finally, the civilian defense secretary was made responsible to coordinate interservice issues and report directly to the minister, assuming in fact the responsibilities associated with the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

This was possible because in retaining operational autonomy, the armed forces also opted to stay away from the government, becoming in fact a department of the government. All financial authority lay only with the Ministry of Defence. A chief's itinerary for inspection visits within the country had to be cleared by a lowly clerk in the ministry, since such visits had financial implications. Political oversight was also implemented through Parliament. The Public Accounts Committee and the Parliamentary Defence Committee were both entitled to oversee military expenditure and the functioning of the ministry. In recent years, these committees have raised serious questions in their reports, though they have not yet become full-fledged watchdogs.

Other stresses emerged in civil-military relations in the 1980s. Failure of governance caused severe disaffection in the country, leading to a number of internal crises requiring military intervention. The most serious of these was in the Punjab in the 1980s. In June 1984 the army was ordered to assault the Golden Temple, a sacred shrine of the Sikhs, who then constituted some 15 percent of the army's strength, and a higher percentage of its officer corps. The aftermath of the attack led to mutiny by some 2,600 Sikh soldiers. This necessitated a reorganization of the army's regimental system. The army was also called upon to assist the civil government in Assam in 1990 and 1991 in operations Bajrang and Rhino. From 1990, the army would be deeply involved in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

These situations reflected a breakdown of civil policy, and such repeated use of the army was often resented by the military, though they never opposed it. It also required arrangements for civil-military coordination at the provincial level. A system of unified command was established in the affected provinces. The governors of these troubled states were often retired soldiers or else had senior military officers as advisers. This arrangement, though not always very satisfactory has functioned reasonably well.

Another challenge to civil-military relations has arisen from what has been called the "new militaries." A very large number of police and paramilitary forces have been created in India in recent years to deal with growing internal instability. Their number at independence was below 100,000. By 2004 they were over 1.4 million strong, larger collectively than the army, and may be developed into an alternate force. At the same time, the army's internal role, always unpopular, will perhaps be reduced in this process.

After 1998

Nuclear tests in the subcontinent required major alterations in higher defense. A Cabinet Committee on Security was established to addresses all security issues. Individual service chiefs are now likely to be consulted more often. A National Security Council (NSC) was set up, to report to a national security adviser, who is also the principal secretary to the prime minister. Military representation on the NSC is not high.

The Kargil conflict in 1999 led to a major review of the national security system, carried out by a Group of Ministers (GOM) in 2000, facilitated by four task forces. The report of the GOM on "management of defense" comprehensively reviewed organizations and implemented major changes. It decided to create a permanent Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), replacing the principle of rotation among service chiefs. A Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (CIDS) was established, with a senior three-star general at its head and a large interservice staff. Interservice rivalry has not made it possible to agree on a CDS, so the post remains vacant. In turn this has made the CIDS rudderless and somewhat ineffective. A number of boards have been set up facilitating procurement, defense production, and research and development. Defense intelligence has been integrated and brought under a single agency. Finally, much greater financial authority has now been delegated to the military service chiefs.

These changes have helped integrate the services into New Delhi's decision-making structure, accommodating them in policy-making functions. Over fifty years after independence, it was thus clear that civil-military relations had reached a state of cooperative maturity; even where differences may exist between some of these institutions, issues can be resolved firmly within the ambit of democratic governance.

Dipankar Banerjee

See alsoArmed Forces


Bhimayya, Kotera M. Civil-Military Relations: A Comparative Study of India and Pakistan. Santa Monica, Calif.: Rand, 1997. An authoritative monograph by a senior Indian military officer based on careful research and firsthand interviews.

Dasgupta, Sunil. "India: The New Militaries." In Coercion and Governance: The Declining Political Role of the Military in Asia, edited by Muthiah Alagappa. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2001.

Vas, Eric A. "Role of the Armed Forces in a Democracy: A Review of Fifty Years of Politico-Military Decision-Making." Parts 1 and 2 in The United Services Institution Journal 129, nos. 534–535 (October–December 1998; January–March 1999). The views of a senior Indian army general.

Vohra, N. N. "The State Civil and Armed Police and National Security." In The United Services Institution Journal 131, no. 546 (October–December 2001). Views of a senior civilian bureaucrat.

Civil-Military Relation

views updated May 29 2018

Civil-Military Relation


The term civil-military relations denotes the field of social science inquiry that analyzes the relationship between the armed forces and society and/or the state. Since the state is often defined, following Max Weber, as the organ of society that holds the monopoly on the legitimate use of force, the relationship between formally constituted bodies of force and the state or society is a major indicator of the nature of that state. Indeed, in our own time the presence of independent military organizations or paramilitaries organized along political, sectarian, or ethnic lines and not answering to the command of a legitimate state testifies to the presence of the phenomenon of state failure in such countries as Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, Lebanon, and several sub-Saharan African states. Where all political power literally grows out of the barrel of a gun, the state and a legitimate political order are absent and anarchy, if not a war of all against all, reigns.

