Civil-Military Relations: Theoretical Explanation
Civil-military relations generally refer to the interactions between armed forces as institutions and the society they belong to. In terms of general definition, the democratic civil-military relations stand for the efficient management of security based on the principles of democracy as well as of the governmental agencies associated with the above mentioned field. Developed states, with a few exceptions have been able to maintain democratic civil-military relations, a system where civilian elites have the power of final decision making. However many third world states have failed to maintain civilian supremacy for longer periods. In these states, the military constitutes the most obvious power base. It is a force to reckon with more at home than abroad and is used widely by civilian and military elites to strengthen their position. Scholars and academicians all over the world have provided many theories which suggest the different ways by which democratic civil-military relations have been maintained in developed states and can also be applied in third world states for bringing civilian supremacy. Classical liberal thinkers like Huntington, Finer & Janowitz and modern democratic thinkers like Feaver & Schiff are the most prominent ones.
Huntington’s Liberal Approach: Civilian Control through professionalism
Liberal theory argues that the first priority of a democratic state is to protect the rights and liberties of individual citizens. This can be achieved by a social contract in which rule of law is supreme and all the citizens are bound by this contract. However, state has also to deal with those outside the community who are not party or bound by the contract.
In the international arena, there is still a state of nature in which conflict is uncontrolled. To retain its authority, the state must protect its citizens from these foreign threats, not least of all by means of an effective military establishment. It is crucial that the military be strong to protect the state in a conflict ridden world. Yet the military can not be left uncontrolled by the state. Free from state restraints, the military would pursue the objects of its own passions and pose an internal threat to sovereign power. Neither can the military be wholly dominated by the state-especially not a democratic state representative of civilian society-because then the military would be forced to follow the passions of the civilian elites controlling the state, and following these passions might sap military strength by distracting it from its purpose.
Samuel P. Huntington attempts to solve the dilemma by providing his theory of civilian control through professionalism. He has provided his model of “Objective Civilian Control” in which Civilian control is maintained through entrusting ‘professionalism’ in military corps. Civilians are entitled to dictate military security policy, but would leave the military elites free to determine what military operations were required to secure the policy objectives. The essence of objective civilian control is the recognition of autonomous military professionalism and independent military sphere.
Huntington distinguishes between a profession and other occupations by the presence of expertise and responsibility. Professionalism in armed forces sets definite limits to military political power without reference to the distribution to political power among the various civilian groups. A highly professional officer corps stands ready to carry out the wishes of any civilian group which secures legitimate authority within the state. Huntington argues that a high degree of civilian control can be achieved in the modern state only by a high degree of differentiation of military institutions from other social institutions and the creation of a thoroughly professional officer corps. A professional officer corps, he argues, is jealous of its own limited sphere of competence but recognizes its incompetence in matters that lie outside the professional military sphere and hence is willing to accept its role as a subordinate instrument of the state. The less professionalized the officer corps, on the other hand, the less differentiation there is between military and political roles and therefore the less justification for military obedience to political authority.
Many scholars have disputed this classical liberal theory that professionalism ensures the insulation of military from politics. Samuel E. Finer believes that professionalism infact could thrust the military into collision with civilian authorities, as military elites may see themselves as the servants of the state rather than of the government and also that armed forces may fall prey to ‘military syndicalism,’ the idea that as specialists only they have the qualification to make decision about defense. Abrahamson argues that excessive professionalism creates a powerful, military-social structure. In this structure, if there are differences between civilian and military values and objectives, civilian control over the military will be impaired. However, Huntington believes that professionalism entails the reorientation of the armed forces toward their rightful (external) missions, the elimination of overstaffing and non-military responsibilities and the conferring on the armed forces the status and the respect they deserve.
Janowitz’s Approach: Civilian control through Societal Control
Practical experiences suggest that too many armed forces that were deemed professional, not only by their own standards but also by external evaluation, have engaged in various endeavors of subverting civilian authority, including coups d’état. This is one major reason why the second chief protagonist in the debate of civil-military relations, Morris Janowitz understood civilian control in terms of societal control rather than state or institutional control. State or institutes play a secondary role as an extension of society, but “societal control measured in part as integration with society, was Janowitz’s normative and empirical focus.” He links the military intervention with internal characteristics of the military such as mission cohesiveness, skill, recruitment, organizational pattern and hierarchical structure. He believed that a military with ‘internally oriented mission,’ for instance was more likely to get involved in internal politics than a military with clear external role and orientation.
