Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dale R. Herspring's "Civil-Military Relations and Shared Responsibility"

Dale R. Herspring is University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Political Science at Kansas State University. He is the author of numerous books, including Rumsfeld's Wars: The Arrogance of Power.

Herspring applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Civil-Military Relations and Shared Responsibility: A Four-Nation Study, and reported the following:
Page 99 deals with civil-military relations in Germany. In particular, it focuses on Helmut Schmidt's role in working to overcome the mistrust of the "Captains from Unna" vis-v-vis the political leadership. It also begins a new section on additional problems faced by the German military at that time.

This book takes issue with the approach advocated by analysts such as Samuel Huntington and Michael Desch who dichotomize civil-military relations. It argues that focus on political control in the four, stable countries analyzed in this book, misses the point. All four armed forces (the US, Canada, Germany and Russia) are under control. The officers of all polities accept civilian supremacy and took an oath of allegiance.

Since the civilians are always in charge, it is up to them to decide on the nature of the relationship. In those countries where the civilian leaders respect military culture, the relationship will be more positive and the military leaders will be more useful to civilians if they interact in a non-confrontational manner. Indeed, the optimal form of civil-military relations is one of shared responsibility between the two groups.

Failure on the part of the political leadership to respect the military leadership and its culture will antagonize senior military officials who will feel less free to express their views. Such a situation will deprive 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.
Learn more about Civil-Military Relations and Shared Responsibility at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue