Sunday, March 10, 2019

Thinking about Civ-Map Gaps: So Many Gaps!!

Jim Golby has a great, great thread on the different kinds of gaps that can develop between civilians and military.  I want to engage a few bits of the thread.

As I told Jim on twitter, this is a bit limiting as I think that having a largely white male officer corps is likely to make matters of sexism and racism worse, and that affects not just recruitment and retention but also cohesion and all that other stuff militaries care about.  While I had an argument with my daughter yesterday about Captain Marvel being used as a recruitment tool for the USAF (she is opposed, does not want younger folks joining the imperial war machine), I think a more diverse force is a better force for a variety of reasons, not just a deeper, wider pool.

This might be the worst gap for many reasons, and with my fixation on oversight, I will focus on that.  Polarization in civilian politics makes it harder to oversee the military--the Republicans will try to use officers who appear before them to appear as allies, Dems might start appearing as enemies, and then oversight hearings become show trials and lose whatever legitimacy they have.  And we need Congressional oversight in a big way.

The resource gap also affects oversight.  One bit of evidence is how much interest there is in serving on the committees that oversee the military versus the State Dept.  With so much more money going to Defense, Congresspeople and Senators have a greater incentive to sit on the Armed Services Committees--they can direct some of the money to their districts, and their constituents will care about pre-existing investments (bases, defense contractors).  Not nearly the same amount of attention for State these days.

Jim says it for me--too much respect for the military means folks don't ask the tough questions and hold the military accountable when things go wrong.  Has any branch paid a price for recent failures?  Crickets.

This is one that bothers me a lot.  When Mattis as SecDef tells the military that they are better than the civilians and they have to be patient and hold on, I worry a great deal.  I strongly prefer Stan McChrystal's take in a recent podcast--that military folks are just as flawed as civilians--they have no superiority or monopoly when it comes to integrity.  Thinking otherwise is dangerous.  While the folks in the military do engage in service for country, not all of them are wonderful people.  Think about the white supremacists who serve now or who had served and then left and did harm. 

What I like most about this thread is it forces us to think about we mean when we say civ-mil gap.  I think there can be much good social science done to pull apart these different gaps and figure out how they are related to each other and to topics like oversight and effectiveness.

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