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Military & Politics

Military & Politics

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Published by Jacobin Parcelle
Encyclopedia Series OF Conflict, War, and Peace : Military & Politics
Encyclopedia Series OF Conflict, War, and Peace : Military & Politics

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Published by: Jacobin Parcelle on Feb 17, 2009
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Military and Politics
Virtually all nations have some form of military forcefor protection against external foes, for internationalprestige, and often to maintain internal order. Therelationship between a nation’s political life and itsmilitaryisafundamentalandenduringproblemwhichmay be understood as a matter of managing theboundary between them. Civil authorities desire tocontrol the military; but, militaries are more effectivewhen they are professionalized, which requires sub-stantial autonomy and minimal civilian penetrationinto their internal operations (Wilensky 1964).
1. C
ilian Control of the Military
The scale of the problem of relations between militaryand politics differs between modern democracies andless well developed and differentiated societies (see
).Instabledemocraticregimes,widelyacceptedpoliticalnorms and formal institutional mechanisms serve tomaintain the boundary (see
Political Culture
). Hist-orically, standing militaries have been viewed ascontributingtotyrannybecauseoftheexpenseoftheirmaintenance. In modern times they gain politicalinfluence through symbiotic relationships with theprivate enterprises that produce their weapons syst-ems—the ‘military–industrial complex’ that formerUnitedStatesPresidentEisenhowerwarnedagainst in1961.Within democracies, institutions of civilian controlincludeconstitutional,legal,andadministrativemech-anisms such as military budgets and establishments,civilian confirmation of officer commissions, appoint-ment of top military officials by civilian authorities,andprohibitionsonmilitaryemploymentfordomesticproblems.Evenpowerfulandpopularmilitaryofficerswhoexceedexisting boundariesmayberemoved fromtheir positions by their civilian superiors, as when, inApril 1951, US President Harry Truman summarilyrelieved General Douglas MacArthur.Professional,full-timemilitary,consistsofmemberswhodevotealloftheirtimetotheirduties,minimizingconflicts of interest. In some regimes, civilian author-itiesworryaboutmilitarieswithacapacitytocompetewith their authority. In both communist and fascistregimes, specialized political officers have been em-ployed within military units with lines of authorityparallel to military commanders as a means of en-suring the latter’s compliance with regime dictates.However, such institutions are not effective absentan underlying foundation of well-developed andwidelyacceptednormsinthebroaderpoliticalculture,which may take centuries to develop (Landau 1971).Political norms include general acceptance of militarysubordination to civilian authorities and specific pro-hibitions on serving officers engaging in politicalactivities such as legislative lobbying or standing forelected or appointed office. These norms constituteessentially a social contract about the roles andfunctionsofcivilandmilitaryauthorities,respectively.The exact character of this contract tends to berenegotiated over time.In democratic regimes, such as Britain, a pattern of norms developed over centuries in which both civilianand military bureaucracies were subordinated to thecontrol of Parliament. In the United States, rep-resentative political institutions were constitutionallyestablished before any other, with the result thatcontrol of the military by civilian authority has neverbeen at issue, nor has the legitimacy of representativeinstitutions relative to the military (see
Public Bureau
). In developing nations, representative poli-tical institutions may still have to compete with themilitary for legitimacy (Stepan 1971).Development of separate and effective institutionsfor domestic law enforcement and state militias,combined with firmly established political normsallowing employment of militias internally only inextreme circumstances of natural disaster or civilunrest, have reduced pressures to use military forcesinternally.9857
Military and Politics
2. Military Participation in Politics
Indeveloping nations,themilitary,because it tendstobesociallyconservative,istypicallythebestorganizedofinstitutions,andcontrolslethalforce,hasbeenbothmotivated and able to act as an independent politicalfactor.Ithassupersededcivilauthorityby
coup d’etat