Janowitz believed that the main issue after World War-II was how to preserve the ideal of the citizen-soldier in an era when the changing nature of war no longer required mass participation in military service but did require the state to maintain a large standing force of professional soldiers. To this end, he argued for an explicit program in political education to connect professional military training to national and transnational purposes. He observed that changes in technology, society and mission had led to an inevitably more political role for the professional soldier than that suggested by Huntington. Janowitz contended that it was the professional socialization of the military through its relationship with and sympathy for the values of the society it serves that ensures civilian control over the armed forces. Where Huntington offers a static ideal type, Janowitz posits a dynamic professionalism changing with different sociological conditions. Janowitz admits of a politically aware officer corps with overlapping functions and expertise with civilian counterparts. Janowitz expands Huntington’s professional ethic to include “a sense of self esteem and moral worth,” but he still relies on it to secure civilian control.
Corporatism: Civilian control with limited military autonomy in economic sphere
Military corporatism is a modified form of military professionalism. A typical ‘corporate’ model of civil-military relations ascribes high value to military strength and expertise just like classical liberal model of professionalism. Unlike ‘professional’ model, the civil authorities have an obligation to tolerate the autonomous development of the military’s influence within the sphere of its corporate interests. The military elites in turn have to obey the civilian ones, because it is their duty to do so. It briefly means that military as a modern organization is collectively very professional and military elites have the capacity to influence political policies for organizational interests. In other words, it does not imply political neutrality that Huntington implies in his discussion of professionalism. Rather it implies an enlarged political role.
Eric A. Nordlinger argues that every public institution, whether it be the civil service, the legislature, the executive branch, the judiciary, the policy or even the armed forces is much concerned with the protection and enhancement of its own interests. These institutions perceive their interests in broadly similar ways. They all share an interest in adequate budgetary support autonomy in managing their internal affairs, the preservation of their responsibilities in the face of encroachments from the rival institutions, and the continuity of the institution itself. Civilian refusals to satisfy budgetary interests do not always engender strong interventionist motives. Interference in the internal matters of military almost invariably does so. Even minor trespasses upon the military reservation may be seen as attack on its corporate interests. Military autonomy excludes civilian government in shaping the educational and training curriculum, the assignment of officers to particular posts, the promotion of all but the most senior officers, and the formulation of defense strategies. Autonomy clearly excludes any attempt to penetrate the officer corps or the enlisted ranks through the introduction of political ideas or personnel.
Moskowitz classifies military corporateness into two forms. Substantive corporateness is direct and includes such critical issues as autonomy, cohesion and institutional continuity. It also posits a functional monopoly over areas requiring military expertise. Associative corporateness is indirect and addresses such issues as may be linked by group members to group corporateness. For e.g. the military’s desire to maintain control over captured territory may be tantamount to associative corporateness. Similar desire and corporate interests of Pakistan army in recent times were responsible for Kargil war with India. In the aggressive form of associative corporateness, military elites start believing that they are the final arbiter of all matters that affect military. This situation is dangerous for a democracy. Nowadays, in many countries such as Pakistan, El-Salvador and China, where militaries have strong resources base, they are growing into perhaps largest business houses in their respective countries. Corporatist civil-military relations include professionalism not only among military elites but also among civilians. Military is ready to keep its focus on its primary job of defense from external aggression if civilian elites respect its corporate interests and allow military elites, independence in some specific matters concerning military and society.
Traditional democratic theories, as embodied in the Huntingtonian and Janowitzean schools, explain changes in the civil-military relationships in terms of changes in broad exogenous factors such as the external threat, the nature of prevailing ideology within civilian society, and the extent of integration between the civilian and military elites. What is not well specified in traditional theory is an account of the micro foundations of the relationships, by which Peter D. Feaver means an account of the logic of the civil-military relationship itself through which any exogenous factor would have its predicted effect. Agency model provided by Feaver has its origins in micro-economics and tries to explain the strategic interaction between civilian principles and military agents. This principal agent type of civil-military relations begins with civilians seeking to trade off the advantages of specialization against disadvantages of agency. The advantages are that the military function can be preformed by experts, freeing the time and energy of civilian masters for other tasks. The disadvantages are the ones inherent in any political relationship: will my representative truly serve my best interests or will he exploit his position to pursue selfish goals?
