Mutual respect and shared responsibility are the keys to strong civil-military relations, according to a new book by a Kansas State University political scientist.
Dale Herspring, university distinguished professor of political science, offers a new approach to relationships between military members and civilians in “Civil-Military Relations and Shared Responsibility: A Four-Nation Study.”
It is Herspring’s 13th book and will be published April 26 by Johns Hopkins University Press.
The book is a four-nation study of military and civilian relationships in the U.S., Russia, Germany and Canada. Herspring has extensively researched the U.S., Russia and Germany, and focuses this book on civil-military relations after World War II.
“Nobody has ever tried to compare four countries using three languages and doing an in-depth analysis of each one of them,” Herspring said. The book is a “provocative approach to evaluating civil-military relations,” according to its description.
Herspring argues that shared responsibility is the best type of relationship between civilians and the military. He notes that in the past, there was a tendency to juxtapose the two groups.
“Generally the feeling is that the military is on one side and the civilians are on the other side,” Herspring said. “My argument is that trying to separate the civilian from the military makes no sense.”
Herspring saw firsthand what happened when the two groups are separated. He spent 23 years working for and supervising military officers in the U.S. State Department, worked two tours in the Pentagon and spent two years on the House Armed Services Committee. He served 33 years in the U.S. Navy, both on active and reserve duty.
“Rather than juxtaposing the two groups, the civilians are in charge,” Herspring said. “That is very clear. It’s up to the civilians to decide what kind of relationship they want.”
Herspring said the civilians determine the relationship based on how they treat the military. Civilians can ignore and pay no attention to the military, but military members and officials tend to remain quiet when they are ignored or disrespected.
As a result, senior military officials won’t voice their opinions and civilians deprive themselves of expert advice.
Civilians make better national security decisions when they respect military culture, Herspring said. In a respectful situation, generals and admirals feel free to offer their advice.
Military officials know that civilians will listen to them and consider their views, but still make their own decisions.
Even if the decisions go against military advice, the military officials will know that the civilians still listened to their views.
Although the military cultures are slightly different in each of the four countries, Herspring uses case studies to show that in situations where the military is respected, civil-military relations are smooth and the civilians receive solid advice.
“If you look at the leaders of these four countries, when they have respected the military and taken the military seriously, they have a very good relationship,” Herspring said.
“Civil-Military Relations and Shared Responsibility: A Four-Nation Study” will be available in bookstores and online.