The United States boasts an enviable record regarding the military’s role in politics: never a coup and never a serious coup attempt. However, this does not mean that the military always played only a trivial role in politics. On the contrary, as the Framers worried, it is impossible for a democracy to maintain a military establishment powerful enough to protect it in a hostile international environment without at the same time creating an institution with sufficient clout to be a factor in domestic politics. The U.S. military’s political role has ebbed and flowed over the nearly 250 years of the nation’s history. The high-water mark of political influence came in the context of the gravest threat the country has faced, the Civil War, when the military enforced emergency measures approved by Congress, beyond the letter of the Constitution, including during Reconstruction when the military governed rebellious states of the former Confederacy. These were notable exceptions. For most of the 19th century, the military operated on the fringes of civilian politics, although through the Army Corps of Engineers it played a key role in state-building. When the United States emerged as a great power with global interests, the political role of the military increased, though never in a way to directly challenge civilian supremacy. Today, the military wields latent political influence in part because of its enormous fiscal footprint and in part because it is the national institution in which the public express the highest degree of confidence. This has opened the door for myriad forms of political action, all falling well below the red lines that most concern traditional civil–military relations theory. Military involvement in the American political system may be monitored and evaluated using a typology built around two columns that highlight the means of military influence—the first column is comprised of formal rules and institutions and the second encompasses the norms of military behavior with respect to civilian authority and civil society. While traditional civil–military relations theory focuses on military coups and coup prevention, theory based on this typology can help explain American civil–military relations, illuminating the warning signs of unhealthy friction under democratic governance and promoting republican vigilance at those moments when the U.S. military takes a prominent role and wades more deeply into domestic politics.
Peter Feaver and Damon Coletta
Many have seen the establishment of civilian and democratic control over the military as a necessary, although not sufficient, condition for the consolidation of a nascent democracy. The establishment of civilian and democratic control over the military in South Korea was a long and, some would argue, uncompleted process. A coup in 1961 led by Park Chung-hee, a major-general, led to the establishment of an authoritarian regime that, while going civilian, was based on the control of the military and the intelligence services. Park was assassinated by the head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency in October 1979; however, the hopes of moving in the direction of democracy were soon squashed when Chun Doo-hwan, and his comrades in arms from the secret Hanahoe (One Mind) club of Korean Military Academy graduates, first took power over the military through an internal coup, and then took control over the government. Under significant internal, and external, pressure Chun Doo-hwan agreed to step down from the presidency in 1987 and allow the writing of a new constitution that led to free elections to the presidency in December 1987. The opposition lost the 1987 election due to its inability to agree upon a united candidate. The winner was Roh Tae-woo, a participant in the 1979–1990 coup, who would during his presidency take important steps when it came to establishing civilian control over the military. However, it was first with the inauguration of the Kim Young-sam in 1993 that the establishment of firm civilian control was achieved. He engaged in a significant reorganization of, and moved against the power of the secret societies within, the army. He also promoted the idea of a politically neutral military. This most likely played a significant role when Kim Dae-jung, the first opposition candidate, won the presidency in December 1997, as the military remained neutral and accepted the outcome of the electoral process. There has since been a strengthening of civilian control over the military in South Korea. However, there are a number of important issues that need to be dealt with in order to ensure full democratic control over the military and the intelligence services. While the military, as an institution, has stayed neutral in politics, military and intelligence resources have been used in attempts at influencing public opinion in the lead-up to elections. In addition, comprehensive oversight by the legislature continues to be weak and the National Security Law remains on the books.
Bosnia and Herzegovina emerged as an independent state in 1995 after a bloody civil war that accompanied the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The new state faced the task of democratizing its political system and constructing its civil–military relations in the context of postconflict reconstruction and reconciliation, while working within the challenging parameters established by the Dayton Peace Agreement. In order to maintain a unified state of Bosnia and Herzegovina but at the same time create conditions in which Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs could coexist, the international community, which directed the terms of the Dayton Peace Agreement, divided the state internally into two entities and allocated public offices equally among the three ethnic groups, creating thus a convoluted power-sharing structure which continues to dominate the country’s political developments. In addition, the terms of the peace agreement established an extensive presence of the international community to oversee and to a large extent dictate the country’s postwar reforms and implementation of various aspects of the peace agreement. As a result of the context in which it reached statehood, the terms of the peace agreement, and regional circumstances, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s civil–military relations since independence have been shaped by three factors: sustained ethnic divisions among the three constituent peoples; continued, and sometimes forceful, presence of the international community; and the country’s desire for international integration, particularly potential membership in the European Union and NATO. For almost a decade after the war, Bosnia and Herzegovina lacked state-level defense institutions. In fact, the Dayton Peace Agreement allowed the three ethnic groups to maintain their wartime armed forces, leading to the maintenance of three separate militaries, each commanded and controlled by the corresponding ethnic group. Only after a decade of separate existence were the armed forces united and central institutions for their control established. This unification, however, would not have been possible without the international community’s actions and incentives. The continued presence of the Office of the High Representative, coupled with the country’s desire to satisfy the conditions of membership in the European Union and NATO, have led to the establishment of formal institutional structures for democratic civil–military relations and the unification of its ethnic-based armed forces into one military force. At the same time, while the armed forces have been unified and formal institutional structures for civilian control over the armed forces established, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s civil–military relations have yet to be classified as democratic because the formal powers of the civilian leadership have yet to be fully realized.
Florina Cristiana Matei and Carolyn Halladay
Civil–military relations—particularly the principles and practices of civilian control of the security sector—have changed significantly since the 1990s as more and more states around the world seek to consolidate democracy. The scholarly focus and the policy that it informs remain stuck in a mid-20th-century model, however. While civilian control remains central, this civilian oversight must, itself, uphold the requirements of democratic governance, ensuring that the uniformed forces are well integrated into the democracy that they are sworn to protect. Moreover, this democratic civilian control also must ensure the effectiveness of the security sector in the sense that soldiers, law enforcement officials, and intelligence agencies can fulfill the range of their missions. Thus, democratic civilian control requires ongoing attention from both the civilian and the military sides.