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The Maldives: The Changing Dynamics of Civil-Military Relations  

Prashant Hosur Suhas and Vasabjit Banerjee

The Maldives’ strategic location in the Indian Ocean has elicited interest in its politics. While it is the smallest state in South Asia and a classic example of a microstate, with a population of less than 400,000, its strategic location in the Indian Ocean region (IOR) and large EEZ allow it to play an outsize role in the region. When it comes to civil‒military relations, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has traditionally accepted a subordinate role to the civilian leadership. However, there has been intermittent political turmoil and instability as civilian leaders—many of whom have been autocratic—resist democratic changes. There are three components that require attention in assessing the nature of the Maldives’ civil‒military relations. The first component is the great power rivalry between China and India operating in the region. While India has considered the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) to be within its sphere of influence, it has been challenged by recent Chinese activities in the IOR. The second component is the stability and turmoil in the domestic political structures in the Maldives as the country seeks to democratize. Finally, although it is the largest contributor to the Maldives’ GDP, a section of fundamentalist Muslims identify the tourism industry with a “decadent lifestyle” being promoted by the state solely for economic growth . Given that tourism is the primary economic sector in the Maldives, such opposition can pose both a security and an economic threat. Whether the growing radicalism has affected the military is unclear, but the possibility poses new threats to a country on the path of democratization.


Canada: Very “Civil” Military Relations  

Joel J. Sokolsky

Civil–military relations in Canada are “civil” not because Canadians are inherently “nice,” but because there is not much opportunity, incentive, or fodder for serious and intensive disagreement over defense policy between the military and the political leadership. This does not mean that disagreements do not arise or that the military has not chaffed from time to time under Canada’s relatively strict liberal-democratic traditions of civilian control over the military. Moreover, it is not the structure, traditions, and practices of government in Canada that best explain the relatively ordered nature of civil–military relations. Rather, one must look to the very nature of the Canadian defense and security situation. While Canada is also known for, and at times has vigorously promoted, its contributions to collective security through United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations, it has been its participation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) that has determined almost all of defense policy and the posture and major weapons systems of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). This has had profound implications for civil–military relations in Canada and also accounts for the relatively “civil” tone, and the lack of tension and controversy, in those relations. This has meant that Canada’s political leaders and the senior leadership of the CAF have not had to engage in intensive “dialogue” on alternative conceptions of the international strategic environment and what a Canadian “grand strategy” should be in order to guide how the Canadian forces should be postured and equipped to meet security challenges. Canada does have a “grand strategy”; it is just not that grand. In the end, what tempers and smooths civil–military relations in Canada is that the CAF remains supportive of Canada’s not-so-grand grand strategy and accompanying expeditionary strategic culture, even if that culture is disciplined by a fiscal efficiency that sometimes seeks to extract as much international involvement out of as few military assets as possible. It is well understood on both sides of the civil–military divide that the CAF needs to maintain the confidence of political leaders to be effective in supporting the foreign policy objectives of the government through the applied or apprehended use of force when requested. In order to achieve this, the senior officer corps and the military apparatus must be cognizant of the breadth of nonmilitary factors that play into civil–military relations. Acknowledging that the scope of policy choices is inherently limited by international factors beyond Canada’s control, the importance of domestic priorities, and the access that Canadian politicians have to military expertise and assessments from other sources, the CAF has, for the most part, unobtrusively provided its political master with advice consistent with the realities facing Canadians at home and abroad. Even here, however, the Canadian military, perhaps more than most, understands the unequal character of its dialogue.


Honduras: All-Purpose Militarization  

Kristina Mani

The Honduran military has a long history of established roles oriented toward both external defense and internal security and civic action. Since the end of military rule in 1982, the military has remained a key political, economic, and social actor. Politically, the military retains a constitutional mandate as guarantor of the political system and enforcer of electoral rules. Economically, its officers direct state enterprises and manage a massive pension fund obscured from public audit. Socially, the military takes on numerous civic action tasks—building infrastructure, conserving forests, providing healthcare, and policing crime—that make the state appear to be useful to its people and bring the military into direct contact with the public almost daily. As a result, the military has ranked high in public trust in comparison with other institutions of the state. Most significantly, the military has retained the role of arbiter in the Honduran political system. This became brutally clear in the coup of 2009 that removed the elected president, Manuel Zelaya. Although new rules enhancing civilian control of the military had been instituted during the 1990s, the military’s authority in politics was restored through the coup that ousted Zelaya. As no civilian politician can succeed without support for and from the military, the missions of the armed forces have expanded substantially so that the military is an “all-purpose” institution within a remarkably weak and increasingly corrupt state.


India: Soldier–Civilian Alliance in a Democratic Context  

Anshu N. Chatterjee

What role does India’s military play in its politics? India’s military is one of the largest in the world, with a budget that mirrors its enormity. It is a busy force, having fought five wars since 1947 and having managed persistent insurgencies in India’s northeast and the one in Kashmir since the 1990s. Prevailing studies on its role in India’s institutional structures often characterize it as a body external to the governance of a diverse, and at times perplexing, developing democracy that only intervenes when called on. Its comparatively lower underfunding to its main external threats and exclusion from strategic planning draws a significant amount of scholarly interest that seeks to explain this professional stance of India’s armed sentinels. The focus of such studies on the regulating mechanisms and the lack of resources available for the forces contextualized by India’s external challenges, which often produce institutional anxiety, blur an understanding of the military’s influence on politics in India. Instead, the question of what role the military plays in India’s politics requires an inquiry into the collaborative linkages that were initiated at the end of colonial rule, when the civilian authorities and the military elite acknowledged each other’s importance in the consolidation of a modern nation-state. Although fear of the guardians guided some initial safeguards by the new civilian authorities, the relationship that emerged soon after reflected extensive collaboration in the face of external and internal threats, which is often ignored in India’s civil–military studies. A closer inquiry into the mutuality of the decision making during selected conflicts brings to fore an understanding of the institutional insight that has allowed the military to influence resource management, participate in governance, and shape political competition in a democratic context.


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

Marybeth P. Ulrich

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.