U.S. Civil-Military Relations after 9/11: Renegotiating the Civil-Military Bargain

Mackubin Thomas Owens

Editor, Orbis -
Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval War College -

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FPRI has focused a great deal of attention to U.S. Civil-Military Relations. There is no more important question facing a state than the place of its military relative to civil society and the roles that the military exercises. The reason is simple: on the one hand, the coercive power of a military establishment, especially a strong and effective one, makes it at least a potential threat to the regime. On the other, a weak military establishment also threatens the regime because of the likelihood that the former will fail to protect the latter. This is the central paradox of civil-military relations. US Civil-Military Relations After 9/11 is primarily a work of synthesis that seeks to place events since September 11, 2001 in their proper historical context and to consider them in light the character of American civil-military relations in general. Tensions in civil-military relations in America are not new. They have recurred periodically since the American Revolution. Although the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan loom large in the book, it is not simply a rehash of the debates attending these conflicts. Questions concerning the actual conduct of these wars and who was responsible for various aspects of military planning have been addressed by several writers, including Bob Woodward, Tom Ricks, Bing West, Michael Gordon, and Bernard Trainor. The book’s purpose is to examine the issues these fine writers raise from the perspective of the theory and practice of civil-military relations, placing them in the context of the ongoing renegotiation of the civil-military bargain in America.

Mackubin “Mac” Owens is Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. He is also editor of FPRI’s journal Orbis and a Senior Fellow in FPRI’s Program on National Security.