The employer (Principal) would like to hire a diligent worker (agent), and once hired, would like to be certain that the employee is doing what he is supposed to be doing (working) and not doing something else (shirking). The employee of course, would like to be hired and so has an incentive to appeal more diligent during the interview than really is; this fact complicates the employees efforts to pick the sort of employee who will want to work hard, a phenomenon referred to as the adverse selection problem. Once hired, moreover, the employee has an incentive to do as little work as he can get away with all the while sending information back to the employer that suggests he is performing at an acceptable level; this fact complicates the employer’s efforts to keep taps on the employee and is called the moral hazard problem. The principal agent approach then analyzes how the principal can shape the relationship so as to ensure his employees are carrying out his wishes in the face of the adverse selection and moral hazard problems that attend any agency situation.
This theory holds that all principals want work to occur at minimum pay and agents want pay for minimum work, Feaver applies it in the case of civil-military relations as: Both parties would like to ensure that there is sufficient security for the state, but may differ on the means to obtain it. Shirking occurs when the military elite (agent) does not obey the civilian masters. The concept must be understood clearly; at the one end it can include military coups and on the other shirking consists of the agent trying to ensure its desired outcomes occur as opposed to those desired by the principal.
Feaver has suggested the means to prevent the situation of military intervention. He believes that with the civilian executive, monitoring the actions of military agents, the “armed servants” of the nation-state, there will remain no chance of coup. Military obedience is not automatic but depends on strategic calculations of whether civilian will catch and punish misbehavior. If principal (civilian elites) are able enough to do their supervisory act rightfully, there will be no chance for agents to disturb democratic civil-military relations. Feaver argues that although the delegative control is closely related to the Huntington’s objective civilian control, civilian do not always unreservedly support its ideal division of labour. Instead, they prefer to exercise direct supervision over the military, including supervision over military operations. Without completely undermining the professionalization of the officer corps, the assertive control preserves the institutional laws for division of labour, but in the framework of a conflictual pattern of civil-military relations. Feaver admits that agency theory is “Huntington in orientation”, and it preserves the civilian-military distinction which is even the basis of all the previous theories on civil-military relations.
All the theories discussed above highlight the physical and ideological separation of political and military institutions. Rebecca L. Schiff gives her alternate concordance theory and proposes that “three partners- the military, the political (civilian) elites, and the citizenry- should aim for a cooperative relationship” that does not require separation. Concordance theory highlights “dialogue, accommodation, and shared values or objectives among the military, the political elites, and society.” This theory suggests a high level of unity “between the military and other parts of society as one of several types of civil-military relationship which can establish and strengthen democracy in world. Rebecca believes that the ability of three partners involved to agree on four indicators, “the social composition of the officer corps, the political decision making process, recruitment method, and military style” is most important for successful implementation of concordance theory. Should concordance or agreement occur among the three partners with respect to the four indicators, domestic military intervention is less likely to occur.
Unlike Agency theory, concordance theory illustrates in the U.S. case, the Israeli case, the Indian case, and the Pakistani work. Another work shows the relevance of concordance in Argentina. This theory proves that distinction in civilian and military sphere is not the basis of civil-military relations theory. Concordance theory preserves the civil-military distinction, if that distinction is historically and culturally relevant to a particular country. If it is not relevant in a state, concordance theory can still explain why domestic military intervention does or does not occur in a nation.
There is more than one reason for establishment of certain type of civil-military relationship. Modern analysts have provided some unified theories that suggest summary variables of civil-military relations. Douglas Bland’s theory is one of the most important one. Bland suggested that there were four problems of democratic civil-military relations. The first is the problem of praetorianism, or military coups. The second problem is that of effective management of the military by civilian leadership. The third problem according to Bland is of protecting the military from the civilian politicians who want to use it for their partisan interests and fourth problem is of the lack of ability and experience in the ministers who have the responsibility to manage military. Bland also gives the ways to control the armed forces. He believes that, this can be achieved through, “sharing of responsibility for control between civilian leaders and military officers”. Specifically, civil authorities are responsible and accountable for some aspects of control and military officers are responsible and accountable for others.
All the theories given above provide various methods by which civil-military reforms can be initiated in newly dependent states where military elites are dominant partners in government. However, there are no commonly accepted standards by which to evaluate civilian control. In brief, the professionalization of military, societal control, respecting its corporate interests, better supervision and sharing of responsibilities are necessary steps required for establishing permanent democratic civil-military relationship in the country. The rule of law, civil liberty or stable methods for peaceful succession in power, workable practices for electing officials and a government and governing process that are legitimate in the eyes of both key elites and the general public are the main indicators of civil-military reforms and signs of civilian control over decision making process in a country. The integrated ministry of defense is a crucial locus of civilian control.
One of the major obstacles in democratization of civil and military elite relations is the negative role of the ruling elites in a state. Civil-military reforms cannot be affected if elites in power do not want it to happen for. Central European elites were more open to reforming their civil-military relations in democratic shape than were the elites in the former Soviet Union. Pakistan is the example of states where ruling elites in power generally do not show enough will to bring democracy in the state.
REFERENCES AND NOTES
James Burk, ‘Theories of Civil-Military Relations’, Armed Forces and Society, Vol. 29, No. 1 (2002), p. 10
Samuel P. Huntington, The soldier and the State ( London: Harvard University Press, 1981) pp.80-81
Ibid, pp. 83-84
Samuel E. Finer, The Man on Horseback: The Role of Military in Politics (Harmondosworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1976), p. 3
Bengat Abrahamson, Military Professionalism and Political Power (Bevery Hills: Sage Publications, 1972), p. 64
Samuel. P. Huntington, n. 5, p. 86
Morris Janowitz, The Professional Soldier: A Social and Political Portrait (Newport: Macmillan Publishing Co., inc., 1971),p.35
Morris Janowitz, ‘Civic Consciousness and Military Performance’, in Janowitz and Stephen D Wesbrook ed., The Political Education of Soldiers (Bevery Hills: Sage, 1983), p. 7
Janowitz, The Professional Solider, cited in, Peter D. Feaver, ‘The Civil-Military Problematique; Huntington, Janowitz, and the Question of Civilian Control’, Armed Forces and Society, Vol. 23 (1996), p. 149
Eric A. Nordlinger, Soldiers in Politics: Military Coups and Governments (NJ: Prentice Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, 1971), p. 65
Joseph H Moskowitz, Involvement in Politics: A Content Analysis of Civilian and Military Journals in Pakistan, France and Israel, p.14,cited in Kotera M Bhimaya, Civil-Military Relations : A Comparative study of India and Pakistan (Dissertation Published by RAND Graduate School,1997) p.11
Peter D. Feaver, ‘Crisis as Shirking: An Agency Theory Evolution of the Sourcing of American Civil-Military Relations’, Armed Forces and Society, Vol. 24 (1998), p. 408.
Ibid, p. 409
Peter D. Feaver, Armed Servants: Agency, Oversight and Civil Military Relations (England: Harvard University Press, 2003), p. 55.
Ibid, p. 59
Ibid, p. 388
Cited, T.D. Tagarev, The Role of Military Education in Harmonizing Civil Military Relations (The Bulgarian Case), NATO Democratic Institutions Individual Fellowship Project, Final Report, June, 1957
Peter D. Feaver, n. 44, p. 10
Rebecca L.Schiff, ‘Civil Military Relations Reconsidered: A Theory of Concordance’, Armed Forces and Society, Vol. 22, n. 1, (Fall 1995), p. 7
Ibid, p. 12
Ibid, p. 7
Ibid, p. 8
Rebecca L.Schiff, Concordance Theory: The Case of India and Pakistan, cited in, Rebecca L.Schiff, APSA Conference Paper, 2004: Chicago.
Douglas Bland, ‘A Unified Theory of Civil Military Relations’, Armed Forces and Society, Vol. 26, No. 1, (Fall, 1999), pp. 7-26