Soldiers of the State: Reconsidering American
In American academe today the dominant view
of civil-military relations is sternly critical of the military,
asserting that civilian control of the military is dangerously eroded.1
Though tension clearly exists in the relationship, the current critique
is largely inaccurate and badly overwrought. Far from overstepping
its bounds, America's military operates comfortably within constitutional
notions of separated powers, participating appropriately in defense
and national security policymaking with due deference to the principle
of civilian control. Indeed, an active and vigorous role by the
military in the policy process is and always has been essential
to the common defense.
A natural starting point for any inquiry into
the state of civil-military relations in the US today is to define
what is meant by the terms "civil-military relations"
and "civilian control." Broadly defined, "civil-military
relations" refers to the relationship between the armed forces
of the state and the larger society they serve-how they communicate,
how they interact, and how the interface between them is ordered
and regulated. Similarly, "civilian control" means simply
the degree to which the military's civilian masters can enforce
their authority on the military services.2
Clarifying the vocabulary of civil-military
relations sheds an interesting light on the current, highly charged
debate. The dominant academic critique takes several forms, charging
that the military has become increasingly estranged from the society
it serves;3 that it has abandoned political
neutrality for partisan politics;4 and
that it plays an increasingly dominant and illegitimate role in
policymaking.5 This view contrasts the
ideal of the nonpartisan, apolitical soldier with a different reality.
In this construct, the military operates freely in a charged political
environment to "impose its own perspective" in defiance
of the principle of civilian control.6
The critique is frequently alarmist, employing terms like "ominous,"7
"alienated,"8 and "out
of control."9 The debate is strikingly
one-sided; few civilian or military leaders have publicly challenged
the fundamental assumptions of the critics.10
Yet as we shall see, the dominant scholarly view is badly flawed
in its particulars, expressing a distorted view of the military
at work in a complex political system that distributes power widely.
The Civil-Military Gap
The common assertion that a "gap"
exists which divides the military and society in an unhealthy way
is a central theme. Unquestionably, the military as an institution
embraces and imposes a set of values that more narrowly restricts
individual behavior. But the evidence is strong that the public
understands the necessity for more circumscribed personal rights
and liberties in the military, and accepts the rationale for an
organizationally conservative outlook that emphasizes the group
over the individual and organizational success over personal validation.
The tension between the conservative requirements
of military life and the more liberal outlook of civil society goes
far back before the Revolution to the early days of colonial America's
militia experience. Though it has waxed and waned, it has remained
central to the national conversation about military service.11
The issue is an important one: the military holds an absolute monopoly
on force in society, and how to keep it strong enough to defend
the state and subservient enough not to threaten it is the central
question in civil-military relations. Most commentators assume that
this difference in outlook poses a significant problem-that at best
it is a condition to be managed, and at worst a positive danger
to the state. As a nation, however, America has historically accepted
the necessity for a military more highly ordered and disciplined
than civil society.
While important cultural differences exist
between the services and even between communities within the services,12
the military in general remains focused on a functional imperative
that prizes success in war above all else. Though sometimes degraded
during times of lessened threat, this imperative has remained constant
at least since the end of the Civil War and the rise of modern military
professionalism. It implies a set of behaviors and values markedly
different from those predominant in civil society, particularly
in an all-volunteer force less influenced by large numbers of temporary
Though the primary function of the military
is often described as "the application of organized violence,"
the military's conservative and group-centered bias is based on
something even more fundamental. In the combat forces which dominate
the services, in ethos if not in numbers, the first-order challenge
is not to achieve victory on the battlefield. Rather it is to make
the combat soldier face his own mortality. Under combat conditions
the existence of risk cannot be separated from the execution of
task. The military culture, while broadly conforming to constitutional
notions of individual rights and liberties, therefore derives from
the functional imperative and by definition values collective over
The American public intuitively understands
this, as evidenced by polling data which demonstrate conclusively
that a conservative military ethic has not alienated the military
from society.13 On the contrary, public
confidence in the military remains consistently high, more than
a quarter century after the end of the draft and the drawdown of
the 1990s, both of which lessened the incidence and frequency of
civilian participation in military affairs. There is even reason
to believe that the principal factors cited most often to explain
the existence of the "gap"-namely the supposed isolation
of the military from civilian communities and the gulf between civilian
and military values-have been greatly exaggerated.
The military "presence" in civil
society is not confined to serving members of the active-duty military.
Rather, it encompasses all who serve or have served, active and
reserve. For example, millions of veterans with firsthand knowledge
of the military and its value system exist within the population
at large. The high incidence of married service members and an increasing
trend toward off-base housing mean that hundreds of thousands of
military people and their dependents live in the civilian community.
Reserve component installations and facilities and the reserve soldiers,
sailors, airmen, and marines who serve there bring the military
face to face with society every day in thousands of local communities
across the country. Commissioned officers, and increasingly noncommissioned
officers (NCOs), regularly participate in civilian educational programs,
and officer training programs staffed by active, reserve, and retired
military personnel are found on thousands of college and high school
campuses. Military recruiting offices are located in every sizable
city and town. Many military members even hold second jobs in the
private sector. At least among middle-class and working-class Americans,
the military is widely represented and a part of everyday life.14
Just as the military's isolation from society
is often overstated, differences in social attitudes, while clearly
present, do not place the military outside the mainstream of American
life. The dangers posed by a "values gap" are highly questionable
given the wide disparity in political perspectives found between
the east and west coasts and the American "heartland";
between urban, suburban, and rural populations; between north and
south; between different religious and ethnic communities; and between
social and economic classes. It may well be true that civil society
is more forgiving than the military for personal failings like personal
dishonesty, adultery, indebtedness, assault, or substance abuse.
But society as a whole does not condone these behaviors or adopt
a neutral view. To the extent that there are differences, they are
differences of degree. On fundamental questions about the rule of
law, on the equality of persons, on individual rights and liberties,
and on civilian control of the military in our constitutional system,
there are no sharp disagreements with the larger society. Indeed,
there is general agreement about what constitutes right and wrong
behavior.15 The difference lies chiefly
in how these ideals of "right behavior" are enforced.
Driven by the functional imperative of battlefield success, the
military as an institution views violations of publicly accepted
standards of behavior more seriously because they threaten the unity,
cohesion, or survival of the group.16
Seen in this light, the values "gap" assumes a very different
To be sure, sweeping events have altered the
civil-military compact. The advent of the all-volunteer force, the
defeat in Vietnam, the end of the Cold War, the drawdown of the
1990s, the impact of gender and sexual orientation policies, and
a host of other factors have influenced civil-military relations
in important ways. The polity no longer sees military service as
a requirement of citizenship during periods of national crisis,
or a large standing military as a wartime anomaly. Despite such
fundamental changes, over time public support for the military and
its values has remained surprisingly enduring, even as the level
of public participation in military affairs has declined.
The "Politicization" of the
Of equal or perhaps greater import is the charge
that the military has abandoned its tradition of nonpartisan service
to the state in favor of partisan politics. Based on apparently
credible evidence that the military has embraced conservatism as
a political philosophy and affiliated with the Republican Party,
this view implies a renunciation of the classical, archetypal soldier
who neither voted nor cared about partisan politics. Nevertheless,
as with the "values gap," the charge that the US military
has become dangerously politicized does not stand up to closer scrutiny.
The tradition of nonpartisanship is alive and well in America's
One can plausibly speculate on trends which
suggest greater Republican affiliation over the past generation
or so. Seven of the last ten presidential administrations have been
Republican. For those with a propensity to enter the military and
even more for those who choose to stay, the Republican Party is
generally seen as more supportive of military pay, quality of life,
and a strong defense. Since the late 1970s, the percentage of young
Americans identifying themselves as Republicans rose significantly
across the board.
Still, from 1976 to 1999, the number of high
school seniors expecting to enter the military and self-identifying
as Republicans never exceeded 40 percent and actually declined significantly
from 1991 to 1999. Despite the end of the draft and the more market-inspired
and occupational flavor of military service under the all-volunteer
concept, new recruits "are predominantly not Republican and
are less Republican than their peers who go to college."17
Increasingly it seems clear that the young enlisted service members
who make up a large proportion of the force cannot be characterized
as predominantly conservative or Republican.
The figures for senior military officers are
quite different; about two thirds self-identify as Republican. To
some extent this reflects the attitudes of the socio-economic cohort
they are drawn from, generally defined as non-minority, college
educated, belonging to mainstream Christian denominations, and above
average in income. On the other hand, military elites overwhelmingly
shun the "far-right" or "extremely conservative"
labels, are far less supportive of fundamentalist religious views,
and are significantly more liberal than mainstream society as a
whole on social issues.18 It is far
more accurate to say that senior military leaders occupy the political
center than to portray them as creatures of the right.
