Reimagining American Civil-Military Relations at Home and Abroad, 1779–1999
The conduct of American officers, especially in regards to the rarity of any interference with civilian policy, is often held up as a model of a well-functioning civil-military relations system. Thomas Sheppard, however, challenges us to look beyond this comforting narrative of civilian control. By examining naval officers during the early republic, Sheppard reveals a pattern of behavior in which naval officers used resignation, or the threat of resignation, to alter civilian policies.
Six years before the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling desegregated schools, President Harry Truman issued an executive order mandating the integration of America’s armed forces. Richard Cranford examines the difficulties the American civilian government faced in forcing the U.S. Army to comply with the integration of African-American soldiers. Focusing on discord between the Fahy Committee, the U.S. Army, and Secretary of Defense Louis A. Johnson Cranford explores the role of bureaucratic systems and personalities is shaping civilian control over the military.
While Sheppard and Cranford focus on civil-military relations between the American military and American civilians, Mary Elizabeth Walters seeks to broaden the scale of the concept by incorporating foreign civilian populations. Walters’ paper on the 1999 Kosovo refugee crisis and military humanitarianism explores the multiple levels of experience in which civil-military relations functioned between the American military, Albanian civilians, and Kosovar refugees.
By linking these diverse approaches and temporal periods together, the panelists aim to open a conversation on the nature of American civil-military relations. Rather than craft a cohesive narrative, Sheppard, Cranford, and Walters pose a series of questions that combined pose an opening to reimagine American civil-military relations.