American Civil-Military Relations: New Issues, Enduring Problems

  • April 01, 1995
  • Dr Douglas V Johnson II, Dr Steven Metz

The authors were invited to prepare a paper for a conference on Civil-Military Relations in the fall, 1994. That paper was translated into an article for the Winter, 1995 edition of The Washington Quarterly under the title "Civil-Military Relations in the United States: The State of the Debate." Although the intensity of interest in this subject has fallen from the front pages of the newspapers, the authors have here suggested that the debate needs to continue and that it should start with identification of the right questions. The basic issues are inherent in the structure and beliefs of American political society, but the questions may be changing as the nature of that society and the manner in which it talks to itself and what it sees its responsibilities to be are also changing. While the authors do not see a current crisis in the relationship, they attempt to explain many of the basic features of that relationship, providing some of its history along the way. They have pointed out several conditions which put the relationship under particular strain and suggest that the Secretary of Defense is, by virtue of several institutional peculiarities, at the nexus of the relationship. It is the author's intent that this study lead to sustained debate within the military and civilian policy-making communities.