Episode 10, Season 1 of the Social Science of War podcast is the final episode of the season and examines civil-military relations and partisanship within the armed forces.
The conversation begins with a discussion on Samuel Huntington’s concept of objective control—a model of civil-military relations taught widely in US professional military education, which the guests have multiple critiques of. It continues to explore topics such as partisanship in the military, what role service members should play in public discourse, and how to establish oversight over a military that is widely regarded as one of the most trusted institutions in American society. As a central takeaway for both scholars and practitioners, our guests concur that military leaders should be politically aware but apolitical as an optimal approach to civil-military relations.
Dan Helmer is a delegate in the Virginia House of Delegates, an Army lieutenant colonel with tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and South Korea, and an instructor in the Department of Social Sciences at West Point. He is a graduate of West Point and earned his master’s degree at the University of Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship.
Major Michael Robinson is an active duty US Army officer with service in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Balkans. He is a recent assistant professor in the Department of Social Sciences at West Point, and today’s conversation is motivated by his book, based on his PhD research at Stanford University and titled Dangerous Instrument: Political Polarization and US Civil-Military Relations.
Dr. Kori Schake is the director of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. She has served in the State Department, in the Defense Department, and on the National Security Council, has authored five books, and has held multiple academic positions, to include as the distinguished chair of international security studies in the Department of Social Sciences at West Point. She has multiple publications on civil-military relations, including a book she coedited, with General Jim Mattis, titled Warriors and Citizens: American View of Our Military.
The Social Science of War podcast is produced by the Department of Social Sciences at West Point. Visit our website if you would like to be a student or teach in the department, or if you would like to connect with any of our instructors based on their expertise.
Kyle Atwell created and is the host of the Social Science of War. Please reach out to Kyle with any questions about this episode or the Science of War podcast in general.
Image credit: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kathryn E. Holm, US Navy
As a potential "root cause" for the problems we see today, consider the following:
1. About thirty or so years ago, the U.S. went from (a) doing “containment” (of Soviet/communist forces seeking to “transform the world;” in their case, more along socialist and communist lines) to (b) doing “expansion” (i.e., 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 “revolutionary 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 "revolutionary" communism back then — to
b. Working (both here at home and there abroad) more “by, with and through” the “natural allies” of “revolutionary 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 today.
3. Note that while:
a. In the 45 or so years of the Old Cold War of yesterday, the “conservatives”/the “traditionalist” — those both here at home and there abroad — these folks (because we needed them so badly back then) would ultimately RETAIN AND/OR GAIN 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” — those both here at home and there abroad — these folks (because they now stand in the way of market-democracy-required/national security-required "revolutionary change") have LOST lost power, influence and control; this, due to our pursuit of our “expansionist”/our "transformative" objectives post-the Old Cold War.
4. Thought — Based on the Above:
a. If one is RETAINING AND/OR GAINING power, influence and control (as was the case with the conservatives/the traditionalists during the Old Cold War of yesterday), then one might enthusiastically support one’s military forces — who is engaged in achieving political objectives such as HALTING — communist-based in this case — “revolutionary change.” However,
b. If one is LOSING power, influence and control (as is the case with the conservatives/the traditionalists in the New/Reverse Cold War of today), then one might ultimately come to see one’s military forces as one’s enemy — this, given that this military is engaged in achieving political objectives such as ACHIEVING — market-based/national security-based and required "revolutionary change.”
(Thus, the "root cause" of the break-down in civil-military during the last thirty of so years?)
To support the "root cause" thesis that I provide above, consider the following possibly related/supporting matters — in this case, provided by 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:
a. First, to see the market-based "revolutionary change" requirements — needed 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 (a) how such things as the achievement of “diversity, equity and inclusion,” these (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.”
(See U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner comments — beginning at the bottom of Page 698 of the referenced paper above.)
Is this helpful?
Note that — from the perspective I provide above — one can see how the conservatives/the traditionalists today might come to see both the American military — and major American business — as their sworn enemy today?
