Amidst the news about everything else, a reminder that civilian control doesn’t work without transparency https://t.co/5o4IHHLpcs— Risa Brooks (@RisaBrooks12) September 24, 2019
Risa Brooks has written much on civil-military relations so she has a great background to raise a key issue--that civilian control of the military involves not just the executive branch of the government behind closed doors running the armed forces. As I have argued with my colleagues (hmm, that makes it sound like Dave, Phil, and I would be arguing amongst each other--never!), without anyone else involved, executives (Presidents/Prime Ministers, SecDefs, Ministers of Defense) can be tempted to hide mistakes and maybe even use the armed forces in inappropriate ways when non one is looking. Hence my response:
I have become a firm believer that civilian control of the military refers to not just the executive but to:— Steve Saideman (@smsaideman) September 24, 2019
--other informed civilian sectors (academia, think tanks).
The latter help to mitigate the expertise and info asymmetries.
Because we think civilian control of the military is too important to be left to executives who might hide or cheat, the Steve/Dave/Phil project is focused on legislatures, but it is more than that. Legislatures vary quite widely, as we are finding out, in how they oversee the armed forces. Some have more power and independence and information than others. We are just now starting to reach some conclusions, so this may be premature and may only fit the cases I studied (Japan, South Korea, Germany, Chile, Brazil), but I tended to have seen that legislatures did more when they had more alternative sources of information (from pesky folks like academics, think tanks, etc) and when the media had the expertise and effort to shine a spotlight on military issues. That is, for legislatures to be relevant, they could not be alone--they needed allies in this [I will get to Ministries of Defense some other time].
The word "control" implies a degree of relationship which I do not think exists outside the Executive— D. Michael Day (@DMike_Day) September 24, 2019
Mike Day is a retired three star Canadian general, who I have chatted with in real life and twitter many times. He raises a fundamental issue for military folks--that control is a very important word and not that many people have it. I went to bed thinking about this response and was glad to awaken to have someone else carry on the conversation and clarify.
1/3 There is an interesting distinction in mil and civ circles as to what "control" means. In civ parlance it generally means the ability to set objectives, policies and maintain accountability— John Keess (@jhkeess) September 24, 2019
For the conventional academic meaning, it builds on the basic question, what I call a second generation issue (first generation of civ-mil focused on coups) of civilians making sure the military follows the intent of the civilians. While democracies can vary in whether there are two bosses (US where President and Congress both "own" the armed forces) or one (just the executive) (Avant), a recurring question is whether the military shirks or not (Feaver). Military folks hate this notion of "shirking" which can mean doing less than asked for, more, or different. My favorite example of late has been the US Air Force not forwarding information to the FBI about domestic violence, so that their people don't end up on the lists of folks who can't buy guns.
2/3 In mil doctrine, this is much closer to "command", with "control" being the physical means of relaying orders and maintaining contact. If you imagine an HQ, the CO might "command" but his Ops O does the "control— John Keess (@jhkeess) September 24, 2019
Keess here shows that we are talking past each other, as the military folks tend to have a different notion of control. But civilian command of the military does not sing to scholars of civil-military relations.
3/3 I'm not sure how much this adds save that the distinction probably makes the discussion between uniforms, tweed jackets and frock coats a little confused as to what exactly "control" means— John Keess (@jhkeess) September 24, 2019
I have no idea who Keess is. He is a person who does not tweet much, has not that many followers, does not follow that many people, but ended up following me somehow, and added quite significantly to this conversation.
People may disagree with my take, Mike's view, and/or John Keess's clarification, but to me, this has been a damned useful conversation, one that I have not had in real life. While twitter is incredibly flawed in so many ways, that it can bring together people with diverse experiences and outlooks and provide a place for conversations that lead to some clarification makes it not entirely bad. As I have seen repeatedly, the conversations on civil-military relations on twitter are very often quite productive and interesting. Last night/this morning's conversation is actually pretty typical for this topic. And with the next generation of smart, interesting, and, thankfully, engaging civ-mil scholars joining the many folks who have military experience, we can ameliorate some of the gaps between the "uniforms" and "tweeds".