Perceived Social and Cultural Gaps: Views of Senior Canadian Forces Officers

Article excerpt

This article explores the perceptions of differences and similarities between the military and civilian cultures, based on an analysis of survey responses from a purposive sample of 168 senior Canadian Forces (CF) officers. The study is set within the context of change initiated within the military institution to make it more responsive to Canadian government policy, and more sensitive to value and norm changes within the host society. Perceptions of military and civilian values, military and civilian culture, and perceptions of the relationship between military and civilian authorities were examined in this study. Some evidence of social and cultural gaps is suggested by the findings. In particular, a majority of this sample of military officers misperceive public sentiment and support for the military as less positive than it actually is, identify as military responsibilities some of the roles that are more appropriately the prerogatives of the government and politicians, and tend to see military values as morally superior to those of civilian society. These findings suggest areas of potential friction in civil-military relations, as well as pointing to the importance of obtaining multiple perspectives on issues as complex as modern civil-military relations. Suggestions for officer orientation and for continued research in the area of civil-military relations are offered.

INTRODUCTION

Civil-Military Relations

Since the end of the Cold War, civil-military relations has become an important topic of re-examination and debate among military analysts in both liberal-democratic societies of the West and those attempting to establish democratic regimes elsewhere (Bland, 1999a; Cottey, Edmunds & Forster, 2002; Burk, 2002). Part of civil-military relations includes relationships of the military to its host society and to governments/politicians, and has long been an issue of interest to social scientists, especially political scientists and sociologists. The clearest early statements of this relationship were those of political scientist Samuel Huntington (1957) and sociologist Morris Janowitz (1971), both of whom based most of their observations on the United States (U.S.) military profession in the conscription era. In conceptual writings that are well known among scholars of armed forces and society, Huntington saw the military as being set quite apart from its host society on a number of dimensions. He argued that this was as it should be, if the military was to effectively address its mission and perform its major professional role: that is, defend the nation through the management and execution of large-scale violence when legitimately called upon to do so. Huntington depicted civil and military spheres as separate areas of activity. A military profession that regarded its role strictly in military terms and was conservative in its social values, beliefs and attitudes, would remain a politically neutral arm of government, and thus would be more amenable to political direction and civilian control.

Janowitz (1971), on the other hand, saw the military institution as deeply embedded in its host society and dependent on it to effectively perform its responsibilities--though its unique mission rendered it somewhat different from other societal institutions and organizations. However, it had to reflect the values and the sensibilities of liberal-democratic society, if it was to enjoy legitimacy and support from the citizenry. What this meant was that the military was to be adaptive to external change, which, indeed, Janowitz documented in The Professional Soldier (1971). This included broadening the social base of the military profession and the ascendance of dominant leadership and managerial models more in keeping with those of a democratic, technologically progressive society. Janowitz viewed the military in much broader terms than just a warfighting machine and the profession as just a group of conservative "heroic warriors", insulated from the rest of society. …