If the conservative orientation of the military
is less clear-cut than commonly supposed, its actual impact on American
electoral politics is highly doubtful. As we have seen, the attitudes
and orientation of the enlisted force vary considerably. The commissioned
officer corps, comprising perhaps ten percent of the force (roughly
120,000 active-duty members) and only a tiny fraction of the electorate,
is not in any sense politically active. It does not proselytize
among its subordinates, organize politically, contribute financially
to campaigns to any significant degree or, apparently, vote in large
numbers. There is no real evidence that the military has become
increasingly partisan in an electoral sense, or that it plays an
important role in election outcomes. As Lance Betros has argued,
The fundamental weakness of this argument
is that it ascribes to military voters a level of partisanship
that is uncharacteristic of the voting public. The vast majority
of people who cast votes for Democrats or Republicans are not
partisans, in the sense of actively advancing the party's interests.
Instead, they comprise the "party in the electorate,"
a much looser affiliation than the party organization. . . . These
voters do not have more than a casual involvement in the party's
organizational affairs and rarely interact with political leaders
and activists. They are, in effect, the consumers, not the purveyors,
of the party's partisan appeals and policies.19
A common criticism is that a growing tendency
by retired military elites to publicly campaign for specific candidates
signals an alarming move away from the tradition of nonpartisanship.
But aside from the fact that this trend can be observed in favor
of both parties,20 not just the Republicans,
evidence that documents the practical effect of these endorsements
is lacking. Except in wartime, most voters cannot even identify
the nation's past or present military leaders. They are unlikely
to be swayed by their endorsements. Nor is there any evidence that
the political actions of retired generals and admirals unduly influence
the electoral or policy preferences of the active-duty military.
We are in fact a far cry from the days when senior military leaders
actually contended for the presidency while on active duty-a far
more serious breach of civilian control.
The Military Role in the Policy Process
More current is the suggestion that party affiliation
lends itself to military resistance to civilian control in policy
matters, especially during periods of Democratic control. The strongest
criticism in this vein is directed at General Colin Powell as a
personality and gays in the military as a policy issue, with any
number of prominent scholars drawing overarching inferences about
civil-military relations from this specific event.21
This tendency to draw broad conclusions from a specific case is
prevalent in the field but highly questionable as a matter of scholarship.
The record of military deference to civilian control, particularly
in the recent past, in fact supports a quite different conclusion.
Time and again in the past decade, military
policy preferences on troop deployments, the proliferation of nontraditional
missions, the drawdown, gender issues, budgeting for modernization,
base closure and realignment, and a host of other important issues
were overruled or watered down. Some critics, most notably Andrew
Bacevich, argue that President Clinton did not control the military
so much as he placated it: "The dirty little secret of American
civil-military relations, by no means unique to this [Clinton] administration,
is that the commander-in-chief does not command the military establishment;
he cajoles it, negotiates with it, and, as necessary, appeases it."22
This conclusion badly overreaches. Under President Clinton, military
force structure was cut well below the levels recommended in General
Powell's Base Force recommendations. US troops remained in Bosnia
far beyond the limits initially set by the President. Funding for
modernization was consistently deferred to pay for contingency operations,
many of which were opposed by the Joint Chiefs. In these and many
other instances, the civilian leadership enforced its decisions
firmly on its military subordinates. On virtually every issue, the
military chiefs made their case with conviction, but acquiesced
loyally and worked hard to implement the decisions of the political
As many scholars point out, the election of
Bill Clinton in 1992 posed perhaps the most severe test of civil-military
relations since the Johnson-McNamara era. Avowedly anti-military
in his youth, Clinton came to office with a background and political
makeup that invited confrontation with the military. His determination
to open the military to gays, announced during the campaign and
reiterated during the transition, provoked widespread concerns among
senior military leaders. Eminent historians Russell Weigley and
Richard Kohn have severely criticized the military's role in this
controversy, and in particular General Powell's actions. Weigley
cites the episode as "a serious breach of the constitutional
principle of civilian control" justifying a "grave accusation
of improper conduct." Kohn characterizes it hyperbolically
as "the most open manifestation of defiance and resistance
by the American military since the publication of the Newburgh address.
