July 22, 2024
There are multiple facets to the civil-military relationship. How the military interacts with the civil society, or other governmental agencies or the relationship between the military and the civilian authorities charged with the control and direction of the military are all very different. Alice Hunt Friend is in the virtual studio to discuss her specific area of expertise - the elite levels of leadership, the folks participating in the highest levels of the government. She joins podcast editor Ron Granieri to examine some of the misunderstandings that exist and what has to be done to correct them. Their conversation centers on the role of politics in the civ-mil relationship, and the mis-characterization of political versus partisan. And while we're on the topic, the U.S. Army War College is pleased to announce the creation of its new Civil-Military Relations Center(CMRC). The center was created to sponsor and promote the development of a healthy, sustainable relationship between the American military, society, and political leaders through education, research, and outreach. Go check out the website and see the publications, podcasts, events and conferences designed to develop leaders, advance knowledge and connect professionals. https://cmrc.armywarcollege.edu/

There are multiple facets to the civil-military relationship. How the military interacts with the civil society, or other governmental agencies or the relationship between the military and the civilian authorities charged with the control and direction of the military are all very different. Alice Hunt Friend is in the virtual studio to discuss her specific area of expertise – the elite levels of leadership, the folks participating in the highest levels of the government. She joins podcast editor Ron Granieri to examine some of the misunderstandings that exist and what has to be done to correct them. Their conversation centers on the role of politics in the civ-mil relationship, and the mis-characterization of political versus partisan.

And while we’re on the topic, the U.S. Army War College is pleased to announce the creation of its new Civil-Military Relations Center(CMRC). The center was created to sponsor and promote the development of a healthy, sustainable relationship between the American military, society, and political leaders through education, research, and outreach. Go check out the website and see the publications, podcasts, events and conferences designed to develop leaders, advance knowledge and connect professionals.

Your average American doesn’t know or think very much about civ-mil relations, so It’s not even a misunderstanding. It’s just a gap for them and to some extent you know I think that’s okay.

Alice Hunt Friend is Vice President for Research and Analysis at the Institute for Security and Technology. She is a defense policy expert and has served in several civilian roles at the Pentagon. Most recently, she was the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Deputy Secretary of Defense. She is an adjunct professor at American University, an instructor at Georgetown, and is working on a book project about civilians in civil-military relations.

Ron Granieri is an Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Army War College and the Editor of A BETTER PEACE.

The views expressed in this presentation are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Army War College, U.S. Army, or Department of Defense.

Photo Description: Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Oct. 3, 2017. Mattis testified alongside U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about the political and security situation in Afghanistan.

Photo Credit: DoD Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann

7 thoughts on “CIV-MIL RELATIONS: POLITICS YES, PARTISANSHIP NO

  1. In this podcast, the interviewee, Alice Hunt Friend, at about the 24:00 minute mark in this podcast, points to a suggested and/or acknowledged “thirty-year crisis in civilian-military relations.” From that such perspective, might we go back thirty or so years and see what changed? For example:

    1. About thirty or so years ago, the U.S. went from doing “containment” (of Soviet/communist forces seeking to “transform the world;” in their case, more along socialist and communist lines) to doing “expansion” (trying to “transform the world” ourselves; in our case, more along market-democracy lines):

    “ ‘The successor to a doctrine of containment must be a strategy of enlargement, enlargement of the world’s free community of market democracies,’ Mr. Lake (then-National Security Advisor to then-President Bill Clinton) said in a speech at the School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University. ”

    (Item in parenthesis above is mine. See the September 22, 1993 New York Times article “U.S. Vision of Foreign Policy Reversed” by Thomas L. Friedman.)

    2. Thus, about thirty or so years ago, the U.S./the West went from (a) working (both here at home and there abroad) more “by, with and through” the “natural enemies” of “change” (to wit: the more conservative/the more traditional/the more “no-change” and/or “reverse unwanted change” elements of the states and societies of the world — to halt communism) to (b) working (both here at home and there abroad) more “by, with and through” the “natural allies” of “change” (that is, the more liberal/the more progressive/the more “pro-change” elements of the states and societies of the world — to advance market-democracy).

    3. Note that while:

    a. In the 45 or so years of the Old Cold War of yesterday, the “conservatives”/the “traditionalist” — both here at home and there abroad — these folks would ultimately retain and/or gain power, influence and control; this, via our pursuit of our “containment” objectives back then,

    b. In the 30 or so years of the New/Reverse Cold War of today, the “conservatives”/the “traditionalist” — both here at home and there abroad — these folks would lose power, influence and control; this, via our pursuit of our “expansionist” objectives post-the Old Cold War.

    4. Thought/Question:

    a. If one is retaining and/or gaining power, influence and control, then one might enthusiastically support one’s military forces — engaged in achieving political objectives such as halting — communist-based — “revolutionary change.” However,

    b. If one is losing power, influence and control, then one might ultimately come to see one’s military forces as one’s enemy — this, if these such forces are engaged in achieving political objectives such as achieving — market-based — “revolutionary change.”

