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Civil-Military Relations and the Not-Quite Wars of the Present and Future

Authored by Dr. Vincent Davis. | October 1996

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Are the reluctant warriors out of control? Not quite.15 Their conservatism makes sense as a response to the lack of consensus among the civilian leadership in the United States about the importance of low-level threats. The lack of consensus has been affected by both the uncertainty of the international environment and political institutions in the United States which encourage disagreement. When civilians disagree, the United States' institutional structure was designed to slow change. The system is working as intended, and the way we should expect it to, short of constitutional reform. Regardless, to the extent that there is a problem with the nation's willingness to use force, it is not a problem that will be solved by discouraging conservative military advice. The solution to the problem is to generate civilian consensus. Until the consensus about the conditions under which responding to low-level threats is important to American security, the military will not abandon its cautionary role.


15. Even Richard Kohn agrees that "out of control" did not accurately characterize his argument. See "An Exchange on Civil-Military Relations," The National Interest, Summer, 1994, pp. 21- 31.