. . .Nothing like this had ever occurred in American history."23
All this is poor history and even poorer political
science. The presidential candidacies of Taylor, Scott, McClellan,
Grant, Hancock, Wood, and MacArthur while on active duty suggest
far more serious challenges to civilian control. The B36 controversy
(the "Revolt of the Admirals") in 1948 and the overt insubordination
leading to the relief of MacArthur in 1952 represented direct challenges
to the political survival of Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson
in the first case and President Truman himself in the second. The
"gays in the military" dispute was very different and
much less significant in overarching national security import. A
more balanced critique suggests that the controversy hardly warrants
the claims made on its behalf.
The Apolitical Soldier Revisited
The characterization of General Powell as a
"politician in uniform" is often contrasted with the ideal
of the nonpartisan soldier modeled by Huntington. This rigidly apolitical
model, typified by figures like Grant, Sherman, Pershing, and Marshall,
colors much of the current debate. The history of civil-military
relations in America, however, paints a different picture. Since
the Revolution, military figures have played prominent political
roles right up to the present day. The ban on partisanship in electoral
politics, while real, is a relatively modern phenomenon. But the
absence of the military from the politics of policy is, and always
has been, largely a myth.
The roster of former general officers who later
became President shows a strong intersection between politics and
military affairs. The list includes Washington (probably as professional
a soldier as it was possible to be in colonial America), Jackson,
Harrison, Taylor, Grant, Hays, Garfield, and Eisenhower. (Many others
had varying degrees of military service, some highly significant.)24
The list of prominent but unsuccessful presidential aspirants who
were also military leaders includes Scott, Fremont, McClellan, Hancock,
Leonard Wood, Dewey, and MacArthur. Even in the modern era, many
senior military leaders have served in high political office, while
many others tried unsuccessfully to enter the political arena.25
Even some of the paladins of the apolitical ideal, such as Grant,
Sherman, and Pershing, benefited greatly from political patronage
at the highest levels.26
In attempting to reconcile an obvious pattern
of military involvement in American political life to the apolitical
ideal, historians have sometimes differentiated between "professional"
and "nonprofessional" soldiers. The nonprofessionals,
so the argument runs, can be excused for their political activity
on the grounds that they were at best part-timers whose partisan
political behavior did not threaten the professional ethic. Yet
many commanded large bodies of troops and simultaneously embodied
real political strength and power.27
Indeed, for much of American history, the military was not recognizably
professional at all. Before the Civil War, American military professionalism
as we understand it today did not exist.28
The regular officer corps was so small, so poorly educated, and
so rife with partisan politics that in time of war it was often
led, not by long-service professionals, but essentially by political
figures like Andrew Jackson. Even those few career soldiers who
rose to the top in wartime, such as Zachary Taylor and Winfield
Scott, not infrequently became politicians who contended for the
presidency itself-Taylor successfully, and Scott notably not.
America fought the War of 1812, the Mexican
War, and the Civil War using the traditional model of a small professional
army and a large volunteer force, mostly led by militia officers
or social and political elites with little or no military training-including
many politicians (War Department policy kept Regular officers in
junior grades with Regular units; few escaped to rise to high command).29
By war's end, politicians in uniform like Butler, McClernand, and
Sickles and politically ambitious generals like McClellan and Fremont
had given way to more professionally oriented commanders. In the
postwar period the notion of the talented amateur on the battlefield
faded while the memory of the "political" generals, often
acting in league with the congressional Committee on the Conduct
of the War to further their own personal interests, continued to
rankle. Until the turn of the century the Army would be run by professional
veterans of the Civil War, particularly General Sheridan as Commanding
General, and they would attempt to impose a stern ethic of political
That this ethic heavily influenced the professional
officer corps cannot be doubted-and yet the tradition of career
military figures seeking political office continued.31
Nor did the ethic renounce active participation in the politics
of military policy. Even at a time when the military-industrial
complex was far less important than today, when the military share
of the budget was tiny and the political spoils emanating from the
military inconsequential, the military services struggled mightily
with and against both the executive and legislative branches in
pursuit of their policy goals. In cases too numerous to count, the
military services used the linkages of congressional oversight to
advance their interests and preserve their equities against perceived
executive encroachment. Over time, a strong prohibition on military
involvement in electoral politics evolved which remains powerfully
in effect today. But the realities of separated powers, as well
as the powerful linkages between defense industries, congressional
members and staff, and the military services do not-and never have-allowed
the military to stand aloof from the bureaucratic and organizational
pulling and hauling involved in the politics of policy.
