The Politics of Military Occupation

By Peter M. R. Stirk | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
The Role of Civilian Governors in Military
Occupation

The role of civilian governors in military occupations has been an ambivalent one. From the days of the representatives on mission of revolutionary France, civilian agents and agencies have periodically been seen as symbols of a political intent subversive of the temporary nature of military occupation and military authority.1 Sometimes, military governments have even resisted the establishment of civilian institutions of governance on the grounds that this would imply a premature annexation of the territory.2 Suspicion of civilian agencies culminated in this judgement of a court in the Netherlands after the Second World War: ‘After the cessation of active military operations the then German Reich continued consistently to commit new violations of international law by, inter alia, … setting up in Holland a civil administration which was made independent of a military commander …’.3

Yet some role has frequently been conceded, more or less willingly, to civilian agents and agencies with limited integration into a military command structure. Hostility to the idea of authoritarian polities dominated by military bodies has encouraged the search for overarching civilian authority. More recently, the search for a level of legitimacy that, so it seems, cannot be provided by the fact of occupation and the nature of international law alone, has led to the deployment of civilian structures parallel to military structures under the aegis of the United Nations and other international bodies. Such trends have been strengthened by the frustration of military commanders with the intractability of political problems, even where these same commanders have been advocates of integrated systems of command.4 Professed indifference to politics has pointed in the same direction, even where the profession might not be entirely sincere.5 More important was the comment made by General Jackson in relation to his greeting the new head of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, Bernard Kouchner: ‘it seemed to me important to show

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