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From War Managers to Soldier Diplomats

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From War Managers to Soldier Diplomats

The Coming Revolution in Civil Military Relations

by Dr. Tony Corn, Small Wars Journal

From War Managers to Soldier Diplomats (Full PDF Article)

The irrelevance of International Relations theory to the conduct of foreign policy has received renewed attention since 9/11. Though lamented by a few, this state of affairs has been on the whole lauded by a profession by now unreflexively committed to evaluating the degree of originality" of any academic research on one criteria only: its degree of policy irrelevance.

Much less has been written on the irrelevance of civil-military relations theory for the conduct of military policy -- and for a good reason: outside of military circles, few people are even aware of the existence of this obscure sub-field which has been an intellectual backwater for the past generation. If you like the proverbial insularity of IR theory, you have to love the intellectual in-breeding permeating a field cultivated by two dozen practitioners mono-maniacally obsessed with the civilian control of the military," and who keep plowing their ever-shrinking plot seemingly unaware of the law of diminishing returns.

In the academic pecking order, specialists of civil-military relations rank toward the bottom - somewhere between sports sciences and gender studies; yet, over the years, this little-known academic tribe has managed to yield a disproportionate influence on military culture through its role in the equally little-known domain of professional military education (PME).

From War Managers to Soldier Diplomats (Full PDF Article)

About the Author(s)


Surferbeetle (not verified)

Fri, 07/03/2009 - 10:27pm

Dr. Corn displays a nimble mind, and both an impressive breadth and depth of understanding of the subject he presents upon: Civil-Military Relations. Its an important subject and I thank him for taking the time to write a quality paper and include footnotes so that we can follow his thinking. I too am of the opinion that an important component of our education occurs during our journey through life as we are exposed to situations, ideas, and experiences outside of the schoolhouse and I am thankful for the opportunity to learn from the various authors and posters here at SWJ.

Dr. Corn asks many questions in the course of this paper but two stand out for me:
1) How to increase the literacy of the officer corps while continuing to prevent political partisanship.
2) What to think and what to do about the emergence of a large peacetime military establishment utterly alien to the American Liberal Tradition, and how to avoid the twin pitfalls of the Organization Man and the Garrison State.
Dr. Corn also makes a statement worth examining more closely:
But just like, in the past decade, the NCO has become the tri-athlete leader of the Three-Block War, the commissioned officer should strive, in the next decade, to become the tri-athlete leader of the so-called Three-D Approach (Defense, Development, Diplomacy).

Acknowledging the limitations of the space I will limit myself to four brief comments. An apolitical military allows it, for the most part, to remain impervious to the corrosive effects political partisanship has upon our nation. A military comprised of a majority of citizen-soldiers tends to temper any inclinations towards Organization Man and Garrison State. A military comprised of a majority of citizen-soldiers brings the benefits of exposure to situations, ideas, and experiences outside of the military umbrella, which are of distinct benefit, and dare I say advantage, when fighting the Three-Block War via the Three-D Approach. Finally, a career ladder which includes time spent in service to the nation outside the military proper lends itself to a certain vantage point on Civil-Military Relations that would be of benefit to our nation in its various wars. I say these things as a veteran of RA, ARNG, and USAR Military service as well as Civil Service.

Steve the Planner

Mon, 07/20/2009 - 4:35pm

This business of soldier-diplomats is really troublesome and bewildering.

No dispute that any military leader must have political, organizational and military skills, but, isn't the deeper question, especially for COIN types, how, when and whether the military should be engaged in civilian and diplomatic roles, and, if so, to do what?

Certainly, as the State Department "reflags" hundreds of soldiers as supposed diplomats, as it is now doing, the question logically arises as to whether our current state of diplomacy, and diplomatic tools, was adequate for the problems of today's world.

If the weakness was actually in the diplomatic sphere, how is militarizing the State Department going to bring any real solutions? Was there something about Iraq that demonstrated that either the military or diplomats had any genuine solutions---or is this just a pointless exercise in the two parties stuck in the same lifeboat uniting to get through a storm?

Certainly, diplomatic weaknesses brought the US military to Iraq, and substantially contributed to mounting problems that led to the unfortunate "Exits" (multiple deployments, confusing missions, loss of domestic support, weaknesses in mental health readiness, etc.)

Having gotten there, and been fully immersed in the problems (dunked, actually), the military had no choice but to find some way to tackle the civil issues---even if they were too far out of their competency/training sphere. But, the solution, by no means, evidences a success strategy, nor suggests that military education should be brought to the fore of the civilian/diplomatic sphere.

They only became quasi-diplomats/civilian managers because they had to. And the results (including billions in waste, fraud, etc.) are, at best, an example of necessity, not optimization.

Now, against a backdrop of failed diplomacy and no useful diplomatic tools, misunderstandings caused by COIN are increasingly leading the wrong people to believe that, by COIN, a military-based solution exists for many more problems around the World for which COIN can serve as a solution---since our diplomacy and diplomatic tools are in such disarray.

Certainly, we should send ushers to the military exit doors if we have reached that level of bewilderment---to help keep the droves of exiters moving smoothly through.

Thanks to Dr. Corn for writing this important article since it asks and implies important questions that should be more explicitly answered.