,influencedpublicpolicybythreatofintervention,beenusedasan instrumentofterror.Ithas madesuccessfulclaims for special privileges, such as special stores andfacilities,achievedlargebudgetallocations,orachieveddirect military control of economic enterprises as informer communist regimes.Whenanation’smilitaryisdominatedbyparticularethnic or racial groups, or by geographic regions, theprobability increases that it will be used in internalpolitical conflicts, or for repression of certain ethnicgroups,aseventsduring1999inIndonesiaconcerningEast Timor have shown. Only occasionally has themilitary acted to facilitate the establishment or res-torationofdemocracyinsuchnations(see
).FollowingWorldWarII,becausetheperceivedroleof the German and Japanese militaries in causing thewar, and of their role in supporting authoritarianregimes, the Allies deemed it of utmost importance todemilitarize both nations, including constitutionalproscriptions against the use of offensive militaryforce. Efforts by western democratic states to profes-sionalize the militaries of developing nations in LatinAmerica, Africa, and Asia have been only partiallysuccessful given the military’s role in internal politicalcontrol(O’DonnellandSchmitter 1986).Itremainstobe seen whether analogous western efforts to assistformer Soviet-bloc militaries to adjust to existence indemocratic states will provemore fruitful (Linz 1996).
3. Autonomy for the Military
The military also benefits from well-defined bound-aries between it and civilian politics. When militariesare relatively insulated from civilian intrusion intopromotion and assignment to duty they have provenmore effective (Chisholm 2000). To the extent thatmilitaries are perceived by their civil societies to beprofessional organizations whose members are en-gagedinservicetotheirnationsandarenotprincipallymechanisms for patronage, nepotism, and informalwelfare, militaries are accorded a relatively higherstatus (Janowitz 1960).The use of force is usually considered at three levelsof analysis: strategic, operational, and tactical. Civ-ilian leadership typically takes responsibility for thestrategiclevelofdecision, advised by themilitary. Themere presence of military capability may indirectlyinfluence decisions by civilian leaders about strategy.In 1999, for example, NATO found it politicallyfeasible to intervene militarily in Kosovo because thesophistication of its air forces promised militaryeffectiveness with low risk of casualties. Disputesbetween civilian leaders and military officers mostoften occur at the operational level of decision. Themilitaryisusuallyprimarilyresponsibleforthetacticallevel. In recent years, with dramatic improvements incommunications capacities, civilian leaders have be-come increasingly involved in operational level deci-sions, and even in tactical decisions, such as theill-fated US effort in 1976 to rescue the crew of themerchant ship
from their Cambodian cap-tors.Where civilian leaders have heeded their profes-sionalmilitaryofficersonquestionsconcerningtheuseof force, ill-advised adventures and misuse of themilitary have been less likely. As the technology of warfarehasbecomemorecomplex,theneedforexpertmilitaryadvicetociviliandecisionmakershasbecomemore acute. Civilian leaders have not always shownthemselvescapableofseekingadvice,orlisteningtoit,orunderstandingit.Ironically,seniormilitaryofficialsarefrequentlylesspronetouseforcethantheirciviliancounterparts. Changes in warfare have also effectivelydoomedthehastilythrowntogethercitizenarmyasaneffective means of national defense and created press-ure for standing militaries.
4. Interpenetration of Military and Politics
Established boundaries do not mean impermeablebarriers,however.Historically,therehasbeenconcernthat a military set completely apart from civil societymight prove dangerous to the latter. In the latenineteenth century the United States Navy reliedpredominatelyoncitizensfromothercountriestostaff its ships, and sailors were considered social pariahs tobe excluded from polite society, while officers weredrawn disproportionately from higher social strata.Both factors contributed to separation of that servicefrom American civil life (Karsten 1972).Universal conscription has lessened such separ-ation, as have reserve officer training programs incivilian universities, both of which create a regularflow of individuals in and out of the military. This atonce increases civilian influence on the professionalmilitary, enhances civilian understanding of the mili-tary,andprovidesmechanismsbywhichmilitariescanexpand and contract in response to external threats.Ironically, it also increases the potential political costof military actions, as the United States found withVietnam, and Russia discovered in its Chechen en-deavors during the 1990s, in which parents of con-scripts pressured the government to end the action.Development of smaller, all-volunteer, career mili-taries runs counter to this historical trend, and to theextent that in the generations following World War IIfewer top civilian leaders in western nations haveperformed military service, trust between civilian and9858
Military and Politics

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