Soldiers and Civilians: The Civil-Military Gap and American National Security

In This Review

Soldiers and Civilians: The Civil-Military Gap and American National Security

Edited by Peter D. Feaver and Richard H. Kohn
MIT Press, 2001
545 pp. $28.95

During the 1990s, U. S. civil-military relations became the subject of a highly charged debate. Critics detected worrisome signs of a growing divide between soldiers and the rest of American society, especially between the upper echelons of the officer corps and civilian elites. Others dismissed such concerns as fanciful. Fueled by anecdote and predisposition, the controversy generated more heat than light. But this impressive volume, the product of a multidisciplinary research effort directed by Feaver and Kohn, moves that debate appreciably closer to a resolution. Combining empirical evidence with judicious, historically informed analysis, it provides authoritative answers to several questions: Does a civil-military gap exist? If so, what does it signify? And to the extent that the gap jeopardizes either military effectiveness or civilian control, how can it be reduced? The authors find that although claims of a full-fledged "crisis" are overblown, "numerous schisms and trends" point toward a civil-military relationship under severe stress. Unless addressed, these trends will worsen -- with potentially dire consequences. Since September 11, civil-military concerns have slipped into the background, but the problems identified by this study remain unresolved. This volume serves as a powerful warning that American soldiers and civilians alike would be ill advised to take civil-military harmony for granted.

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