National Review July 14, 2003

Supreme Command
By Mackubin Thomas Owens Armed Servants: Agency, Oversight, And Civil-Military Relations, By Peter D. Feaver (Harvard, 381 pp., $49.95) During the 1990s, a number of events suggested that all was not well with civil-military relations in America. The media played up stories about alleged sexual harassment in the military, about military attitudes toward Bill Clinton's fitness to serve as commander in chief, and about heated debates on the military's role in the post-Cold War world. There is no question that civil-military relations during the 1990s were contentious, characterized by mutual suspicion and misunderstanding. But why had things gotten so bad? Some believed the tensions were a temporary phenomenon, attributable to the perceived anti-military character of the Clinton administration. But others expressed concern that the problems went deeper. Peter Feaver's excellent new book, Armed Servants, sheds muchneeded light on civil-military relations in the U.S.; indeed, it may come to supplant Samuel Huntington's classic 1957 study of American civilmilitary relations, The Soldier and the State. Armed Servants should be read not only by academic specialists in national security, but also by military professionals -- it will change the way they think about these issues. In the social sciences, a good theory must accomplish, at a minimum, three things. It must be empirical, i.e., it must describe reality, accounting for the most relevant phenomena. It must possess a certain predictive quality -- able to successfully predict that under such and such conditions, the following will occur. And finally, it should serve as a normative guide for the prescription of policy. Huntington's theory fell short in the first two areas; and Feaver helps fill in the blanks. The central issue of civil-military relations is civilian control. In order to ensure its security, society delegates the use of force to a subgroup within society. How does society ensure that this subgroup does what it is supposed to do, without turning on society itself? If the military is weakened in order to ensure that it will not turn on society, it may face defeat on the battlefield. If the military is given everything it needs to ensure that it will prevail on the battlefield, it may be in a position to

civil authorities grant a professional officer corps autonomy in the realm of military affairs. the constitutional structure of the U. civilians did not adopt the objective control mechanism" that Huntington himself claimed was so important. the U. Feaver argues that." Huntington contrasted this vision with a worst-case scenario he called "subjective control": the systematic violation of the autonomy necessary for a professional military. On one hand." Furthermore. there is always the possibility that the military will simply not obey the civilian authorities. Huntington argued that forcing the military to defer to civilians in the military realm would lead to failure on the battlefield. and so -.Feaver argues -. Huntington argued that the Soviet threat meant that the U." which was originally developed by economists to analyze the relations between principals and the agents to whom they delegate authority.launch a coup. prevailed in the Cold War despite the fact that it did not abandon liberalism: "The evidence shows that American society as a whole almost certainly became even more individualistic and more antistatist than when Huntington warned of the dangers of liberalism in 1957. unless the "ideological constant" of liberalism changed. Huntington's theory fails to fit the available evidence. it doesn't fit the evidence of the Cold War. His main empirical claim was that civil-military relations were shaped by three variables: the external threat. during the Cold War. the U. The key to this approach is military professionalism." through the politicization of the officer corps. "According to many of the indicators Huntington cited as critical. Feaver turns to "agency theory. For some five decades now. the military became more "civilianized. "a highly professional officer corps stands ready to carry out the wishes of any civilian group which secures legitimate authority within the state.S. and the ideology of liberalism. and civilians habitually intruded into the military realm. would need to maintain a large military establishment for a long time.. To begin with. as elegant as Huntington's theory is.S. On the other. . This requires a bargain between civilians and soldiers.S. but that the other two variables stood as obstacles to the necessary allocation of resources for defense.S. But even short of a coup.another theory is required. To provide such an alternative. Huntington's primary prescriptive contribution was to identify a way to meet the Soviet threat without giving up civilian control. Huntington's theory has dominated this field. he called his approach "objective control" of the military by civilians. This objective control simultaneously maximized military effectiveness and efficiency on one hand and subordination of the military to civilian authority on the other. would not be secure.

The cost of intrusive monitoring went down. Huntington's "objective control" corresponds to pattern 3. And Feaver contends that pattern 1 is actually the one that corresponds most closely to the reality of the Cold War: Civilians monitored intrusively. 2) civilians monitor intrusively. politically savvy general. and 4) civilians monitor unintrusively. The agent's incentives are affected by the likelihood that his shirking will be detected by the principal and that he will then be punished for it: The less intrusive the monitoring. the creation of a powerful chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by Congress in 1986. the less intrusive the monitoring is likely to be. the personal history of President Clinton. military works. Feaver says four general patterns are possible: 1) civilians monitor intrusively. but it also includes foot-dragging and leaks to the press designed to undercut policy or individual policymakers. the 1990s were characterized by pattern 2: Civilians monitored intrusively. military shirks.or shirking? The major question for the principal is the extent to which he will monitor the agent. but the preferences of civilian and military elites diverged in many important . and "subjective control" to pattern 1. and the occupation of this office by a popular. military works. Of critical importance. a growing gap between civilian and military elites. military worked. Huntington's theory predicts that this outcome will occur when a number of conditions are met -. how does a principal ensure that the agent is doing what the principal wants him to do? Is the agent working -. 3) civilians monitor unintrusively. But the phenomenon is no less harmful in the military than shirking is among civilians.The problem that agency theory seeks to analyze is this: Given different incentives. Feaver explains the post-Cold War "crisis" in civil-military relations in a way that integrates a number of events of the 1990s: the end of the Cold War. military shirks. the less likely it is that the agent's shirking will be detected.one of which is that the military thinks the likelihood of punishment for shirking is fairly high. was the firing of a popular military hero (MacArthur) by an unpopular president (Truman): This dramatic action shaped the expectations of the military concerning the likelihood of punishment for shirking during the rest of the Cold War period. Feaver argues that as a result of these developments. The most obvious form of military shirking is disobedience. Colin Powell. military shirked. Will monitoring be intrusive or non-intrusive? This decision depends on the cost of monitoring: The higher the cost. says Feaver. Feaver acknowledges the unsuitability of the term "shirking" when describing the action of the military agent when it pursues its own preferences rather than those of the civilian principal.

Let civilian voters punish civilian leaders for wrong decisions." Feaver concludes. Let the military advise against foolish adventures. But let the military execute those orders faithfully.the civilian principals were in a relatively weakened position vis-a-vis their military agents." After all. "Even when the military is right. "democratic theory intervenes and insists that it submit to the civilian leadership that the polity has chosen. the expectation of punishment for shirking decreased as a result of the election of Clinton. Finally. whose equivocal relationship with the military made punishment unlikely. the claim that the military should not do what civilians want because what they want is bad for the country shapes the rhetoric of every coup leader who justifies his seizure of power. Thanks to the presence of a powerful and popular military leader in General Powell -and an absence of consensus on security affairs across the executive and legislative branches -. Feaver's book is an invaluable contribution to a proper understanding of the issues at stake. The republic would be better served even by foolish working than by enlightened shirking.increasing incentives for the military to pursue its own preferences. even advising strenuously when circumstances demand. .ways -.

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