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date: 13 June 2024

The U.S. Civil–Military Relations Gap and the Erosion of Historical Democratic Normslocked

The U.S. Civil–Military Relations Gap and the Erosion of Historical Democratic Normslocked

  • Marybeth P. UlrichMarybeth P. UlrichDepartment of National Security and Strategy, United States Army War College

Summary

The gap between the American people and the United States military is growing, with implications for the preservation of democratic institutions. The gap has contributed to the erosion of democratic norms by negatively affecting perceptions of citizenship obligations and weakening the attachment to national institutions. Ironically, a feature of the gap is the rise of a “warrior caste” of men and women who self-select to join the all-volunteer force (AVF), leaving the remaining 99.5% of citizens to think that national defense is a concern for “other people.” With only 1 in 200 Americans directly involved in military service, the wars that the AVF serves in do not directly affect most Americans or their elected representatives. This indifference has led to perpetual wars with poor oversight, eroding the democratic norm of citizen oversight of and participation in the nation’s wars. The civil–military gap can be mitigated with a comprehensive expansion of programs that offer opportunities for military and national service, the adoption of more robust civic education in civilian and military education systems, and fostering a culture of defense among the citizenry.

Subjects

  • History and Politics
  • Policy, Administration, and Bureaucracy
  • Political Institutions

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