As Americans, we profess a great deal of confidence in our military. This is so mostly because the US military boasts superiority in their weaponry and personnel. The US military undeniably consists of the best trained, best equipped, and most experienced fighting force in the world’s history (Kemal, 1970). The topic of the relation between the civilians and the army has received vast discussion and analysis but always one thing is for sure – there has to be a strong correlation between the civilians and the military.
History has its take on civilian-military relations with most post-war political scientists disagreeing with their predecessors. The role of the army significantly changed after the Second World War and instead, the army was viewed not as an antisocial body but a body with immense leadership prowess. Most studies on the civilian army relationship mainly focus on the political ability of the armed force, forgetting the role that the same institution plays in shaping the domestic socio-cultural and even economic activities of a country. Army leadership is based on core values, which apply to the officers, subordinates, and civilians. This is so simply because deep down, the officers remain citizens of this country.
Right from the moment an army officer swears the oath of allegiance he or she fully affirms commitment to protecting the constitution of the land. As a coexisting entity, one segment of the entity has to provide directions for the other to follow. The army is tasked with the duty of setting a good example to the civilians who seemingly look upon them for the security of selves and their property. We follow, though from a distance, the footsteps of the army. Just as in any organization, the leader provides guidance, direction, and purpose to its staff including the subordinates. In the same way, the army offers guidance on issues of security to the entire nation.
The constitution of the United States affords congress the ability to raise and support our armies. In return, the US force is tasked with the duty to defend the US and its territorial demarcations. General George Washington stated that becoming a soldier in the U.S army does not mean giving up on one’s citizenship, and when in uniform, they should always remember that they not only represent their units and the army but also their country. Their country implies their fellow citizens, those living within the country’s territorial boundaries.
We must all always remember that the core business of the army is to protect its citizen i.e. the people within their designated territorial boundaries. As we discussed earlier, an army leader inspires people inside or outside his chain of command to move in a certain direction to accomplish goals. As citizens or rather as civilians, we draw inspiration from this fact. The army leadership has also entrusted the purpose of improving. Improving here means changing or transforming a feature for the better. The army leadership undertakes developmental training to help the subordinates improve in their areas of operation.
To formalize our ties, the army officers take oaths i.e. the enlistment oath for the recruits and oath of office, which is affirmed by commissioned officers. The oath marks the beginning of service to our nation and the people. The army officers are obliged to have within themselves the seven characteristics of loyalty, respect, duty, selfless service integrity, honor, and personal courage. Of even greater significance to us, civilians are selfless service. An army officer should put the welfare and or interest of the nation and the subordinates before his or her very own.
We affirmed that the foundation of army leadership is very strongly grounded on loyalty to our country’s laws. We as civilians have the responsibility of closely following the direction pointed to us by army leadership. This correlation is mutual since each one benefits. The United Nations body was instituted for the sole reason of providing humanitarian benefits. The UN soldiers are there to come to the civilians’ aid in times of trouble. It is for this that we as civilians owe allegiance to the army.
The occurrence of a military intrusion into the political duties of a country has not been a feature of this century. Up to the end of the twentieth century, military intervention was viewed as demonic and alien. The military was viewed as incapable of interacting socially. It was only after the Second World War that the role of the army in society was reaffirmed. During this time, several post-war political scientists reiterated that the army is a capable body able to play a positive purpose in the socio-political rebirth of the newly created states and nations (McAlister, 1965).
The end of the Second World War marked the end of the role of the army as a body intentionally instituted for the expansion of territorial boundaries. Since then, the military has and is now being viewed as a body capable of moving a country towards achieving social, economic, and even political advancement (Kemal, 1970). Concerning Southeastern Asia, Pauker – a political scientist – reiterated that a body that exhibited strong leadership and organizational stability could eliminate socio-economic and political hurdles that the countries were faced with (Johnson, 1979). This body, as Pauker affirmed, could only be found in the army.
From Pauker’s argument, we can easily reaffirm that the army due to its leadership and organizational structure, is in a perfect position to govern a state, a nation, or a country based on their rules governing good leadership practices. The entire army team members are obliged to define leadership and draw their strength from deep-rooted values and ethics. Civilian and military leadership codes of conduct are very much related to each other. The only difference is that they are established and set for different groups of persons. It has all been stated that we have never lost connection with the US military even after years of an all-volunteer force.
Winning the confidence and trust of the civilians is a vital achievement for the military leadership of any nation. To earn this confidence, the military has to conduct itself in a dignified manner and in a manner that would command respect from the civilian citizens. The army officers should always remember that they are citizens who have been abdicated the duty to protect the interests of fellow citizens. The former army chief of staff Creighton Abrams once said that the ‘army is people’. It is said that the readiness of the army to fight depends on the people’s readiness either as individuals or even as a unit (Department of the Army [DOA], 2006). Abrams further added that the army should improve the people’s readiness through training, supporting, and motivating the civilians. They should give them a sense of involvement in the army’s endeavors.
Civilian-military linkage is a vital issue, which goes hand in hand with the social, political, and economic well-being of an established and mature nation. Through taking oaths of enlistment or office, the army officers are entitled to serve the nation’s interest and put their interests behind. Army leadership training prepares the army officers not only to lead in the military sphere but also to guide the entire nation towards achieving its goals.
The army leadership’s core values of influencing, operating, and improving are values to be emulated and exercised by any leadership of any quarter. History has helped us learn that the role of the army is far-reaching. It goes beyond the primitive task of expanding territorial boundaries since, force to reckon with when it comes to leading by example.
This implies leading from the front. Leading from the front takes courage, integrity, selflessness, respect, honor, sense of duty, and loyalty. The foundation of army leadership is grounded upon these values. We should make practical the interaction between the civilians and the military and it should not remain as an issue only relevant in the papers for mere recording. Through the use of the shorthand BE-KNOW-DO, the army officers can focus on the key elements of leadership, which implies that what a leader does depends on what he or she is and what he or she knows.
Department of the Army [DOA]. (2006). Army Leadership: Competence, confident and agile. Field manual, 6 (22), 1-216.
Johnson, J. (1964). The Military and Society in Latin America. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Kemal, K. (1970) ‘The Military and Politics in Turkey: a socio-cultural analysis of a revolution’, American Historical Review, 75, 1665-75.
McAlister, L. (1965). Changing Concepts of the Role of the Military in Latin America. Annals of the American Academy of Political Science, 160, 86-98.