Stephen J. Cimbala
The issue of military legal and political subordination to duly-constituted civil political authority has long been a decided issue in American politics.1 Nevertheless, the Cold War presented to U.S. policymakers and military planners some unexpected and unprecedented challenges.2 The Cold War U.S. military was qualitatively as well as quantitatively different from its predecessor.3 The following discussion identifies some of the most important attributes of the Cold War U.S. armed forces and their political setting in terms of their implications for civil-military relations.4 These attributes are bipolarity and U.S.-Soviet hostility; nuclear weapons and mutual deterrence; defense reorganization and developments in command-control technology; the experience of Vietnam and other cases of low-intensity conflict; and, finally, the development of an allvolunteer armed force. Some comments will also anticipate the future international environment and its implications for civil-military relations.
The international system of the Cold War was an unexpected outcome of an unexpected war. The United States had hoped prior to the outbreak of World War II to withdraw to the stance of splendid isolationism that had supposedly characterized its foreign policy prior to World War I. However, this effort at interwar military self-effacement was already compromised by several factors. First, the U.S. imperialist experience in the aftermath of the Spanish-American war gave to Americans a heady sense of world engagement, however selective that engagement might be. Second, European security concerns would not go away from American national interests. To the contrary, during the 1930s the two became inextricably linked. The major significance of Franklin Roosevelt's election to the presidency was not apparent at first blush; touted by his partisans