Accession Number:



The "Crisis" in American Civil-Military Relations: A Search for Balance Between Military Professionals and Civilian Leaders

Descriptive Note:

Strategic research rept.

Corporate Author:


Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



American civil-military relations have been widely criticized as in a state of crisis for several years. A firestorm of critical articles in the last decade has accused the U.S. military of inappropriate behavior and insubordination to civilian control, followed by a prolonged debate about the nature and sources of this alleged crisis. Evidence has surfaced that a gap has developed between the military and civil sectors of the United States. Some scholars studying this issue have abhorred a perceived increase in American military independence. In effect, they sounded an alarm that important changes in the American civil-military relations indicated that healthy civil-military relations are in jeopardy. These alarmists charges often lump together vastly different elements of civil-military relations thus confusing the debate, contain uncritically accepted assumptions of the proper norms that should be applied to military behavior, focus attention primarily on anecdotal evidence rather than carefully considered data, and both distort and ignore the historical record concerning the American civil-military tradition. The result radically misrepresents the true nature of American civil-military relations. While the alarmists do highlight evidence of problems demanding attention, these issues are more symptomatic of the traditional ebb and flow of American civil-military relations. Careful scholarship rather than anecdotal evidence refutes allegations of civil-military crisis and places alarmists charges into both historical and theoretical perspective. The American civil-military tradition was forged in the long and bitter Revolutionary War struggle for independence by it leader, General George Washington, who along with George Marshall, provides the American model for respectful but fully engaged military interchange with civilian governmental leaders.

Subject Categories:

  • Sociology and Law
  • Military Forces and Organizations

Distribution Statement: