Last week, I noted one of the ironies of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan since 2009: From the perspective of civil-military relations, the process worked. Regardless of one's opinion of the Obama administration’s strategy in Afghanistan and despite the high degree to which the U.S. government and its allies have struggled to implement that strategy, the division of labor between civilian officials and military officers in formulating the strategy itself functioned more or less according to design.
In light of the reaction the column generated, I’d like to examine civil-military relations in the United States more broadly. Today, I will discuss some of the literature that informs our thinking on civil-military relations, and next week, I will offer my thoughts on the state of civil-military relations in the United States today and offer policy recommendations to improve them.
I should say from the start that I do not believe there to be any "crisis" in civil-military relations in the United States. Several wise scholars -- most notably Andrew Bacevich and Richard Kohn -- have argued there is such a crisis. And I share many of the concerns both of them raise, from the fetishization of military service to the active involvement of retired general officers in political campaigns.