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Armed Servants: Agency, Oversight, and Civil-Military Relations
     

Armed Servants: Agency, Oversight, and Civil-Military Relations

by Peter D. Feaver, Peter D. Feaver
 

How do civilians control the military? In the wake of September 11, the renewed presence of national security in everyday life has made this question all the more pressing. In this book, Peter Feaver proposes an ambitious new theory that treats civil-military relations as a principal-agent relationship, with the civilian executive monitoring the actions of military

Overview

How do civilians control the military? In the wake of September 11, the renewed presence of national security in everyday life has made this question all the more pressing. In this book, Peter Feaver proposes an ambitious new theory that treats civil-military relations as a principal-agent relationship, with the civilian executive monitoring the actions of military agents, the "armed servants" of the nation-state. Military obedience is not automatic but depends on strategic calculations of whether civilians will catch and punish misbehavior.

This model challenges Samuel Huntington's professionalism-based model of civil-military relations, and provides an innovative way of making sense of the U.S. Cold War and post-Cold War experience--especially the distinctively stormy civil-military relations of the Clinton era. In the decade after the Cold War ended, civilians and the military had a variety of run-ins over whether and how to use military force. These episodes, as interpreted by agency theory, contradict the conventional wisdom that civil-military relations matter only if there is risk of a coup. On the contrary, military professionalism does not by itself ensure unchallenged civilian authority. As Feaver argues, agency theory offers the best foundation for thinking about relations between military and civilian leaders, now and in the future.

Editorial Reviews

Foreign Affairs
The Clinton and Bush years have raised big questions about civil-military relations, in particular how political leaders can best control military professionals. It is not surprising, but still welcome, that the issue has generated a substantial academic response. Feaver's important contribution takes on Samuel Huntington's classic text The Soldier and the State, which described a system of "objective civilian control." Huntington maintained that the military gained autonomy in return for political neutrality and accepting civilian authority — a claim with powerful normative influence despite regular demonstrations of its inadequacy in practice. Feaver grounds his challenge in theory as much as evidence (of which he offers plenty). Employing "agency theory," he considers how principals get agents to do what they want them to do, using the degree of monitoring as a key variable. When it goes well, an agent is "working"; when he follows his own preferences instead, the agent is "shirking." During the Cold War, civilian monitoring was intrusive, and the military worked even when, as with Vietnam, the policy was foolish. In the 1990s, however, the response to intrusive monitoring was shirking.
National Review

Peter Feaver's excellent new book, Armed Servants, sheds much-needed light on civil-military relations in the U.S.; indeed, it may come to supplant Samuel Huntington's classic 1957 study of American civil-military relations, The Soldier and the State. Armed Servants should be read not only by academic specialists in national security, but also by military professionals—it will change the way they think about these issues.
— Mackubin Thomas Owens

Choice

Feaver has written one of the best books on civil-military relations in several years...Armed Servants was largely completed before September 11th and published before the second Gulf War, but its implications for both are clear. Agency theory must now be accounted for in civil-military relations, thanks to Feaver.
— C. E. Welch

Canadian Army Journal

The current paradigm of the study of civil-military relations is dominated by some well written and carefully considered works that date from the Cold War...It is interesting to see a new challenge to that paradigm. Feaver has been a rather prolific author, with a number of books and articles on civil-military relations as well as American foreign and defense policies. Armed Servants genesis spans his academic career, and it represents a very well synthesized compilation of his earlier works...Feaver has presented a strong challenge to the existing paradigm. He provides a comprehensive review of the dominant civil-military relations theories as well as a well argued counterpoint to those theories.
— Major James R. McKay

Richard Kohn
Peter Feaver advances the study of civil-military relations to a new level of understanding. By dissecting the choices of, and influences on, civilian and military leaders, and interpreting their conduct against the backdrop of a practical theory of political behavior, he unmasks the reality behind the rhetoric of civilian control of the military in the United States. His book will immediately become indispensable not only for students and scholars, but for every military officer, politician, staffer on Capitol Hill, civil servant in the executive branch, and judicial officer in the nation's court system who participates in national defense.
Michael Desch
Feaver's formulation of the challenge of civil-military relations as being analogous to the problems faced by managers in firms or political appointees in the Federal bureaucracy is not only appropriate. It is a useful corrective to the all-to-common view that civil-military relations are fine if there is no real danger of a coup d'état. Feaver also provides a very rich and nuanced account of Cold War and post-Cold War American civil-military relations, particularly emphasizing how civilian control has changed regarding use of force issues.
Deborah Avant
Feaver offers an exhaustive review of the literature on American civil-military relations in the Cold War and post-Cold War period, and points out an important empirical puzzle for Samuel Huntington's argument about civil-military relations during the Cold War.
National Review - Mackubin Thomas Owens
Peter Feaver's excellent new book, Armed Servants, sheds much-needed light on civil-military relations in the U.S.; indeed, it may come to supplant Samuel Huntington's classic 1957 study of American civil-military relations, The Soldier and the State. Armed Servants should be read not only by academic specialists in national security, but also by military professionals--it will change the way they think about these issues.
Choice - C. E. Welch
Feaver has written one of the best books on civil-military relations in several years...Armed Servants was largely completed before September 11th and published before the second Gulf War, but its implications for both are clear. Agency theory must now be accounted for in civil-military relations, thanks to Feaver.
Canadian Army Journal - Major James R. McKay
The current paradigm of the study of civil-military relations is dominated by some well written and carefully considered works that date from the Cold War...It is interesting to see a new challenge to that paradigm. Feaver has been a rather prolific author, with a number of books and articles on civil-military relations as well as American foreign and defense policies. Armed Servants genesis spans his academic career, and it represents a very well synthesized compilation of his earlier works...Feaver has presented a strong challenge to the existing paradigm. He provides a comprehensive review of the dominant civil-military relations theories as well as a well argued counterpoint to those theories.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674010512
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Publication date:
04/15/2003
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
6.52(w) x 9.72(h) x 1.24(d)

What People are Saying About This

Feaver offers an exhaustive review of the literature on American civil-military relations in the Cold War and post-Cold War period, and points out an important empirical puzzle for Samuel Huntington's argument about civil-military relations during the Cold War.
Richard Kohn
Peter Feaver advances the study of civil-military relations to a new level of understanding. By dissecting the choices of, and influences on, civilian and military leaders, and interpreting their conduct against the backdrop of a practical theory of political behavior, he unmasks the reality behind the rhetoric of civilian control of the military in the United States. His book will immediately become indispensable not only for students and scholars, but for every military officer, politician, staffer on Capitol Hill, civil servant in the executive branch, and judicial officer in the nation's court system who participates in national defense.
Richard Kohn, former Chief of Air Force History, United States Air Force, 1981-1991
Deborah Avant
Feaver offers an exhaustive review of the literature on American civil-military relations in the Cold War and post-Cold War period, and points out an important empirical puzzle for Samuel Huntington's argument about civil-military relations during the Cold War.
Deborah Avant, author of Political Institutions and Military Change: Lessons From Peripheral Wars
Michael Desch
Feaver's formulation of the challenge of civil-military relations as being analogous to the problems faced by managers in firms or political appointees in the Federal bureaucracy is not only appropriate. It is a useful corrective to the all-to-common view that civil-military relations are fine if there is no real danger of a coup d'état. Feaver also provides a very rich and nuanced account of Cold War and post-Cold War American civil-military relations, particularly emphasizing how civilian control has changed regarding use of force issues.
Michael Desch, author of Civilian Control of the Military: The Changing Security Environment

Meet the Author

Peter D. Feaver is Associate Professor of Political Science, Duke University.

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