The Separatist vs. Fusionist Debate
There are essentially two competing views on
the subject of the military's proper role in the politics of policy.
The first holds that the military officer is not equipped by background,
training, or inclination to fully participate in defense policymaking.
In this view, mastering the profession of arms is so demanding and
time-consuming, and the military education system so limiting, that
an understanding of the policy process is beyond the abilities of
the military professional.32 Military
officers are ill prepared to contribute to high policy. Normal career
patterns do not look towards such a role; rather they are-and should
be-designed to prepare officers for the competent command of forces
in combat or at least for the performance of the highly complex
subsidiary tasks such command requires. . . . Military officers
should not delude themselves about their capacity to master dissimilar
and independently difficult disciplines.33Politics
is beyond the scope of military competence, and the participation
of military officers in politics undermines their professionalism,
curtailing their professional competence, dividing the profession
against itself, and substituting extraneous values for professional
Aside from the question of competence, this "separatist"
critique warns of the tendency toward the militarization of foreign
and defense policy should military officers be allowed to fully
participate. Critics assert that given the predisposition toward
bellicosity and authoritarianism cited by Huntington and others,
too much influence by the military might tend to skew the policy
process to favor use of force when other, less direct approaches
are called for.35
An alternative view, the "fusionist"
or "soldier-statesman" view, holds that direct participation
by military leaders in defense policy is both necessary and inevitable.
President Kennedy specifically urged-even ordered-the military,
from the Joint Chiefs right down to academy cadets, to eschew "narrow"
definitions of military competence and responsibilities, take into
account political considerations in their military recommendations,
and prepare themselves to take active roles in the policy-making
process.36 If the assumption of unique
expertise is accurate, only the military professional can provide
the technical knowledge, informed by insight and experience, needed
to support high-quality national security decisionmaking. Given
the certainty that military input is both needed and demanded by
Congress as well as the executive branch, military advocacy cannot
be avoided in recommending and supporting some policy choices over
others. This school holds that long service in this environment,
supplemented by professional schooling in the tools and processes
of national security, equips senior military leaders to fulfill
what is, after all, an inescapable function.
These two competing perspectives mirror the
"realist" and "idealist" theories of politics
and reflect the age-old division in political science between those
who see reality "as it is" and those who see it "as
it ought to be." As we have seen, the historical record is
unequivocal. Military participation in partisan politics has been
inversely proportional to the growth of military professionalism,
declining as the professional ethic has matured. But the role of
the military in defense policymaking has endured from the beginning,
increasing as the resources, complexity, and gravity which attend
the field of national security have grown. The soldier statesman
has not just come into his own. He has always been.
The Nature of Military Involvement in Defense
If this is true, to what extent is such participation
dangerous? Does active military involvement in defense policymaking
actually threaten civilian control?
Clearly there have been individual instances
where military leaders crossed the line and behaved both unprofessionally
and illegitimately with respect to proper subordination to civilian
authority; the Revolt of the Admirals and the MacArthur-Truman controversy
already have been cited. The increasingly common tactic whereby
anonymous senior military officials criticize their civilian counterparts
and superiors, even to the point of revealing privileged and even
classified information, cannot be justified.
Yet civilian control remains very much alive
and well. The many direct and indirect instruments of objective
and subjective civilian control of the military suggest that the
true issue is not control-defined as the government's ability to
enforce its authority over the military-but rather political freedom
of action. In virtually every sphere, civilian control over the
military apparatus is decisive. All senior military officers serve
at the pleasure of the President and can be removed, and indeed
retired, without cause. Congress must approve all officer promotions
and guards this prerogative jealously; even lateral appointments
at the three- and four-star levels must be approved by the President
and confirmed by Congress, and no officer at that level may retire
in grade without separate approval by both branches of government.
Operating budgets, the structure of military organizations, benefits,
pay and allowances, and even the minutia of official travel and
office furniture are determined by civilians. The reality of civilian
control is confirmed not only by the many instances cited earlier
where military recommendations were overruled. Not infrequently,
military chiefs have been removed or replaced by the direct and
indirect exercise of civilian authority.37
To be sure, the military as an institution
enjoys some advantages. Large and well-trained staffs, extended
tenure, bureaucratic expertise, cross-cutting relationships with
industry, overt and covert relationships with congressional supporters,
and stability during lengthy transitions between administrations
give it a strong voice. But on the big issues of budget and force
structure, social policy, and war and peace, the influence of senior
military elites-absent powerful congressional and media support-is
more limited than is often recognized.