The following information — also from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law paper that I reference above — this information, also, may prove useful and enlightening. In this instance, see from the bottom of Page 702 — to the middle of Page 704 — of this referenced paper:
" 'Grutter' reflects the Court's deference to elite concerns in yet another way: not so much in forming a national elite that possesses 'legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry' as in meeting the business needs created by competition in 'today's increasingly global marketplace.' The Court seems to have accepted the elite judgement that in order to remain vigorously competitive in the international arena, American business must select its leadership cadres from the entire range of racial and ethnic backgrounds found with the Nation's population, so that the increased diversity within those cadres would at least roughly match the diverse population of the 'global marketplace' at large. Elite formation would still be conducted in terms of 'merit'-based selection principles, but 'merit' would now be defined in terms of competitive advantage in an expanded, more thoroughly globalized, market. Thus, affirmation action, understood and applied in this manner, has fundamentally different goals from the Court's Cold War-era project of desegregation. Desegregation (back then) served the needs of a Nation State that was attempting to be 'the provider and guarantor of [individual] equality.' In large part, desegregation (back in the Old Cold War) was an effort to assimilate minorities into the dominant national group, thus forging a national people that could meet the external Communist enemy with a united front, and so denying that enemy any opportunity to exploit potentially dangerous rifts within the Nation. Affirmative action, as upheld in Grutter, is also thought to serve the Nation's strategic needs, but in an international environment that is markedly different from the Cold War. No longer does the Court feel a need to foster a national unity that transcends racial consciousness or to further the assimilation of racial minorities. Such strategic needs have passed, together with the passing of the Cold War's chief external threat. Thus the 'Grutter' Court could view the prospect of multiculturalism with equanimity despite the fact that, as Bobbitt correctly perceives, multiculturalism makes it 'increasingly difficult' for a Nation State 'to get consensus on public-order problems and the maintenance of rule-based legal action.' Rather than regarding the rise of multiculturalism as a liability that had the potential to weaken or even fracture the Nation, the court saw it as an asset to be exploited for all the advantages it could bring American businesses in their international transactions. And again, race-conscious governmental action is viewed through the prism of its usefulness, not its morality." (Items in parenthesis above are mine.)
Question — Based on the Above:
Do we believe that America's government (including the U.S. Supreme Court noted above), America's businesses and America's military — while ALL being aligned and ALL having good, great and indeed intelligence reasons and intentions for their actions discussed above (to provide for America's national security in an age of "economic competition") — these folks, indeed, may have made a grave mistake; this, in not considering how:
a. Doing a "180" re: such things as diversity and multiculturalism after the Old Cold War (see the quoted items I provide in the quoted matter above), this,
b. Indeed would lead to "dangerous rifts within the Nation" which — indeed — could and would be "exploited by our enemies" (such as Russia)?
From the information that I provide above, one can we see how — in the eyes of not just America's but indeed the world's conservatives/ traditionalists today — America's government, America's businesses and America's military ALL may be seen as being their (the world's conservatives/traditionalists) most dangerous enemy; this, given that America's government, American businesses and America's military ALL now seem to see American national security more in "economic competition" terms.
Terms, thus, which require that America must:
a. Move out smartly to embrace of such things as "diversity, equity and inclusion" and to, accordingly,
b. Stand hard against and defeat those who embrace such things as "primitive"/"outdated"/"backward"/"obstructing" less-diverse, less-equal, less-inclusive (i.e., "traditional") social values, beliefs and institutions.
As noted in the quoted items provided below, these such "modernizing" requirements — so as to achieve and/or to maintain national security in "economic competition" times — these seem to be a perennial feature of history — at least since the dawn of modern capitalism in the 18th Century:
"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 first page of the Introduction chapter to Robert Gilpin's “The Challenge of the Global Capitalism: The World Economy in the 21st Century.”)
"All in all, the 1980s and 1990s (and, indeed, the 2000s and 2010s also — this book was written in 2000) were a Hayekian moment, when his once untimely liberalism came to be seen as timely. The intensification of market competition, internally and within each nation, created a more innovative and dynamic brand of capitalism. That in turn gave rise to a new chorus of laments that, as we have seen, have recurred since the eighteenth century: Community was breaking down; traditional ways of life were being destroyed; identities were thrown into question; solidarity was being undermined; egoism unleashed; wealth made conspicuous amid new inequality; philistinism was triumphant.” (Item in parenthesis above is mine. See Jerry Z. Muller's book "The Mind and The Market: Capitalism in Western Thought;" therein, see the chapter on Friedrich Hayek.)
This begs the question: In earlier and similar times (example: America's mid-19th Century?):
a. Did the requirements of "economic competition" (and, thus, the requirements of political, economic, social and value "change" demanded by same),
b. Did these cause a similar crisis in American civil-government relations, in American civil-business relations and in American civil-military relations?
(Herein — then as now — America's government, America's businesses and America's military ALL being aligned in their determination to achieve such "revolutionary" political, economic, social and value "changes" as were/are needed — this, so as maintain America's national security in "economic competition" times?)