The Man on Horseback: The Role of the Military in Politics

By S. E. Finer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
The Opportunity to Intervene

CERTAIN situations make the civil power abnormally dependent on the military authorities. Others enhance the military's popularity while correspondingly depressing that of the civil authorities. The military's opportunities to intervene are maximized if both situations coincide.


1. (a) Increased civilian dependence on the military

'War is too important to be left to the generals.' Few civilians seem to have agreed with this and still fewer generals. War usually expands the influence of the military. The primacy of the civil power in Britain and in Germany during the second world war does not invalidate the rather narrow proposition put forward here: that war conditions are among the circumstances that may provide the military with opportunities for intervention. In that same war, for instance, the civilian authorities of the United States handed the major decisions on policy and strategy to the Chiefs of Staff, and admitted them to a share in the mobilization of the civil economy. 'I have washed my hands of it,' said the Secretary of State to the service chiefs, 'and it is now in the hands of you and Knox - the Army and the Navy.'1 In Japan too, from 1937 onwards, the military obtained the last word on all policy matters, including civilian ones. Ultimate power came to reside in the ' Liaison Committee'. Ostensibly, this brought the politicians and service chiefs together, but effectively it was controlled by its three-man secretariat in which the two service members were paramount. Thus the whole nation was harnessed to the military machine.2

____________________
1
Quoted, Huntington, op. cit., pp. 315-17.
2
Cf. Toshikazu Kase, Eclipse of the Rising Sun, pp. 87-9, and Mamoru Shigemitsu , Japan and Her Destiny, pp. 320-1. The most thorough treatment is to be found in Y. C. Maxon, Control of Japanese Foreign Policy.

-72-

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