If this thesis is correct, the instrumentalities
and the efficacy of civilian control are not really at issue. As
I have suggested, political freedom of action is the nub of the
problem. Hampered by constitutionally separated powers which put
the military in both the executive and legislative spheres, civilian
elites face a dilemma. They can force the military to do their bidding,
but they cannot always do so without paying a political price. Because
society values the importance of independent, nonpoliticized military
counsel, a civilian who publicly discounts that advice in an area
presumed to require military expertise runs significant political
risks. The opposition party will surely exploit any daylight between
civilian and military leaders, particularly in wartime-hence the
discernible trend in the modern era away from the Curtis LeMays
and Arleigh Burkes of yesteryear who brought powerful heroic personas
and public reputations into the civil-military relationship.
It is therefore clear that much of the criticism
directed at "political" soldiers is not completely genuine
or authentic. Far from wanting politically passive soldiers, political
leaders in both the legislative and executive branches consistently
seek military affirmation and support for their programs and policies.
The proof that truly apolitical soldiers are not really wanted is
found in the pressures forced upon military elites to publicly support
the policy choices of their civilian masters. A strict adherence
to the apolitical model would require civilian superiors to solicit
professional military advice when needed, but not to involve the
military either in the decision process or in the "marketing"
process needed to bring the policy to fruition.
The practice, however, is altogether different.
The military position of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
the service chiefs, and the combatant commanders is always helpful
in determining policy outcomes. The pressures visited upon military
elites to support, or at least not publicly refute, the policy preferences
of their civilian masters, especially in the executive branch, can
be severe. Annually as part of the budget process, the service chiefs
are called upon to testify to Congress and give their professional
opinions about policy decisions affecting their service. Often they
are encouraged to publicly differ with civilian policy and program
decisions they are known to privately question.38
This quandary, partly a function of the constitutional
separation of powers and partly due to party politics, drives the
JCS Chairman and the chiefs to middle ground. Not wanting to publicly
expose differences with the Administration, yet bound by their confirmation
commitments to render unvarnished professional military opinions
to Congress, military elites routinely find themselves on the horns
of a dilemma. These experiences, the bread and butter of military
service at the highest levels, frequently produce exasperation and
frustration. The consensus among civilian critics may be that the
military dominates the policy process. But the view from the top
of the military hierarchy is something quite different.
For military officers working at the politico-military
interface, the problem of civil-military relations exists in its
most acute form. There is, after all, no real issue between the
polity as a whole and the military as an institution. Across the
country the armed forces are seen as organizations that work, providing
genuine opportunities for minorities, consistent success on the
battlefield and in civil support operations here at home, and power
and prestige in support of American interests abroad. For most Americans
the military's direct role in the interagency process and in the
making of national security policy is not only permissible, it is
essential to informed governance and a strong national defense.
The arguments advanced herein attempt to show
that the dynamic tension which exists in civil-military relations
today, while in many cases sub-optimal and unpleasant, is far from
dangerous. Deeply rooted in a uniquely American system of separated
powers, regulated by strong traditions of subordination to civilian
authority, and enforced by a range of direct and indirect enforcement
mechanisms, modern US civil-military relations remain sound, enduring,
and stable. The American people need fear no challenge to constitutional
norms and institutions from a military which-however aggressive
on the battlefield-remains faithful to its oath of service. Not
least of the Framer's achievements is the willing subordination
of the soldiers of the state.
1. The foremost proponent
of the dominant critique of civil-military relations in America
today is historian Richard Kohn. He is joined by Peter Feaver, Andrew
Bacevich, Russell Weigley, Michael Wesch, Eliot Cohen, and others.
See Richard H. Kohn, "Out of Control: The Crisis in Civil Military
Relations," The National Interest, No. 35 (Spring 1994); "The
Forgotten Fundamentals of Civilian Control of the Military in Democratic
Government," John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies,
Project on US Post Cold-War Civil-Military Relations, Working Paper
No. 13, Harvard University, June 1997; and "The Erosion of
Civilian Control of the Military in the United States Today,"
Naval War College Review, 55 (Summer 2002).
2. In academic parlance,
"civilian control" is quite often used to mean much more,
often implying unqualified deference to the executive branch. Similarly,
"civil-military" relations is commonly used to mean, not
the relationship of the military to society, but instead the relationship
between civilian and military elites.