    (Thus, the origin of and/or the reason for the break-down in civil-military relations — that we have been concerned about for the last thirty or so years?)

    1. An example may prove useful here — of the threat posed to conservatives/to traditionalist by (a) the market and by (b) governments (and their militaries?) who are organized, ordered and oriented so as to achieve national security via same:

      “Capitalism is the most successful wealth-creating economic system that the world has ever known; no other system, as the distinguished economist Joseph Schumpeter pointed out, has benefited ‘the common people’ as much. Capitalism, he observed, creates wealth through advancing continuously to every higher levels of productivity and technological sophistication; this process requires that the ‘old’ be destroyed before the ‘new’ can take over. … This process of ‘creative destruction’ to use Schumpeter’s term, produces many winners but also many losers, at least in the short term, and poses a serious threat to traditional social values, beliefs, and institutions.”

      (See the book “The Challenge of the Global Capitalism: The World Economy in the 21st Century,” by Robert Gilpin; therein, see the very first page, of the very first chapter — the Introduction chapter.)

      Note that:

      a. During the Old Cold War of yesterday — the most serious threat to traditional social values, beliefs, and institutions — throughout the world — this came from communism, not markets.

      Today, however — and as in the days before the Old Cold War — the most serious threat to traditional social values, beliefs and institutions, this once again comes from (a) markets and from (b) governments (and their militaries?) who are organized, ordered and oriented so as to achieve national security via same.

      1. With regard to the “what happened” question that try to I take on above — this, re: “thirty-year crisis in civilian-military relations” noted in our podcast here — consider the following possibly related/supporting matters. In this case, provided from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law paper entitled “Moral Communities or a Market State: The Supreme Court’s Vision of the Police Power in the Age of Globalization” by Antonio F. Perez and Robert J. Delahunty:

        First, to see the understanding of what it would take to achieve national security in the post-Cold War era:

        “Proponents of this vision of a globalized economy characterize the United States as ‘a giant corporation locked in a fierce competitive struggle with other nations for economic survival,’ so that ‘the central task of the federal government’ is ‘to increase the international competitiveness of the American economy.’ ”

        (See the paragraph beginning “We agree with Bobbitt …” on Page 643 of the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law paper I reference above.)

        Next — in this such “economic competition” context — to see how (a) such things as the achievement of “diversity, equity and inclusion,” this (b) came to viewed as being essential the U.S. national security post-the Old Cold War:

        “Major American business have made clear that the skills needed in today’s increasingly global marketplace can only be developed through exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints. What is more, high-raking retired officers and civilian leaders of the United States military assert that, ‘based on their decades of experience,’ a ‘highly qualified, racially diverse officer corps … is essential to the military’s ability to fulfill its principle mission to provide national security.”

        (U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner being quoted here. See beginning at the bottom of Page 698 of the referenced paper above.)

        Conclusion:

        As we all know now, both (a) American businesses and (b) America’s military are in the “conservatives’ “/the “traditionalists’ ” “cross-hairs” today; this, specifically as relates to such things as “diversity, equity and inclusion.”

        This begs the question: Is it “partisanship” (which is often concerned more with group security than with national security) — or “politics” (which must push “partisanship” aside; this, so as to achieve national security) — that is “in play” here?

        (Something that interviewee Alice Hunt Friend, and interviewer Ron Granieri, suggest — near the end of the podcast above — that the SecDef, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Service Chiefs must sit down and honestly and honorably discuss these days.)

  2. Something that I did not discuss, in my comments above, this is the manner in which the U.S./the West’s foreign competitors/opponents/enemies may have contributed to (a) our partisan politics problems post-the Old Cold War and, thus, to (b) our civil-military relations problems since then also. Let me try to rectify this:

    As I noted in my first comment above, post-the Old Cold War, the U.S./the West moved out smartly to try to do what the Soviets/the communists had tried to do earlier; that is, to “transform the world.” (In our case, both here at home and there abroad, so as to better provide for market-democracy.)

    This put the U.S./the West, post-the Old Cold War, “at odds” — both here at home and there abroad — with the more conservative/the more traditional elements of the states and societies of the world. (This, much as the Soviets/the communists, re: their “revolutionary change” political objectives in the Old Cold War of yesterday, came to be “at odds” with these exact same more conservative/more traditional groups.)

    In the Old Cold War of yesterday — re: the U.S./the West’s “containment” and “roll back” (of communism) strategies back then — the U.S./the West sought to (a) capitalize on these such “at odds” problems of the Soviets/the communists; this, by (b) working more “by, with and through” these such “no change” and/or “reverse realized but unwanted change” elements.

