Civil Military Relations Thesis

Pages: 8 (2314 words)  ·  Style: Chicago  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Military

Civil-Military Relations

Civil military relations are an important subject of discussion in almost every state. However it is even more crucial in countries undergoing transition to democracy and countries plagued by years of military rule. Armies have a strong hold on politics of all societies, they represent the ultimate defense of a state and stand as the symbol of their sovereignty, they are the upholders of discipline, honor and patriotism and, uniquely in most states, and not only do they possess arms, they also can effectively employ the same. With this immense power, military's involvement in country's politics becomes inevitable. Civil military relations can thus be defined as:

Civil-military relations involve a multiplicity of relationships between military men, institutions, and interests, on the one hand, and diverse and often conflicting nonmilitary men, institutions, and interests on the other... The relation between the armed forces as a whole and society as a whole... The relation between the leadership of the armed forces (the officer corps) as an elite group and other elite groups... and... The relation between the commanders of the armed forces and the top political leaders of society -- it is the foundation of the management of the use of armed force and the armed forces.

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With this monopoly over the country's defense, sometimes military can pose a threat to the very society they preserve. This is the dilemma of civil military relations as Samuel Finer says:

Instead of asking why the military engage in politics, we ought surely to ask why they ever do otherwise. For at first sight the political advantages of the military vis-a-vis other civilian groupings are overwhelming. The military possess vastly superior organization. And they possess arms.

Thesis on Civil Military Relations Assignment

Military's relations with the civil society are not something new. It has been a subject of debate since nation-states came into being as almost two millennia ago, philosopher Sun Tzu said: 'Generals are assistants of the nation...when their assistance is complete, the country is strong. When their assistance is defective, the country is weak'; and 'the ordinary rule for use of military force is for the military command to receive the orders from the civilian authorities, then to gather and mass the troops, quartering them together'. And when this is under discussion, we cannot ignore the most important name i.e. Niccolo Machiavelli. He was the first person to fully comprehend the nature of military-civil relations and said: 'the chief foundations of all states, new as well as old or composite, are good laws and good arms; and as there cannot be good laws where the state is not well armed, it follows that where they are well armed they have good laws'.

Thinkers on the subject have tried to explain the relation through war and combat aspect.

Nineteenth-century Prussian luminary Carl von Clausewitz said: 'War is nothing but a continuation of political intercourse, with a mixture of other means', and this dictum has been the well-spring for most civil-military relations theory. Clausewitz felt that war was both autonomous and instrumental. 'Is not War merely another kind of writing and language for political thoughts? It has certainly a grammar of its own, but its logic is not peculiar to itself.'

If war is both autonomous and instrumental, the same can be said of warriors: military officers must possess autonomy in the sense that they be permitted to perfect their martial expertise independently of civilian interference; but they remain instrumental in the sense that the determination of the ends to which their expertise is employed is not within their remit. On this point Clausewitz was clear:

As Wars are in reality, they are, as we before said, only the expressions or manifestations of policy itself. The subordination of the political point-of-view to the military would be contrary to common sense, for policy has declared the War; it is the intelligent faculty, War only the instrument, and not the reverse. The subordination of the military point-of-view to the political is, therefore, the only thing which is possible.

Samuel Finer pointed out three ways in which military can come into conflict with the civilians:

The military may often confuse itself with the servants of the public instead of seeing themselves as someone in power 'which may lead them to contrast the national community as a continuing corporation with the temporary incumbents in office'.

The armed forces may become victim to the false notion that they are the only ones qualified enough to make decisions in connection with defense of the country.

The military may refuse to take on the role of real civilian leadership considering itself the defenders of the nation only.

During 1980s many influential nations began the process of transition from military to civilian rule. Countries including Greece, Portugal, Spain, Latin and South America gradually began giving up military regimes to relinquish power in favor of civilian politicians. This resulted in the generation of vast body of literature and some well-known theorists studied the different arenas of military influence in society:

civil society, where 'manifold social movements...and civic organizations...attempt to constitute themselves in an ensemble of arrangements so that they can express themselves and advance their interests...';

political society, where the 'polity specifically arranges itself for political contestation to gain control over public power and the state apparatus', which encompasses political parties, political leadership, intra-party alliances and legislatures, 'through which civil society can constitute itself politically to select and monitor democratic government...'; and the state, the 'continuous administrative, legal, bureaucratic and coercive system that attempts not only to manage the state apparatus but to structure relations between civil and public power and to structure many crucial relationships within civil and political society'.

Within the scope of civil society, he wrote, it is extremely important to forge new 'political institutions that have increased strength, autonomy, and legitimacy'. Civil society must work toward building at least a few civilian institutes as repositories of capable, independent advice to government on defense matters so that there is cadre of citizens who are masters in their knowledge of the force structure, organizational style, budgetary issues, doctrinal questions and the specific details of weapons systems... [they are] indispensable for the fulfillment of the military and intelligence oversight functions of political society, especially in the legislative branch.

With all this, we still need to understand that civilians and military needs to build a relationship where civilians decide the extent to which military would be given leverage in country's affairs. Legislatures must ensure that there is a system of oversight that would help in overseeing functions of the army.

It is often felt that state must limit the scope of military decision-making to only the military sphere. If the military and the state disagree on their conception of democracy and the legitimate role of the military in it, then the new regime must either impose its view, or abdicate certain areas of government to the military. If it takes the latter option, it will have undermined its legitimacy and, therefore, its long-term viability.

Negotiation of the scope of the military's role in politics in a new democracy requires a careful, but forceful executive who plays the role of persuader and directs his attention to building 'professional, not personal, allies within the military'.

Many communist regimes and developed democracies seem to have somehow achieved the balance, having built professional militaries of enormous size, sophistication, and strength that still submit to civilian authority. Latin America states have not been so lucky. Leaders there face militaries that have questioned their political authority or, worse still, undermined it. For these countries, civilian control of the military often seems like an elusive goal.

However elusive, civilian control is a subject that neither Latin American leaders nor scholars can easily ignore. The development, quality, and survival of democratic systems depend on governments making the armed forces their political servants and policy instruments rather than the other way around. Elected leaders cannot credibly claim to have represented popular will if they are held hostage to the will of non-elected men in uniform. Without the authority to set their own course of action, free from military constraints, threats, or vetoes, politicians and the institutions they serve may ultimately fall prey to deep public cynicism, which in turn could fuel doubts about the very legitimacy of the democratic regime. When democracies become discredited, they are most vulnerable to the designs of power-thirsty generals.

Latin America is one region where many examples of transitions can be found. The state of civil military affairs in this region is rather unsteady and the progress has been slow. It is found that with every step forward, the region meets a setback that puts it two steps back. Overall, there has been little progress in the process of transition. In 1960s, there was not much found on the subject as Edwin Lieuwen said in 1960 that "on the subject of militarism in Latin America, no important books have yet appeared." Lieuwen's own book, Arms and Politics in Latin America (1960), were… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Civil Military Relations" Thesis in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Civil Military Relations.  (2008, August 22).  Retrieved May 11, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Civil Military Relations."  22 August 2008.  Web.  11 May 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Civil Military Relations."  August 22, 2008.  Accessed May 11, 2021.