War & civil-military ties
Tactically, a majority of politicians would prefer to ignore the importance of military knowledge despite the fact that any practical civil-military discourse requires enough skills to remain close to the realities of war. But, it is also a fact that a Politician’s discipline, social experiences, and spirit contrast significantly from that of a military leader. The constitutional authority gives political leader an “upper channel” of communication and responsibility while a military leader commands ultimate study of and preparation for war. The meaning of war and sacrifices stage a different meaning for two contrasting echelon of powers and, if misunderstood could prove detrimental for the national security of a country.
Furthermore, in a political debate over institutional structuring of military and security, perhaps due to external influences and in-built-conflict within certain political quarters, a slim majority of political leaders continue to oppose internal environment and qualification of military institutions. The protest of political leadership often springs from the belief that culture of military leadership does not allow civilians to determine the makeup of a military institution. In the end, moderate political decision-making prevails because essentially, anti-military political societies face fragmentation and an imminent risk of losing territorial integrity. The fundamental reason is that the political leadership is sought to control an institution about which they do not possess a proper knowledge, and hence a recipe for creating inefficiency and meaningless contribution. For military to be more effective is as important as for it to oppose formal persuasion to create an anti-hierarchical culture by internal or external forces. The significant use of rhetoric in the US and Western civil-military discourse demonstrate that the US policy makers seeks to implement a “strategic supplement” with mainly full of complete control of system of military institutions by political leadership in developing countries.
From the historical perspective, popularly, the US did not manage its own commitment of international peace and stability, and most of the times aspired multinational resources to supervise social and political influence in war zones. The major military campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq and war on terror illustrate this argument.
The overbalance of India in Afghanistan for instance concerns the general Pakistani population and thereby greatly influences the discourse on the nature of the Pak-military campaign in war on terror. The reason is that the US and NATO member states are not aligned in the best possible way with Pakistan and other regional players. In a meaningful way, building a better model of civil-military relations during wartime is crucial because whatever the nature of acceptable risks and shape of operational choice, a military adopts, it requires the full backup of both international and domestic political decision-making.
Despite the examples of successful military operations in Swat and South Waziristan, the role of major powers in subduing the TTP leadership operating from Afghanistan needs clarification and action. Nonetheless, the Swat operation is also a classic example of an ideal civil-military relationship where the citizenry simply supported Pak-military and security services to augment the social and political boundaries. They clearly opposed the militancy and preferred to support the national security interests of their country. With the citizen-to-soldier contact, both civil-military quarters can ensure that ends and means of a domestic military operation, but such a model must constantly assess and reassess because progress toward achieving strategic aims together can be challenged by, changes in enemy tactics and infiltration of enemy forces during the conduct of war. By all accounts, this form of strategy requires an extended civil-military discourse throughout the conflict, not just at the launch and termination of a military operation.
The conclusion is that an extended civil-military discourse during wartime is often problematic, but taking war responsibilities by both military and political leadership could lead to a climate of negotiation and thereby civil-military partnership in setting trustful conditions. Primarily, enforcing unrealistic political goals can leave military alone to face the consequences of fragile civil-military relations, and hence protest and violence against its exclusive responsibility of establishing peace in a war zone. Therefore, prosecuting wars without clear political objectives pictures neither the reality of sufferings of people nor the sacrifices of soldiers. Such a false dichotomy impedes the way military and civilian leaders need each other during wartime. In the context of building a balance civil-military relations, it seems prudent that a prolonged political support is a requirement to cement the “citizen-to-soldier contacts”. The application of such a model is also a preamble to redesign political ownership and role of ordinary citizens in a war.
—The author is a Denmark-based National Security Expert & Defence Analyst.