Readings on civil-military relations

Last month I posted a reading list on civil-military relations on the Smart Power Blog that is now cross posted here. 

Civil-Military Relations 

The importance of understanding and establishing “proper” civil-military relations can’t be understated both at home and in the troubled regions. The relationship between civilian and military leaderships dictates and is dictated by the freedom of the people. This relationship, in a democracy especially, is special and paramount and yet too many do not understand or get it.

Why post on this? It is important to understand civil-military relations in an age where people:

  • Question whether public diplomacy and the management and projection of America’s image should be owned by the military
  • Conflate military and civilian decision making
  • Do not understand why the military accepts “bad” orders

The list above could go on, but I’ll stop and hope you add your own reasons in the comment section.

Below is a brief list of suggested resources to help understand the nature of US civil-military relations:

  • Warriors and Politicians is an excellent book that looks at the unique c-m relationship in the United States. Charlie examines how the military, under dual / dueling masters of the Executive and Legislative branches, developed over the two plus centuries after the Revolution and within parameters established by Founding Fathers, many of whom were military veterans, were wary of a standing army. (Also worthwhile is his more detailed discussion about US Secretaries of Defense in SecDef.)
  • Issues of Democracy: a 1997 US Information Agency (USIA) publication on the importance of civil-military relations in democracy.
  • Center for Civil-Military Relations: it is noteworthy that it is the military itself that dedicates substantial resources to understanding the importance of civil-military relations while the civilian educational system fails to teach the same. (Note the forthcoming book on the CCMR site, Reforming Intelligence, is about Intel and not the military per se.)
  • The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012: published in 1992 and revised over the years, Charles Dunlap’s original portrayal of what happens when the US military decides to protect American society is scary. Turkey’s military is known for intervening over the years to protect Kamalism and I’ve heard some in the US question why the US military doesn’t do the same. Read this to understand the importance of a subordinate military.
  • H.R. McMaster’s Dereliction of Duty : Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam (a valuable read. McMaster is one of the new whiz kids working with Petraeus in Iraq)

If you really want to go academic, then the following will round out the essential reading list:

2 thoughts on “Readings on civil-military relations

  1. Andy Bacevich’s “The New American Militarism” is a good peek at the many unforseen problems caused by the post-Vietnam era reforms initiated by the military. Excellent for pinpointing transgressions by Reagan, Clinton, Clark, Powell, etc.

Comments are closed.