3. Kohn, "The Erosion
of Civilian Control," p. 10.
4. See Ole R. Holsti,
"A Widening Gap Between the Military and Civilian Society?
Some Evidence, 1976-1996," John M. Olin Institute for Strategic
Studies, Project on US Post Cold-War Civil-Military Relations, Working
Paper No. 13, Harvard University, October 1997.
5. See Tom Ricks, "The
Widening Gap Between Military and Society," The Atlantic Monthly,
6. Kohn, "The Erosion
of Civilian Control of the Military in the United States Today,"
7. See Peter Feaver
and Richard H. Kohn, eds., Soldiers and Civilians: The Civil-Military
Gap and American National Security (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press,
2001), p. 1.
8. Kohn, "The Erosion
of Civilian Control," p. 1.
9. Kohn, "Out of
Control," p. 3.
10. Author and scholar
John Hillen is the most prominent critic of the prevailing academic
view of civil-military relations, while Don M. Snider charts a somewhat
more moderate course; there are few others with dissenting views.
See John Hillen, "The Military Ethos," The World and I,
July 1997; "The Military Ethos: Keep It, Defend It, Manage
It," Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute, October 1998;
"The Military Culture Wars," The Weekly Standard, 12 January
1998; "Must U.S. Military Culture Reform?" Orbis, 43 (Winter
11. The most famous
and influential exponent of the military conservative vs. social
liberal dichotomy remains Samuel Huntington. See The Soldier and
the State (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1957).
12. Don M. Snider,
"The Future of American Military Culture: An Uninformed Debate
on Military Culture," Orbis, 43 (Winter 1999), 19.
13. See Paul Gronke
and Peter D. Feaver, "Uncertain Confidence: Civilian and Military
Attitudes About Civil-Military Relations," paper prepared for
the Triangle Institute for Security Studies "Project on the
Gap Between the Military and Civilian Society," p. 1.
the military remains a formidable material presence in American
society. . . . [T]here is no reason based on this analysis to say
the military is a peripheral or alienated institution." James
Burke, "The Military Presence in American Society, 1950-2000,"
in Feaver and Kohn, Soldiers and Civilians, p. 261.
15. See Peter Kilner,
"The Alleged Civil-Military Values Gap: Ideals vs. Standards,"
paper presented to the Joint Service Conference on Professional
Ethics, Washington, D.C., 25-26 January 2001.
16. The consequences
of adultery, substance abuse, failure to pay just debts, assault,
lying, and so on are readily apparent when seen from the perspective
of small combat units, composed principally of well-armed, aggressive
young men placed in situations of extreme stress.
17. David R. Segal
et al., "Attitudes of Entry-Level Enlisted Personnel: Pro-Military
and Politically Mainstreamed," in Feaver and Kohn, Soldiers
and Civilians, pp. 175-94.
18. James A. Davis,
"Attitudes and Opinions Among Senior Military Officers,"
in Feaver and Kohn, Soldiers and Civilians, p. 109.
19. Lance Betros,
"Political Partisanship and the Professional Military Ethic,"
paper submitted to the National War College, 4 May 2000, p. 23.
20. Former JCS Chairman
Admiral William Crowe led 22 other retired general and flag officers
in endorsing Governor Clinton during the 1992 presidential election
and was rewarded with appointment to the Court of St. James as US
Ambassador to Great Britain.
21. See Andrew Bacevich,
"Tradition Abandoned: America's Military in a New Era,"
The National Interest, No. 48 (Summer 1997), pp. 16-25.
22. Andrew Bacevich,
"Discord Still: Clinton and the Military," The Washington
Post, 3 January 1999, p. C1.
23. See Russell Weigley,
"The American Civil-Military Cultural Gap: A Historical Perspective,
Colonial Times to the Present," in Feaver and Kohn, Soldiers
and Civilians, p. 243; and Kohn, "The Erosion of Civilian Control,"
24. Harrison commanded
an infantry regiment in the Civil War while McKinley served as a
major; Arthur served briefly as a state quartermaster general during
the Civil War; Theodore Roosevelt won fame with the Rough Riders
in Cuba; Truman commanded an artillery battery in the First World
War; Kennedy won the Navy Cross as a PT boat skipper in World War
II; Johnson, Nixon, and Ford served as naval officers in World War
II; Carter was a submarine officer for eight years; Reagan served
as a public relations captain in World War II; George H. W. Bush
was the youngest pilot in the Navy when he was shot down in the
Pacific in World War II; and George W. Bush was an Air National
Guard fighter pilot.
