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Civil-Military Relations and Shared Responsibility

, 368 pages
April 2013



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Civil-Military Relations and Shared Responsibility

A Four-Nation Study

Dale R. Herspring 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, Civil-Military Relations and Shared Responsibility 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.

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 examines the 'shared responsibility' of civil-military relations in four different countries, offering the provocative conclusion that blame for bad relations often rests with civilians who fail to create the proper environment of respect. This ambitious book will engage specialists and generalists and will particularly appeal to military professionals."

"This incisive book is notable for two primary reasons. First, the comparative analysis of civil-military relations is both important and under-analyzed. Second, Dale Herspring is distinctly qualified to bridge the gap between the academic and policymaking environments as a former naval officer, State Department analyst, and respected professor. Highly recommended."

"This study is an important contribution to the field of civil-military relations. Herspring convincingly argues and shows through the experiences of four states that conflict between military and civilian elites, if it takes place within well-regulated parameters, is a normal, positive, and healthy ingredient of civil-military relations. His sensitivity to history, military culture, the armed forces in different contexts and his close understanding of the American, Canadian, German, and Russian military politics makes this a welcome addition to the literature."

"This book provides a road map to make sense of and explain the variantion, in these cases and for future research."

"Dale Herspring's book comes at a perfect moment as we are witnessing instances of 'healthy frictions' in American civil-military relations."

"A thorough tour of key civil-military relationships at play across these four disparate national studies awaits those eager to dive in."

"An ingenious in-depth analysis of shared responsibility in various cultural and historical contexts... A must read for both experienced scholars seeking a new perspective on civil-military relations and students who are just beginning to explore the topic."

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