Academic journal article Military Review

UNEASY BALANCE: Civil-Military Relations in Peacetime America since 1783

Academic journal article Military Review

UNEASY BALANCE: Civil-Military Relations in Peacetime America since 1783

Article excerpt

UNEASY BALANCE: Civil-Military Relations in Peacetime America Since 1783, Thomas S. Langston, The Johns Hopkins University Press, New York, 2003, 198 pages, $39.95.

After every war the U.S. military has to realign itself by taking stock of and reorienting to society's peacetime needs. The realignment that should have occurred at the end of the Cold War has not yet happened. Uneasy Balance: Civil-Military Relations in Peacetime America Since 1783 tracks previous realignments and discusses the implications of the failure to complete the one currently overdue.

Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. military has not yet put Vietnam behind it, says author Thomas S. Langston, professor of political science at Tulane University. For that matter, neither the military nor the civilian population have adjusted to the end of the Cold War. While the military and the populace look into their rearview mirrors, civilian defense leaders push forward, using the military as a social laboratory for changes too radical for society at large or jumping vigorously into nationbuilding and foreign adventures while stretching the military over the globe. Because there is neither consensus nor cooperation, current U.S. military policy is unbalanced, if not dysfunctional.

Postwar realignments have two components: service and reform. Service is the reestablishment of connection to the peacetime role of helping the populace rather than fighting wars. Reform is the introspective component, the studying of the failures and success of just-finished wars and making appropriate adjustments in capabilities-training and retooling. For civilian and military components to be successful, both must agree on the desired end product. This happened fully only twice: after the War of 1812 and after the Spanish-American War. …

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