Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Dissent and Strategic Leadership of the Military Professions

Dissent and Strategic Leadership of the Military Professions


One of the central difficulties to a right understanding of American civil-military relations is the nature of the U.S. military. Are our armed forces just obedient bureaucracies like most of the Executive branch, or are they vocational professions granted significant autonomy and a unique role in these relationships because of their expert knowledge and their expertise to apply it in the defense of America? To a large measure, the answer to this question should determine the behavior of the strategic leaders of these professions, including the uncommon behavior of public dissent. Using the “Revolt of the Generals” in 2006 as stimulus, the author develops from the study of military professions the critical trust relationships that should have informed their individual decisions to dissent. After doing so, he makes recommendations for the restoration of the professions’ ethic in this critical area of behavior by the senior Officers who are the professions’ strategic leaders.

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