Democratic Control of the Military in Postcommunist Europe: Guarding the Guards by Andrew Cottey, Timothy Edmunds, and Anthony Forster (eds.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. (pp. 273/$75.00 [cloth])
The Challenge of Military Reform in Postcommunist Europe: Building Professional Armed Forces by Anthony Forster, Timothy Edmunds, and Andrew Cottey (eds.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. (pp. 260/$69.95 [cloth])
Soldiers and Societies in Postcommunist Europe: Legitimacy and Change by Anthony Forster, Timothy Edmunds, and Andrew Cottey (eds). New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. (pp. 264/$69.95 [cloth])
It is a real rarity in the scholarly literature on civil-military relations to find a comprehensive, comparative and well-focused series of studies as is the case with these three books. Each volume centers on one important aspect of a vastly neglected topic of "transitional" civil-military relations in post-communist Europe, i.e., democratic control of the military, professionalization, and wider military-society relations. The excellence of these books lies in the fact that they take into consideration virtually all significant aspects of the relationships among actors in the security/defense sphere.
The case studies are grouped in geographic clusters - i.e., Central Europe, the Baltic States, South Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union making the volumes more coherent and consequently the overall conclusions well reasoned. Every volume deals with the same group of countries, which in the end results in highly valuable findings about trends and tendencies in the transformation of security/defense spheres in the formerly communist part of Europe. At the same time, students of any of these particular subregions get a very useful and updated picture of regional developments. The selection of countries as well as contributors enabled the editors to offer a comprehensive analysis that transcends national studies and contrasts favorably with so-called comparative studies that end up in a mechanical collection of various experiences with no attempt at analyzing diversity and common features.
In the glut of hurriedly collected essays whose sole purpose is to address a topical issue, this series, with its systematic approach, well-grounded methodology and carefully selected case studies, emerges as unique. All chapters were written according to finely worked-out outlines derived from reliable theoretical concepts of transformation expounded in the introductory chapters to each volume. Unlike many similar edited volumes, this series forms a compact yet comprehensive contribution to the topic. They not only bring many new facts to attention, but also place them in a unified and interesting perspective on the roles and missions the "new militaries" play in their respective countries.
The teamwork, based on a defined methodology, theoretical framework and careful guidance, has obviously developed a network of knowledgeable and reliable authors that could serve them well in the future and serve as a model for collaborative research. The editors deserve commendation for their welcome attempt to involve a number of high-quality local researchers from the countries under consideration, thus providing them with room for presenting non-Western scholarly achievements. This approach, accompanied by meticulous editing, results in a series that will not soon fall into oblivion, as so often happens.
Given its complexity and lack of responsiveness to quick reforms, the military-society nexus is not very popular in the policy community, where it is tackled if at all in a cursory rather than comprehensive manner. By default, the military-society complex is primarily a concern of scholars and researchers. The complexity of sociological analysis may be discouraging for those who advocate or have to implement any concrete project designed to strengthen democratic oversight of the security sector. However, whether the projects focus on the legal or political aspects of the problem, the "interventionists" cannot overlook the fact that their projects are conducted in a given social milieu with which it is necessary to be familiar. Currently, a strange division of labor prevails, in which the policy community's "field operations" design mousetraps without any idea of what the mice look like, while the academic community is left to analyse the social fabric and cope with the "monster."
The editors and contributors to this series provide useful reading material not only for their academic colleagues, but even more so for the policy community. These books aim at identifying the patterns and dynamics as well as the factors that determine the shape of civil-military relations in a historically new situation - a unique intellectual challenge both for the students of these developments and those who are supposed to work within these circumstances. The contributors - all respected military sociologists and political scientists provided very up-to-date analyses, while the editors successfully pieced the puzzles together.
The current state of affairs in some countries of Central and Eastern Europe, as the books clearly indicate, supplies not only well-grounded hopes but also evidence of successful democracy-building and Euro-integration. Many others are still a long way from these positive developments. Obviously, one can easily identify "underachievers" among the countries of Southeastern Europe (let alone would-be-states and para-states) and those on the territory of the former Soviet Union that have gone, or are still going, through violent conflicts or post-conflict reconstruction. The policy community (indeed the so-called international community as a whole) has been constantly losing sight of the need for understanding the conflict it is trying to "manage." Likewise, the academic community has failed to differentiate between military-society relations in post-communist and in (currently or formerly) conflicted societies. Even in these books, some authors overlook the roots of the (not necessarily violent) conflict in their societies. The concept of "Otherness" is hardly tackled, let alone the controversy of ethnic-military relations, even in the context of the debate on military legitimacy. Some scholars are unconsciously giving proof that their societies are looking towards the future by turning to the old national traditions and military myths.
In this context, it is interesting to examine the existing debate on legitimacy and change, which boils down to two issues: 1) the degree to which the military is linked to the society from which it springs; and 2) the ways in which changing international, technological and societal environments are altering military-society linkages. Legitimacy is taken as a core aspect of that complex relationship. While the mainstream debate is constantly exposed to reconsiderations and criticism, there is evidently a lack of interest in reformulating these questions so as to make them match the key aspects of postconflict societies. In that light, the issues might be formulated in the following way: 1) why are such strong legitimacy and trust placed in security (particularly, military) institutions by their societies; and 2) what is the impact of war/conflict on military-society relationships? Intrastate conflict can be seen as a primary factor in shaping military-society relations through influences that strongly distort the impact of other factors relevant in peacetime situations. Intrastate conflicts emerge from and deeply penetrate the society. Their logic does not permit the regular military structures to remain immune. The reason for this is that "resolution" of the basic contradictions usually comes about by violent means, which brings the military into the societal conflict formation process. In sum, the military is never part of the solution - it is rather part of the problem. Thus, it is not enough to consider the attitudes and behaviour of the security structures. Proper handling of intrastate conflict calls for tackling the problem of the roots and forms of violence, whose final expression is the military organization (in whatever form it may exist) and the purpose of its activities.
Civil-military relations are a never-ending story and an enduring subject of interest for the theory and practice of democracy. The simplest answer, which has become an intrinsic democratic principle, is that democratically elected civilian politicians, i.e., legitimate representatives of the society, have supreme decision-making power, while the military (which mirrors the societal complexity) obeys and executes orders. As these volumes rightly show, this principle is usually qualified by means of various models mostly dependent on issues such as a country's historical traditions, political constellation, economic capabilities, security perceptions, or societal configuration. Yet, it seems as if the mainstream debate is dominated by clearly Western-oriented criteria for success and failure, mainly related to countries' ability to get admitted into the NATO club.
This remarkable series of three well-composed books has thoroughly and soundly explored the latest episode in the rapidly unfolding history of civil-military relations in post-communist Europe. Surely, these countries (as well as theoretical discourse) will travel the expected route. Still, the theory of civil-military relations remains a work in progress as the new intellectual and practical challenges are already calling for analysis and interpretation. Hopefully, the methodology and teamwork used here to outstanding effect will set the standards for future book projects dealing with civil-military relations in post-conflict countries and with internationalization of security in the post-Westphalian world.
University of Skopje, Macedonia…