Civil-Military Relations in American History


The gap between the military and civilians has been increasing with time. The United States military involvement with wars has always resulted in differing views within the American society. The differing views on whether or not to participate in a certain war have become a cause of disagreement between the military and the civilians. Civilians demand the right to have their military opinion because what the military does affects them too. The debate has led to increased pressure on the military to incorporate civilian leadership into every aspect of military operations.

Military Professionalism

The Vietnam and Iraq war shows how the will of the American citizens were misrepresented because the decisions that led to the war were based on the selfish interests of the military. According to Hoffman (2007), “fundamental concepts of military professionalism in the United States have eroded, at times to an alarming degree.” The erosion of military professionalism has increased more pressure for the incorporation of civilians as part of the decision-making in the military.

On the other hand, the military perceives itself as an independent entity free of politics and civilian interests but with great autonomy to exercise its constitutional roles. Civilians argue that they have a right to be involved in the decision-making in the view of imminent military operations because it affects their safety and the values of society.

Although it may seem that, the civilians want to infringe on the military mandate, the military has eroded its professionalism in how they make the decisions regarding its operations. Hooker (2004) argues that “…military has become increasingly estranged to the society it serves, that it has abandoned political neutrality for partisan politics, and it plays an increasingly dominant and illegitimate role in policymaking.”

This means that the military has lost its fundamental role of serving the civilians and become a political-military that serves the interests of their masters in its policymaking, thus the military needs some regulation from the civilians. Janowitz (1973) argues that “the more such societal influences present within the military culture, the smaller the attitudinal differences between the two worlds and the greater the chance of civilians maintaining control over the military.” His argument supports the incorporation and the control of the military by the civilians.

Military policies are customized to exaggerate the need for war and instill fear to the civilians on the urgency of their operations through myths. Evera (2001) noted that “militaries purvey these myths to persuade society to grant them size, wealth, autonomy, and prestige–not to provoke war.” The use of myths to cause misperceptions and professional capacity to make policies have increased the autonomy of the military control over civilians. Evera further argues that “War is more likely when professional militaries have a large influence on national security policy and on civilian perceptions of foreign affairs” (2001). This is the reason why the military does not want to relinquish part of their autonomy by incorporating civilians into their leadership positions.


The increased pressure to provide for the incorporation of the civilians into the military leadership and thus decision and policymaking regarding military operations has been triggered by the political partisanship and lack of professionalism in the military. The military has been accused of making selfish decisions and policies to suit their political masters and neglecting the advice from the very civilians they serve. Hence, the military needs to share part of their autonomy with the civilians in order to regulate their selfish and illegal operations.


Evera, S. (2001). Militarism: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Web.

Hoffman, F. (2007). Bridging the Civil-Military Gap. Armed Forces Journal. Web.

Hooker, R. (2004). Soldiers of the State: Reconsidering American Civil-Military Relations. The National Technical Information Service. Web.

Janowitz, M. (1973). The Social Demography of the All-Volunteer Force. Annals of the American Academy of Political Science. 406. 86-93.

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