The Unequal Professional Dialogue: American Civil-Military Relations and the Professional Military Ethic
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLL FORT LEAVENWORTH KS DEPT OF JOINT INTERAGENCY AND MULTINATIONAL
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In his book Supreme Command, Professor Eliot Cohen coined the term the Unequal Dialogue by which he meant the conversation between political leaders and generals that needed to be candid, and sometimes even offensively blunt, yet remained always unequal, or forever resting on the final and unambiguous authority of the political leader. Over the past several decades the purpose, rules, limits, and even legitimacy of the unequal dialogue between soldiers and civilians have been challenged. Some critics have accused civilians of ignoring military advice. Others have accused the military of not rendering candid advice--of being yes men. Still others have argued that generals should have professional autonomy or a virtual veto over certain decisions that affect the military. Unequal relations and communications are an inherent fact of military life, so why have unequal dialogues between politicians and soldiers produced so much conflict and confusion This paper will argue that the unequal dialogue is not simply a peculiar characteristic of civil-military relations, but a central feature of the militarys professional ethic. Furthermore, the principles and practices, the obligations and limitations of the professional dialogue within the military apply directly to how we engage with both political leaders and the larger society.
- Government and Political Science
- Sociology and Law