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Ukraine: Democratizing Civil–Military Relations in the Midst of Conflict  

Marybeth P. Ulrich

Ukraine’s civil–military relations continue to democratize in the midst of its ongoing conflict with Russia. Ukraine’s progress in its political, economic, and military reforms is linked to the development of its civil–military relations, which, in turn, can be a catalyst for further advances in democratization and the application of the national power so essential to it prevailing in its existential struggle to preserve its national independence and fledgling democracy. However, Ukraine’s challenging geopolitical hand has limited its democratic and economic development postindependence. Prior to the war with Russia, due to the Ukraine swaying between the liberal democracies of Europe and the lure of authoritarian Russia, the conflicting interests of stakeholders from the disparate camps limited Ukraine’s ability to break decisively toward either one. The Euromaidan protests, followed by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and incursion into the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine propelled Ukraine onto a pro-Europe path. However, the legacy of Soviet-era bureaucracy, weak political culture, and scarce resources have limited the country’s progress. Key elements of democratic civil–military relations, such as meaningful civilian oversight within the relevant ministries and parliamentary defense committees, are still insufficiently present. So far, the combined impact of limited progress in the development of democratic institutions, poor economic performance, insufficiently mitigated corruption, and war in eastern Ukraine has held the country as a whole back from achieving the results of the higher-performing postcommunist states in the region. However, the Zelensky administration has a clear mandate and the parliamentary majority to implement its vision for Ukraine. Ukraine’s civil–military relations are an important aspect of its strategic success. Political–military and societal–military cooperation and coordination can serve as the catalysts needed to bridge crucial divides and reinforce the parallel reforming tracks of democratic, economic, military, and cultural development and institution-building.

Article

Burundi: Assessing Military Institutional Reforms Post-Arusha  

Astrid Jamar and Gerard Birantamije

Military politics have been entangled with the trajectory of Burundian public institutions, experiences of violence, and the army formation. From 1994 to 2009, the peace process brought together different political parties, security forces, and rebel groups to negotiate ceasefires and major institutional reforms. Adopted in 2000, the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement contained some of the most ambitious and sophisticated security reforms. While most literature emphasizes mostly on the Arusha Peace Agreement, 22 agreements were signed by different sets of parties, including political parties and rebel groups during these 15 years of peace meditation. The Arusha Peace Agreement provides for complex security arrangements: (a) a strictly defined role, structure, and mandate of the army and other security forces; (b) sophisticated power-sharing arrangements for both leadership and composition of the army and other security forces; (c) demobilization, disarmament, integration, and training of armed forces; (d) transformation of armed groups into political parties; and (e) ceasefires. The peace talks integrated various armed political groups into Burundian institutions. Responding to four decades of violence and military dictatorship, these reforms of the military and other security forces aimed to disentangle the military from politics. Initially contested, the agreements shaped the reading of the historical contexts that justified these institutional military reforms. Indeed, provisions of these agreements also framed a narrative about violence and imposed fixed interpretations of political mobilization of violence. These imposed interpretations neglected key elements that enabled and, continue to enable, the political use of violence as well as the emergence of new forms of military politics. The main institutional approach adopted to tackle issues of inclusion and to correct imbalances in armed forces was the introduction of power-sharing arrangements based on ethnic dimensions. The formulation and further implementation of ethnic quotas reinforced the binary elements of ethnic identities, rather than promote a more fluid understanding that would appreciate intersecting elements, such as gender, political affiliation, and class and regional dimensions in the undertaking of power, alliance, and relations between executive and military institutions. Security reforms continue to affect the functioning of public institutions, with limited effects for disentangling politics and military.

Article

Slovakia: Creating and Transforming Civil-Military Relations  

Matej Navrátil and Michal Onderco

The civil-military relations in Slovakia have been marked by rapid transformation after the collapse of communism, including the expansion of the civilian power over armed forces, a gradual shift that has meant a great loss of autonomy for the armed forces. The dominance of civilians over the military happened through various means. First and foremost, there was a massive legal and legislative shift in the institutional distribution of power. However, the power of civilians over the military has been cemented through the adoption of a business-like structure, a change in military education, as well as “the power of the purse.” Overall, Slovakia’s case is not unique among the countries of the former communist bloc, where the desire to integrate into NATO and the EU has led to significant changes in the way the domestic societies are organized. However, Slovakia’s case is interesting because it demonstrates that the establishment of civilian dominance over the military can potentially lead to absurd consequences such as the inability to pay petty expenses. Notably, the desire to integrate in NATO led Slovakia to adopt numerous external recommendations with far-reaching consequences for domestic legislation. In a process that is not unlike what the scholars of European integration call “Europeanization,” Slovakia’s case shows that the goal to demonstrate one’s readiness to join international organizations can lead to a complete transformation in the nation’s defense policy. Conversely, and perhaps more speculatively, if one were to perceive civilian control over the military as the total subordination of all its components to the elected representatives, the situation is much less straightforward in the case of military intelligence. Under Vladimír Mečiar (in 1994–1998), the state secret (civilian) and security apparatus served not the public interest, but the interest of the ruling coalition. Military intelligence, however, remained autonomous and was not exploited to serve to Mečiar. Although from the normative standpoint, this might be perceived as a positive development, it demonstrates that this component of the military was at that time out of the government’s reach, even the reach of an authoritative ruler such as Mečiar.

Article

Serbia’s Civil-Military Relations  

Filip Ejdus

When, how, why, and to what effect did the military involve itself in Serbia’s politics? Due to its decisive role in national liberation and state-building, the Serbian military has always enjoyed high societal reputation. Since the 19th century, the military also played an important role of a nation-builder and social elevator for the lower strata of society. However, Serbia also has a very long tradition of military involvement in politics with several coups that decisively shaped the course of national history. Since the outset of Serbia’s state-building in the first half of the 19th century, Serbia experienced four successful military coups and many occasions when its armed forces were used to quash domestic unrest. The reasons behind the robust involvement of armed forces in Serbian (and Yugoslav politics) have been diverse and ranged from an ambition to provide internal stability and defend national or corporate interests to a desire to change the country’s foreign policy orientation. Since the end of the Cold War, the military played an ambiguous role on some occasions undermining democracy, while on others being an agent of democratic transformation. Since 2006, the military of Serbia has been placed under civilian democratic control and seems to have internalized its role of a politically neutral and professional force with a mission to defend the country, support civilian authorities in the event of emergency, and contribute to international peace and security. Still, the ongoing democratic backsliding, the lack of clarity about the state’s strategic outlook, and the still unresolved status of Serbia’s former province Kosovo all preserve the potential for civil-military tensions in the future.

Article

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.

Article

Gender and the Military in Western Democracies  

Helena Carreiras

Military institutions have been considered “gendered organizations” because gender is persistently related therein to the production and allocation of material and symbolic resources. Western states’ militaries consistently, even if unevenly, display three basic traits through which gendering occurs: the existence of structural divisions of labor and power along gender lines, organizational culture and ideology based on a distinction between masculinity and femininity, and patterns of interaction and identity formation that reflect these structural and ideological constraints. Although women’s representation has been growing, and women have been accessing new roles, positions, and occupations in unprecedented numbers, their participation is statistically limited and substantially uneven. Notable differences between countries also exist. At a macro-sociological level, factors that explain these differences relate to the degree of convergence between armed forces and society, external political pressures, military organizational format, and the level of gender equality in society at large. From a micro-sociological perspective, research shows that, because of their minority situation and less valued status in an organization normatively defined as masculine, women still have to face the negative consequences of tokenism: performance pressures, social isolation, and role encapsulation. However, this research also highlights two important conclusions. The first is that there is significant variation in individual and organizational responses depending on context; the second, that conditions for successful gender integration depend on specific combinations of structural, cultural, and policy dimensions: the existence or absence of institutional support, changes in the composition of groups, increase in the number of women, type of work, occupational status, level of shared experience, changing values of younger cohorts, and quality of leadership. The Women, Peace and Security agenda, evolving from the approval of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000, has become the major reference framework to evaluate progress in this respect at both domestic and international levels. Despite the existence of an extremely robust set of norms, policies, and instruments, and the recognition of their transformative potential, results have been considered to lag behind expectations. Improving implementation and enhancing gender integration in the military will require context-sensitive and knowledge-driven policies, the reframing of an essentialist discourse linking women’s participation in international missions to female stereotypical characteristics, and greater congruence between national policies and the international agenda.

Article

LGBT Military Service Policies in the United States  

Andrew Goodhart and Jami K. Taylor

For most of its history, the U.S. military has maintained a policy of exclusion toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people serving in uniform. The justifications for these exclusions have included the view that being homosexual or transgender is a psychological disorder, that it undermines military morale and effectiveness, and a fear that LGBT people would be vulnerable to foreign espionage. Explicit policies banning consensual homosexual sex—and excluding from service those who engage in it—date to the period between World Wars I and II, but de facto efforts at exclusion have existed since the early days of the republic. Regulations governing homosexuals in the military came under pressure in the 1970s and 1980s as societal views toward lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people changed, and those LGB service members discharged under the policy increasingly challenged their treatment in court. (Public pressure to change regulations governing transgender people in the military arose mostly in the 2000s, though litigation efforts date to the 1970s.) In addition to general shifts in public and legal opinion, the debate over LGB people serving in the U.S. military was affected by the experience of foreign militaries that allow LGB people to serve. United States law began to loosen formal restrictions on LBG people serving in uniform with the passage of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) in 1994, but it still required LGB people to serve in secret. Changing public perceptions of LGB people and problems implementing the ban galvanized support for eliminating such restrictions. In 2010, President Obama signed legislation repealing DADT and removing all restrictions on LGB people serving in the military. However, transgender people do not enjoy the same rights. The Trump administration has revised Obama-era rules on transgender service members to enable greater exclusion. The issue is being contested in the courts and appears ripe for further political and legal dispute.

Article

The U.S. Politico–Military–Industrial Complex  

John A. Alic

The three large military services—Army, Navy, and Air Force—comprise the core of the U.S. politico–military–industrial complex. They dominate decision making on multi-billion dollar weapon systems and the operational concepts these are intended to embody. The armed forces need private firms to realize their visions of new weaponry, since government has limited capacity in engineering design and development and limited production facilities. Running a successful defense business means giving the services what they want, or think they want, whether this makes technical and operational sense or not; thus industry caters to the views of the services, and while it seeks to influence them, does so mostly at the margins. The political dynamics of the complex take place in two primary domains, only loosely coupled. The first is largely contained within the Defense Department. This is the main arena for conflict and bargaining within and among the services and between the services, individually and collectively, and Pentagon civilians. Most of what happens here stays hidden from outsiders. Service leaders generally seek to resolve disagreements among themselves; the goal, often although not always achieved, is to present a united front to civilian officials and the public at large. The second domain extends to the rest of government, chiefly Congress, with its multiple committees and subcommittees, and the White House, home of the powerful Office of Management and Budget among other sources of policy leverage. The complex as a whole is an artifact of the Cold War, not greatly changed over the decades. Repeated efforts at restructuring and reform have led to little. The primary reason is that military leaders, senior officers who have reached the topmost ranks after lengthy immersion in generally conservative organizational cultures, usually have the upper hand in bureaucratic struggles. They believe the military’s views on choice of weapons—the views of seasoned professionals—should have precedence over those of civilians, whether Pentagon appointees and their staffs, elected officials, or outside experts. They usually prevail, since few of the political appointees on the civilian side of DoD and in policy-influencing positions elsewhere can command similar authority. If they do not prevail on a particular issue, service leaders expect to outwait their opponents; if they lose one battle over money or some cherished weapon system, they anticipate winning the next.