25. In the Truman
Administration, "Ten military officers served as principal
departmental officers or ambassadors" (Morris Janowitz, The
Professional Soldier [New York, The Free Press, 1971], p. 379).
A partial list of senior officers who unsuccessfully sought high
political office includes General Curtis LeMay and Admiral James
Stockdale, failed vice-presidential candidates; General William
Westmoreland and Brigadier General Pete Dawkins lost Senate bids.
Others were more successful: former Army Chief of Staff George Marshall
served as both Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense; Lieutenant
General Bedell Smith was the first Director of Central Intelligence;
former JCS Chairman Maxwell Taylor became Ambassador to South Vietnam;
Admiral Stansfield Turner served as Director of Central Intelligence
under President Carter; former JCS Chairman Admiral William Crowe
was appointed Ambassador to Great Britain; former Commander, Pacific
Command, Admiral Joseph Prueher became Ambassador to China; former
Chief of Naval Operations Admiral James Watkins became Secretary
of Energy; Brigadier General Thomas White became Secretary of the
Army; and former JCS Chairman General Colin Powell is the current
Secretary of State.
26. Future two-term
President Ulysses S. Grant resigned his commission in disgrace before
the Civil War and owed his general's commission entirely to Congressman
Elihu Washburne of Illinois. William T. Sherman was relieved of
command early in the war and sent home; the remonstrations of his
brother, Senator John Sherman, both then and later were crucial
to his subsequent success. John J. Pershing's marriage in 1905 to
the daughter of Senator Francis E. Warren of Wyoming, the Chairman
of the Senate Military Affairs Committee, and the personal sponsorship
of President Theodore Roosevelt, was followed by his promotion from
captain to brigadier general, ahead of more than 800 officers on
the Army list.
27. In 1864 Generals
Fremont, Butler, and McClellan all posed active political threats
to Lincoln's reelection. George McClellan still commanded enormous
popularity in the Army of the Potomac and was favored to win the
presidential election; had Sherman not taken Atlanta, even Lincoln
believed that McClellan would likely win and would take the North
out of the war. McClellan owed his political position entirely to
his status as a senior military officer. See Carl Sandburg, Abraham
Lincoln: The War Years, Vol. III (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and
World, 1939), pp. 219, 222.
28. Russell Weigley
"American Military and The Principle of Civilian Control from
McClellan to Powell," The Journal of Military History, 57 (October
29. Because the Northern
armies consisted largely of federalized state volunteer units whose
state governors were vital to the war effort, and because of the
need to dispense patronage to ensure his continued political viability,
Lincoln freely, and perhaps unavoidably for the time, commissioned
political figures as general officers. A few, notably John Logan,
became successful battlefield commanders. Most, however, proved
notably unsuccessful and were removed or reassigned to other duties.
30. Huntington, p.
31. Leonard Wood,
Dewey, and MacArthur all nursed presidential aspirations and made
at least exploratory attempts to frame themselves as candidates.
Eisenhower resigned as Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, to run
for and win the presidency in 1952.
32. See Eliot A. Cohen,
Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen and Leadership in Wartime (New
York: The Free Press, 2002), p. 13.
33. John F. Reichart
and Steven R. Sturm, "Introductory Essay," Ch.8, "The
American Military: Professional and Ethical Issues," in American
Defense Policy, ed. John F. Reichart and Steven R. Sturm (Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins Press, 1982), p. 724.
34. Huntington, p.
35. Reichart and Sturm,
36. Jerome Slater,
"Military Officers and Politics I," in Reichart and Sturm,
American Defense Policy, p. 750.
37. In the decade
of the 1990s one Chief of Naval Operations was retired early following
the Tailhook scandal. His successor committed suicide, troubled
in part by persistent friction between senior naval officers and
civilian defense officials he could not assuage. One Chief of Staff
of the Air Force was relieved, and a Supreme Allied Commander in
Europe and another Air Force Chief of Staff were retired early.
38. The Army Chief of Staff's
testimony on the Crusader cancellation in 2002 and postwar occupation
policy in Iraq in 2003 are examples. See Robert Burns, "Rumsfeld
Set to Change Army Leadership," Associated Press, 26 April
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