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Dr. Owens discusses civil-military affairs in CSIS interview

IWP’s Dean Dr. Mackubin Owens recently had an interview titled, “The Civil-Military Bargain Is a Result of What We Ask the Military to Do” with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. His interview was one in a series of discussions leading up to CSIS’s May 23rd conference on civil-military affairs: “Command Climate: The State of U.S. Civil-Military Relations.”

In this interview, Dr. Owens argued that U.S. civil-military relations are frequently negotiated between three parties: the military, the government, and the American people. He stated that these renegotiations happen when there is some sort of strategic, sociological, political, or technological change. He gave various examples, including how WWII changed the military from a peripheral institution to a central one and how nuclear weapons moved to a central position during the Cold War.

Dr. Owens then addressed the question: “Are we on the cusp of another renegotiation?” He said that while we do not have an answer yet, we know where the answer will stem from. Civil-military bargains have to do with the role of the U.S. in foreign policy; thus, that role must be defined before an answer can be reached.

Keeping on current affairs, CSIS asked if ground force oriented policies cause different civilian responses than others, like deterrence or naval tactics. Dr. Owens argued that yes, and this has been a topic since the Vietnam War, where the U.S. Army was prompted to return to a mastery of operational art. In the interview, CSIS also asked about how the White House can foster a healthy civil-military relationship.

The civil-military bargain is a topic in his book, U.S. Civil-Military Relations after 9/11: Renegotiating the Civil-Military Bargain. Dr. Owens is currently working on a book surveying the history of U.S. civil-military relations. The entire interview is available here, and below.