Dr. Patrick Paterson – Civil-Military Relations: Guidelines in Politically Charged Societies


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Dr. Patrick Paterson – Civil-Military Relations: Guidelines in Politically Charged Societies Released 5 May 2022. Current events warrant a review of US civil-military relations doctrine. This article examines eight principles of military subordination to elected civilian officials and addresses the fundamental question at the heart of civil-military relations theory and practice—what options, if any, does the military have when civilian leadership disregards military advice? Examples drawn from US history provide an important framework to understand the complex interrelational dynamics at play. Click here to read the article. Keywords: civil-military, apolitical, civilian, defense policy, US Constitution, professionalism Episode Transcript Stephanie Crider (Host) Welcome to Decisive Point, a US Army War College Press production featuring distinguished authors and contributors who get to the heart of the matter in national security affairs. The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are those of the podcast guests and are not necessarily those of the Department of the Army, US Army War College, or any other agency of the US government. The guests in speaking order on this episode are: (Guest 1: Patrick Paterson) (Host) Decisive Point welcomes Dr. Patrick Paterson, author of “Civil-Military Relations: Guidelines in Politically Charged Societies,” featured in the spring 2022 issue of Parameters. Paterson is a professor of practice of national security studies in the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies at the National Defense University in Washington, DC. He completed his PhD in conflict resolution at Nova Southeastern University. His latest book, The Blurred Battlefield, published in 2021, addresses the need for hybrid doctrines on the use of force for Latin American militaries combating violent crime groups. Thank you so much for joining me today, Dr. Paterson. Your article lays out eight standard practices for military officers regarding civil-military relations in a politically charged society. Please, briefly walk us through them. (Paterson) Sure, I'd be happy. Thanks for the opportunity to speak about it. I've studied civil-military relations here at National Defense University very, very closely, both in foreign countries as well as in the United States. And what I realized is that there's lots of material available, and you could look at Samuel Huntington or Thomas Bruno and Peter Feaver and Eliot Cohen and all the top scholars on civil-military relations. But what we're missing, in my opinion, is clear guidance, practical rules that military officers should follow when they're trying to adhere to the expectations of civil-military relations. And so what I tried to do was provide a succinct description—what I believe are the eight practices that are the most important for senior military officers as they interact with their civilian counterparts. The first key principle is perhaps the most important characteristic of a professional armed force. It's to remain apolitical. Take, for example, the posture of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the president's annual State of the Union address. The chairman, the vice chairman, and the chiefs of staff of each of the armed forces sit near the front row of Congress, but they don't respond. They don't applaud. They don't react in any way, sitting unemotionally in their chairs, because any sort of reaction would be construed as political advocacy. Number two is to provide candid military advice. Senior military officers are required to provide the objective truth about military policy. It should be nonpartisan, nondeliberative, and oftentimes must include advice that's contrary to what the politicians want to hear. Or there's something that goes against the current policy. So the rule is to advise on how to use the armed forces not to advocate for a specific course of action. Number three,

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