Small Wars Journal

Civil-Military Relations: Theory and Practice

Civil-Military Relations: Theory and Practice, by Joseph Collins, is a review of American Civil-Military Relations: The Soldier and the State in a New Era edited by Suzanne C. Nielsen and Don M. Snider and Our Army: Soldiers, Politics, and American Civil-Military Relations by Jason K. Dempsey.

Civil-military relations are a hardy perennial in the study of politics, international relations, and interagency policymaking. In the Clinton era, we worried about a military too big for its camouflaged britches and a potential "crisis" in civil-military relations. Compounding the strife was statistical proof that the officer corps increasingly self-identified as Republicans. In the post-9/11 era, we worried about an overly reticent military leadership whose professional expertise was muffled by civilians, who allegedly micromanaged military plans and operations. Much of the recent analysis reads like a political version of People magazine with larger than life admirals and generals—Anthony Zinni, William Fallon, and David Petraeus, for example— jousting with cabinet officers and making "power plays." Retired officers have created their own controversies, endorsing political candidates and even calling for the resignation of cabinet officers. Often absent from these vivid articles are an analysis of the theoretical foundations of civil-military relations or accurate data on what the military actually thinks and believes. Two new books do a great job in filling in some of those blanks. Both books came from officers associated, as I was years ago, with the Department of Social Sciences at West Point. All three of the authors are from the Military Academy's "second graduating class," alumni officers who came back to teach at the Academy and then returned to the Army to reinforce its corps of Soldier-thinkers...

Much more at NDU Press.


Anonymous (not verified)

Sun, 08/22/2010 - 3:13pm

John, exactly what is your point in regards to the review? You are not very helpful here with just a blanket statement that more people should take a look at the U.S. Constitution. Most people here know it quite well.

John (not verified)

Sun, 08/22/2010 - 1:07pm

I just spent a few hours studying this in detail, and the document that eveyone seems to forget is the US Constitution. It tells you exactly what relationship exists between the our government and it's military. More people should take a look at the US Consitution; it is very much relevant today.