GOVT-677 Civil-Military Relations
Fall for 2017-2018
The purpose of this course is to help students gain a better understanding of civil-military relationships, from both a theoretical and policy perspective. The proper balance between the armed forces and the civilian political leadership is a key feature of modern politics. The study of civil-military relations addresses a simple puzzle: can a society have a military strong enough to protect its citizens, yet not so strong as to ignore or subvert civilian direction? After all, a military that is strong enough to defend the state from its external enemies is also strong enough to seize power so as to rule for itself. How do you have a strong military capability without being swallowed by it?
The course begins with the classical theories of civil-military relations and then applies them to a variety of regimes (democracies, authoritarian states, and developing countries) to see whether civil-military relations as planned in constitutions, pacts, and other foundational structures is actually how it plays out in practice. In this course, we will examine the variety of ways that the civil-military relationship can vary – how political leaders, societies, and military organizations interact, and how their cultures overlap and diverge. We will explore how this relationship can matter for important political outcomes, such as coups, regime change, democratization, military policy, decisions about use of force in crises and war, military effectiveness and innovation, and defense transformation. The course will also study past and current controversies, and develop awareness of issues that remain unsettled, such as the “civil-military gap” in the United States, civil-military challenges in 21st Century military operations, and the privatization of security. The course will focus primarily on the U.S. case, but the theoretical frameworks covered have broad application to other countries, and students will write papers that apply these theories to civil-military relations in one country.
Other academic years
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