This Week’s Mtg: A Crisis In Civilian-Military Relations?

This may seem like an obscure and even outdated topic.  Haven’t relations between civilians and the armed forces been pretty good since the dark days of Vietnam?  Well, yes and no.  Yes in that an all-volunteer force and the military’s professionalism have helped to improve civ-mil relations from their early 1970s nadir.  However, as Fred will discuss (his idea), in many ways, civilian-military relations are in crisis.  To me, the crisis has two aspects.

First, there is a growing cultural and political divide between the tiny share of the population that populates the military, and the vast bulk of Americans who do not.  Our military – especially the army — is drawn from a narrow segment of the population: From the working class south and minorities.  These volunteers bring their culture with them, a culture that tends to be conservative, rural, and often evangelical and fundamentalist.  Further, military culture itself often compounds those differences and leads to service members feeling alienated from the larger culture, and vice versa.

Second, full civilian control of the military is at risk.  ** Ignore the flashing Lefty propaganda alert! ** This is a real issue and serious people are worried whether a president can have complete authority over the military anymore.  U.S. history is chock full of instances of the military brass chafdfing under civilian leadership, including in the 1950s and 1960s.  As the links below show, our recent wars have seen a resurgence of this problem: The Balkan wars, and especially Iraq and Afghanistan.  Remember, we are in the middle of two of the longest wars in American history: Afghanistan is in its 11th year, and Iraq in 8th!  The long and intractable nature of these conflicts alone has placed enormous strains on civ-mil relations.


I’m looking forward to Fred’s take on this.


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