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5.0 out of 5 stars Fifty Years of Civil-Military Relations, October 26, 2009
Joseph J. Collins (Alexandria, VA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: American Civil-Military Relations: The Soldier and the State in a New Era (Paperback)
Edited volumes are often uneven and not worth the price of admission. The best of them, however, are worth their weight in gold. To get to this stage, the book has to be organized along a clear theme; it has to be original work; it has to be well designed; and it has to be tightly edited.

Suzanne Nielsen and Don Snider's volume, American Civil-Military Relations: The Soldier and the State in a New Era is one such work and a valuable addition to the literature on civil-military relations, a vitally important issue for both scholars and practitioners. Getting the balance right between civilian authority and military competence is vital to the republic in war and peace.

The book came from original contributions from experts who attended the West Point Senior Conference in 2007, which was devoted to a festschrift on the 50th anniversary of the publication of Samuel Huntington's epic, The Soldier and the State. The book is best remembered for suggesting that the optimum division of labor is for civilians to make policy, but for the military to give advice, avoid politics, and be accorded professional space in the conduct of tactical and operational affairs. After a few days discussion and subsequent editing, the contributors to this volume --- including Columbia's Dick Betts, UNC's Dick Kohn, Duke's Peter Feaver --- had covered the waterfront, not only critiquing Huntington's basic theory but bringing the analysis forward 50 years to the present day. New material was presented by Colonel Matt Moten on the affair Shinseki, the famous case where a serving Chief of Staff of the Army was "dissed" by senior civilians for giving his honest opinion to Senate questioners. Nadia Schadlow and Colonel Rich Lacquement discussed how the profession of arms has to broaden its view and include stability operations skills in its concept of professional competence. Historian Williamson Murray made important recommendations for professional military education, and Dick Kohn suggested commonsense (but generally conservative) rules for active and retired officers to build trust with their civilian superiors and vice versa.

In the end, no plan survives contact with the enemy and no classic work from 1957 could endure for fifty years without serious corrections and amendments. In their excellent conclusion, Don Snider and LTC Suzanne Nielsen of West Point's Department of Social Sciences summarize nearly a dozen conclusions on the classic. In their words, "the most significant shortcoming of Huntington's construct was its failure to recognize that a separation between political and military affairs is not possible --- particularly at the highest levels of policymaking." And therein lies the rub, as well as the importance of this new book. It should be required reading for all war college students and all senior civilian officials of the Department of Defense should receive a copy of it on the day when they are nominated.

Joseph J. Collins teaches strategy at the National War College. He served for 28 years as an Army officer and later served as a civilian Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Civil-Military Relationship and the Continuing Effort tp Update Huntington!, November 25, 2014
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This review is from: American Civil-Military Relations: The Soldier and the State in a New Era (Paperback)
An important contribution to the topic. In my opinion the various chapters are capable in being ranked in significance although all of a very high quality. This ranking entirely subjective but given passage of time the continued contribution of some chapters makes this ranking a necessity.

Thus, the following from most important contribution even now as opposed to lesser long-term significance.

1. Professionalism and Professional Military Education [chapter 7];

2.Militaries and Political Activities in Democracies [chapter 11];

3. Enhancing National Security and Civilian Control of the Military: A Madisonian Approach [chapter 12];

4. Building Trust: Civil-Military Behaviors for Effective National Security [chapter 13];

5. Hartz, Huntington, and the Liberal Tradition in America: The Clash with Military Realism [chapter 5];

6. Responsible Obedience by Military Professionals: The Discretion to Do What is Wrong [chapter 8];

7. Winning Wars, Not Just Battles: Expanding the Military Profession to Incorporate Stability Operations [chapter 6];

8. Are Civil-Military Relations Still a Problem? [chapter 2];

9. A Broken Dialogue: Rumsfeld, Shinseki, and Civil-Military Tension [chapter 3];

10. Before and After Huntington: The Methodological Maturing of Civil-Military Studies [chapter 4];

11. The Military Mind: A Reassessment of the Ideological Roots of American Military Professionalism [chapter 9];

12. Conclusions [chapter 14;

13. Changing Conceptions of the Military as a Profession [chapter 10].

Obviously my ranking is subjective. Given what is known and unknown about the civil-military interface in the civilian leadership of the Nation it is very clear that discussion of what I call FIRST PRINCIPLES OF THE CIVIL-MILITARY INTERFACE is woefully absent for the civil side of the interface. Perhaps defectively the military side of the relationship has put forth more effort to try and understand this very very complex subject. This book documents to some degree that effort but wide gaps exist in understanding the civilian side of the equation and how Congress impacts that relationship.
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American Civil-Military Relations: The Soldier and the State in a New Era
American Civil-Military Relations: The Soldier and the State in a New Era by Suzanne C. Nielsen (Paperback - September 4, 2009)
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