    In the New/Reverse Cold War of today, however, now it is the U.S./the West’s competitors/our opponents/our enemies — re: now THEIR “containment” and “roll back” (of market-democracy) strategies — who seek to (a) capitalize on these such “at odds” problems of, in the case, the U.S./the West; this, by (b) working more “by, with and through” contemporary “no change” and/or “reverse realized but unwanted change” elements:

    “Compounding it all, Russia’s dictator has achieved all of this while creating sympathy in elements of the Right that mirrors the sympathy the Soviet Union achieved in elements of the Left. In other words, Putin is expanding Russian power and influence while mounting a cultural critique that resonates with some American audiences, casting himself as a defender of Christian civilization against Islam and the godless, decadent West.”

    (See the “National Review” item entitled: “How Russia Wins” by David French)

    “Liberal democratic societies have, in the past few decades, undergone a series of revolutionary changes in their social and political life, which are not to the taste of all their citizens. For many of those, who might be called social conservatives, Russia has become a more agreeable society, at least in principle, than those they live in. Communist Westerners used to speak of the Soviet Union as the pioneer society of a brighter future for all. Now, the rightwing nationalists of Europe and North America admire Russia and its leader for cleaving to the past.”

    (See “The American Interest” article “The Reality of Russian Soft Power” by John Lloyd and Daria Litinova.)

    Question:

    In the New/Reverse Cold War of today, has this such “let’s get revenge on the U.S./the West” effort by the U.S./the West’s competitors (etc.) — which only becomes possible due to the U.S./the West’s “let’s transform the world ourselves” post-Cold War initiative — has this (a) contributed significantly to the U.S./the West’s partisan politics problems post-the Old Cold War and, thereby, (b) contributed significantly to our current civil-military relations problems during this period also?

  3. Consider the matters that I present in my comments above — re: partisan politics problems and related civil-military relations problems — from the following — overall — perspective:

    1. Post-the Old Cold War, the U.S./the West came to see such things as national security; this, more in “economic competition” terms.

    2. The U.S./the West then determined that pursuing such things as “diversity, equity and inclusion” — in our business and military operations — this would be essential to our “winning” in these such “economic competition” circumstances.

    3. Based on this such thesis, the U.S./the West determined that the concerns of the more conservative/the more traditional elements of the states and societies of the world — to include those such elements here at home in the U.S./the West — these would need to be sacrificed; this, in the name of economic competition and, thus, sacrificed in the name of national security.

    4. The more conservative/the more traditional elements of the states and societies of the world — understanding, thus, that they were now existentially threatened — realized that the only way that they might overcome their such dilemma, this was by becoming an existential national security threat themselves — one of equal to or greater concern than “economic competition.”

    5. With the help of foreign nations such as Russia and China, this goal — of the more conservative/the more traditional elements of the states and societies of the world — has now been realized.

    6. Thus, the partisan politics and civil-military relations problems that the U.S./the West — and the other states and societies of the world who see/saw national security, post-the Old Cold War, more in “economic competition” terms — are experiencing today?

    (These such problems, one might suggest, are not unique to today — and, indeed, are “as old as the hills” — for example, as the following item from Andrew Jackson’s time might indicate:

    “Jacksonians drew their support from Northern laborers and yeoman farmers in the South and in the West. These groups, which Jackson dubbed the ‘bone and sinew of America,’ worried that the market economy would force them into the dependent class. The Jacksonians told the farmers and the laborers that they would do everything in their power to prevent this from taking place. In essence, the men and their rank and file voting allies, along with Jackson, fought a rear-guard action against encroaching industrialization and market economy. Although they won the pivotal battles, they lost the war, because their notion of a pre-capitalist agrarian society succumbed to the industrial economy after the Civil War.”

    [See the ‘Encyclopedia of U.S. Political History’ by Andrew Robertson, et al., and, therein, the section entitled ‘Jacksonian Democracy,’ at Page 194.)]

    Bottom Line Thought — Based on the Above:

    Thus:

    a. The problems which were common to nations seeing national security more in “economic competition” terms prior to the Old Cold War,

    b. Now these such problems have become common to the nations seeing national security more in “economic competition” terms post-the Old Cold War.

    1. Question — re: the matters that I present in my “summing up” comment immediately above:

      With the more conservative elements of the U.S./the West (with the help of such great powers as Russia and China) now causing their revolt against market-based “change” to threaten the U.S./the West; this, at the same level as — or indeed more-gravely than — “economic competition;”

      By way of these such efforts by our more conservative elements and their foreign helpers, has the U.S./the West, now indeed, become LESS able to compete on the “economic competition” playing field?

      If the answer here is “yes,” then this is an amazing strategic “win” for such nations as Russia and China; who — minus this such course of events — would have had a much harder time competing against [a] a U.S./the West that had [b] achieved its desired — market-based — revolutionary changes.

      (Something for civilian and military leadership to honestly and honorably discuss today?)

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