Alternatively, although the method by which the armed forces are subordinated to the executive and accountable to the legislative body varies in democratic states, the depoliticization of armed forces (including the police), their inability to take part in partisan politics, and their enforced accountability to legitimately elected organizations and heads of state testify to the democratic tendencies of the state. In these states, the use of force is under legal control, and ideally force can be employed only with legislative approval. In such a state the military similarly regulates itself by means of the internal rule of law (military law codes), which ensures that officers and soldiers are accountable for their acts. In the twentieth century and beyond, efforts have been made, beginning with the Nuremberg and other anti-Nazi trials, to extend that accountability to the international sphere, making commanding officers and even soldiers responsible to properly organized international tribunals for their acts.

Likewise in antidemocraticthat is, authoritarianstates, a critical signifier of the nature of the state lies in the sphere of civil-military relations. If the armed forces and police are divided into multiple overlapping forces with overlapping jurisdictions and the authority to monitor each other, this indicates that the legislature is weak and has been bypassed in its role of enforcing accountability. It entails as well the supremacy of the executive, which is above accountability to the legislature and its ability to exercise direct control over the armed forces through such multiple overlapping militaries. In such a state the military is politicized, a player in partisan politics, or else the means by which ambitious politicians seize power. Alternatively, a general or generals may decide to use the forces under their command, whether regular army, secret police, or some other force, to seize power for themselves. Here again the forms of such relationships among the executive, legislative, and military may vary widely among states. Nevertheless, these symptoms of authoritarianism and lack of legal accountability lead to the presumption of the existence of an authoritarian if not totalitarian state. And in totalitarian states, if not authoritarian ones, the primary function of the state is to prepare for war. Such states are frequently, if not always, organized for military action against either internal or external adversaries. In this case, not only are democratic controls over the armed forces absent but also war and a military ethos for the state administration are glorified. Even if a state is not militaristic in the sense of glorifying war, such regimes often promulgate a cult of so-called military virtues and discipline that should characterize the state administration.

This leads to the question of the relationship of the military to society. Crucial questions here are whether the soldiery is organized as a professional volunteer force or conscripted, the ethnic and religious composition of the armed forces, and the relationships among different armed forces, the police, and the militaryor what in Europe is increasingly called the security sector. It also is critical to determine if the military and its commanders, as well as the police, can break criminal laws with impunity or whether they are truly subordinate and accountable to their countrys laws. This consideration obviously includes the extent of economic corruption and the ability simply to seize property by force, the latter being a sign of a demoralized military and a failing state. In this connection the field of civil-military relations also embraces the question of public support for the armed force and the image society holds of its members.

The public standing of the armed forces in any society is a good indicator of the nature of the relationship between that society and its armed forces. For all that the armed forces are trained specialists in the use and control of violence, they are recruited from society and cannot be artificially isolated from a societys values or pathologies. Thus a society undergoing stress will find that stress translated into its armed forces, even if there is a lag between them.

The field of civil-military relations encompasses the entire range of relationships between the various forms and missions that armed forces take and the society and state that empowers them to act. It is an inherently comparative field because all states and societies have armed forces with which they interact. Indeed, the absence of either the state or the armed forces in the equation underscores the severity of a crisis for the community in question. Yet despite this inherent bias toward a comparative approach, each state and society relates uniquely to its own armed forces. The topicality of this relationship remains crucial to the understanding not only of our own state and government but to the broader world of international relations.

SEE ALSO Authoritarianism; Civil Society; Democracy; Ideal Type; Janowitz, Morris; Militarism; Military; Military Regimes; Nazism; Selective Service; State, The; Totalitarianism; War; War and Peace; War Crimes; Weber, Max


Desch, Michael C. 1999. Civilian Control of the Military: The Changing Security Environment. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Feaver, Peter D., and Richard H. Kohn, eds. 2001. Soldiers and Civilians: The Civil-Military Gap and American National Security. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Finer, Samuel E. 1988. The Man on Horseback: The Role of the Military in Politics, 2nd ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Herspring, Dale R. 2005. The Pentagon and the Presidency: Civil-Military Relations from FDR to George W. Bush. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.

Huntington, Samuel P. 1957. The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Janowitz, Morris. 1960. The Professional Soldier: A Social and Political Portrait. Glencoe, IL: The Free Press.

Stephen Blank

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