Academic journal article Military Review

Civilian Control of the Military: The Changing Security Environment

Academic journal article Military Review

Civilian Control of the Military: The Changing Security Environment

Article excerpt

CIVILIAN CONTROL OF THE MILITARY: The Changing Security Environment, Michael C. Desch, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, 1999, 133 pages, $34.95.

Michael C. Desch's Civilian Control of the Military is well written, thoughtful and topical. His central argument, perhaps counterintuitive, is that without a significant external threat the relationship between top civilian leaders and military officers in the post-Cold War era has deteriorated.

Desch posits that democracies with low external threats to national survival tend to elect leaders who have little knowledge of or desire for national defense policy and who prefer to focus on domestic issues. Professional military officers, who naturally prefer offensive doctrines, autonomy and increasing budget shares, clash with national leaders who do not understand or support their causes.

Desch concedes that his model's explanatory power weakens when internal and external threats are either low or high. In these cases Desch looks to other explanations currently offered in the literature-- individual factors, state structures, norms within the military and society. Scholars generally agree that currently the US has low external and internal threats, so his approach adds little.

One of the big weaknesses of Desch's book is his foundational premise that civilian domination of decision making produces optimal national security decisions and relationships. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.