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Civil-Military Relations and Shared Responsibility

A Four-Nation Study

Dale R. Herspring

Publication Year: 2013

Civil-Military Relations and Shared Responsibility considers the factors that allow some civilian and military organizations to operate more productively in a political context than others, bringing into comparative study for the first time the military organizations of the U.S., Russia, Germany, and Canada. Refuting the work of scholars such as Samuel P. Huntington and Michael C. Desch, Dale R. Herspring approaches civil-military relations from a new angle, military culture, arguing that the optimal form of civil-military relations is one of shared responsibility between the two groups. Herspring outlines eight factors that contribute to conditions that promote and support shared responsibility among civilian officials and the military, including such prerequisites as civilian leaders not interfering in the military's promotion process and civilian respect for military symbols and traditions. He uses these indicators in his comparative treatment of the U.S., Russian, German, and Canadian militaries. Civilian authorities are always in charge and the decision on how to treat the military is a civilian decision. However, Herspring argues, failure by civilians to respect military culture will antagonize senior military officials, who will feel less free to express their views, thus depriving senior civilian officials, most of whom have no military experience, of the expert advice of those most capable of assessing the far-reaching forms of violence. This issue of civilian respect for military culture and operations plays out in Herspring's country case studies. Scholars of civil-military relations will find much to debate in Herspring's framework, while students of civil-military and defense policy will appreciate Herspring's brief historical tour of each countries' post–World War II political and policy landscapes.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

Of all the books and articles I have written, this is indeed one of the most difficult. Attempting to compare four different polities, each with its own history and culture at times seemed like an overwhelming undertaking. Yet, it seemed to me that it was time to try to test at least one proposition on more than one country. I was lucky that I had already done extensive academic work on civilmilitary...

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1. A Conceptual Framework for Shared Responsibility

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pp. 1-14

The primary focus of the study of civil-military relations in established, mature, stable polities should not be political control, for political control in such systems is usually a given: officers in all four armies discussed in this book—Germany, Canada, Russia, and the U.S.—took an oath recognizing civilian supremacy. A more useful approach to understanding this special relationship...

I. United States

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2. From John F. Kennedy through Jimmy Carter

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pp. 17-41

During John F. Kennedy’s presidency, the U.S. military became involved in three major actions—the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Vietnam. Kennedy attempted to move toward a relationship of shared responsibility with the military, but for several reasons he did not achieve it. The main reason was Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s refusal to work with the...

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3. From Ronald Reagan through Barack Obama

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pp. 52-72

Despite continued policy differences and a sometimes rocky relationship, civil-military relations saw the emergence of shared responsibility in a number of cases, in particular under Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. Differences of opinion under these administrations were worked out in a congenial, if sometimes energetic fashion...

II. Germany

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4. From Konrad Adenauer through Willy Brandt

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pp. 75-102

Unlike the case in the United States, Russia, and Canada, civil-military relations in the Federal Republic of Germany started from scratch. There wasn’t a German army (Bundeswehr) prior to 1955. When the Germans created it, they not only had to build a structure, find qualified personnel, and obtain weapons, they had to break with Germany’s military past, especially...

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5. From Helmut Schmidt through Angela Merkel

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pp. 103-134

The period after 1974 witnessed a major shift in the focus of civil-military relations. While the issue of tradition gradually moved into the background, focus changed from that of staffing and outfitting a military prepared to face a mass onslaught by the Russians to an expeditionary military. That meant not only a change in psychology on the part of the military, but the construction...

III. Canada

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6. From Paul Hellyer through Pierre Trudeau

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pp. 137-175

One of the main themes underlying civil-military relations in Germany was fear of a resurgent armed forces that could represent a danger to the civilian population: in Canada the populace ignored the military and saw little use for it in the furtherance of national interests. For many Canadians, the armed forces were a unnecessary and expensive organization, useful only...

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7. From Brian Mulroney through Stephen Harper

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pp. 176-208

After fifteen years of the antimilitary Pierre Trudeau and the machinations of Defence Minister Paul Hellyer, the Canadian military was hopeful that the newly elected Conservative Brian Mulroney would be more supportive. At least, the armed forces believed he could not be worse than Trudeau or Hellyer had been. He was making some positive comments about the...

IV. Russia

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8. From Boris Yeltsin through Vladimir Putin

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pp. 211-241

The collapse of the USSR in 1991 ushered in a revolution in Russian civil-military relations. When Gorbachev came to power, he was willing to take on one of the country’s most sacred institutions—the Soviet Army, the organization that had saved the country from the German onslaught in World War II, and one of the most trusted and respected institutions in the country.1

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9. From Vladimir Putin through Dmitry Medvedev

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pp. 242-272

Putin understood military culture. He also made it clear that he was in charge, but he believed in attempting to create shared responsibility if possible. He had served as a KGB officer, which is structurally modeled on the armed forces. He knew the military mind differed from the civilian mind, and he understood that Yeltsin had violated just about every precept of military...

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10. The Search for Shared Responsibility

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pp. 273-294

It is now time to return to the questions posed in the introduction. The thesis of this work is that shared responsibility is the most desirable form of civil-military relations. In such a relationship, the civilians are in charge, and there is no question that their policies will be implemented. But the environment in which the decision-making process takes place has a profound impact...


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pp. 295-338


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pp. 339-349

E-ISBN-13: 9781421409290
E-ISBN-10: 1421409291
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421409283
Print-ISBN-10: 1421409283

Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2013