|THE CIVILIAN-MILITARY GAP|
November 10, 1999
MARGARET WARNER: And for more on this, we get four perspectives. Richard Kohn is a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was co-director of this latest study on the civilian-military gap. General Ronald Fogleman was Air Force chief of staff from 1994 to 1997, during the Kelly Flynn controversy. Colonel Charles Dunlap is a lawyer in the Air Force -- and the views he expresses tonight are his own. He has written extensively on civil-military relations in military journals, including a 1992 article entitled, "The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012." And Colonel Mackubin Owens retired from the Marines in 1994 and is now a professor at the U.S. Naval War College. Welcome gentlemen.
Professor Kohn, your study went across a whole gamut of issues, which we tried to outline. But at the root of it, what was most troubling to you about what you found?
|Alienation on both sides|
RICHARD KOHN, University of North Carolina: Well, the most troubling things I think were two: One, that there was a difference of opinion, and the chasm that Secretary Cohen spoke of does exist in certain areas, not in all areas, that could lead to declining support for the military and some distrust. And second of all, I think there's a great misunderstanding on the part of senior military officers, elite military officers and the public on the proper role of the military in society and in decision making in the highest councils of government. And I think those two things troubled me the most, and many members of our research team.
MARGARET WARNER: And how about attitudinally, because a lot of your study -- and I know you did a lot of polling here, extensive surveys -- dealt with attitudes about things that didn't go right to a military mission?
KOHN: Well, we surveyed three populations, several thousand of the most
promising military officers, several thousand prominent civilians in
the mass public and we got about a thousand responses in each case.
I think we saw some divisions on values and opinions that were on a
broad variety of things, most notably on what is the proper role of
the military to be used in combat.
MARGARET WARNER: General Fogleman, do these findings jibe with your experience?
|Cause for concern -- not a crisis|
GEN. RONALD FOGLEMAN (Ret.), former Air Force chief of staff: Well, I think fundamentally I would not disagree with the findings, but I think there are two points. First of all, historically when we talk about civil-military relations, what we're really talking about is the issue of civilian control in the military. And I was pleased to see that in this study, there was really absolutely nothing that would indicate that there was any danger of erosion of this fundamental principle that has been with us.
And quite frankly, I think that the reason we have been so successful with this principle of civilian control of the military, was the brilliance of our constitutional framers who split the control between the presidency on one side and the Congress on the other, with the Congress retaining the purse strings. The second point is that as the research showed, there is this growing gap, and it's cause for some concern, but certainly not any crisis kind of proportion.
I would like to, if I could, just perhaps address one of the last issues that Professor Kohn talked about, because I think -- my own personal experience within the current administration was very interesting. I believe that when this administration came to town, they were suspect of the military in many, many ways, and I watched personally this administration go from being sort of suspect of the military to come to the realization that the military was the one institution in this town that was, when asked to do something, would actually go out and do it and would execute without a lot of argument and backbiting and the normal kind of guerrilla war that goes on if you don't like a policy.
MARGARET WARNER: Colonel Dunlap, how profound do you think the estrangement is?
CHARLES DUNLAP JR., U.S. Air Force: I think that the estrangement is
pretty much as reflected in the study. There is a gap. It is growing.
And it is cause for some concern, but I don't think it's of crisis proportion.
It can manifest itself in ways that are unhelpful. For example, with
the Kelly Flynn case; the worst extrapolation would be an Iran-Contra
situation where military officers are alleged to have overstepped the
bounds, the proper relationship with the civilian authorities. But I
think this is a cause for concern, but it's certainly not a crisis.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me get Colonel Owens in this. Colonel Owens, let me read you one comment in the study, which is that "Elite military officers express great pessimism about the moral health of civilian society and strongly believe that civilian society would be better off if it adopted more of the military's values and behaviors." Do you think that's true? Do you think that's new? What do you think causes it?
|Military vs. civilian lifestyle|
COL. MACKUBIN OWENS (RET.), U.S. Marine Corps: I think everybody is concerned about some of the trends in civilian society. I think that there's nobody that I know of -- I've been teaching officers at this level for about 13 years -- who believe that the military should constitute any kind of a school for the American people. They understand that their problems and trends in civilian society, and they're concerned about them, but the idea somehow that they're going to feel that they have to teach civilians about how to behave I think is an overstatement.
RICHARD KOHN: Margaret, I agree that there's no crisis here, but our
surveys show that large numbers of officers think that civilian society
would be better off if it adopted military values and customs and habits.
And I don't agree with General Fogleman that there isn't evidence in
our study of problems of civilian control. Large numbers of officers
think that they should insist in the decision making process, that is,
insist with their civilian leaders on setting rules of engagement and
having clear objectives for a military intervention, and that kind of
MARGARET WARNER: General Fogleman, what do you say to that?
RONALD FOGLEMAN (Ret.): I would respond in this fashion. First of all,
over the last several jobs that I held in the military, I very carefully
researched the job description before I took it. And clearly in the
last two jobs I held as the commander in chief and as a chief of staff
of a service, the job responsibilities are really laid out in the law
of the land. And when you go see that, and it says that you will be
an advisor to the secretary of Defense and the president on military
matters, I believe that you owe them your military expertise.
RICHARD KOHN: I agree with that, but I think a lot of officers don't understand that. And that's really one of the problems.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let me get Colonel Dunlap in this. Colonel Dunlap, let's go back to the social-cultural divide, which is the other side of this. How profound do you think that is? And what do you think are the implications? Does it have practical implications beyond, say, the issues of women in the military or gays in the military?
|The social-cultural divide|
CHARLES DUNLAP JR.: Well, I think that there's a fundamental question
as to what you really want your military force to do. We see it as being
primarily responsible for if defense of the country, which requires
us to engage in a very unique kind of activity which involves killing
our fellow man potentially if we need to and destroying things. And
there is not a good parallel to civilian society.
Now, that said, the key issue today is trying to figure out what is the appropriate public role of the uniformed military officer in an era when fewer and fewer decision makers have firsthand military experience or even a lot of knowledge of the military. And I lay this problem in part on this -- at the feet of our great universities who have driven ROTC, national security studies, military history studies and so forth off of the campuses. And I think that one step in making sure that the advocacy and insistence that Dr. Kohn is concerned about doesn't overstep into the decision making process, which is properly left to civilians, is to make sure that we have civilians equipped to -- not to abdicate to military officers those things that should be left within the civilian realm.
MARGARET WARNER: Colonel Owens, do you see this gap continuing to widen, and if not, I mean, how can it be narrowed -- picking up on what you just heard from Colonel Dunlap?
COL. MACKUBIN OWENS (RET.): Look, we talk about the gap. Actually,
there are several gaps. There's a functional gap. We ask the military
to do things that are different than we ask civilians to do. So the
sorts of things we ask them to do require that there be some difference
between civilians and the military. There's a legal gap that arises
from that. The fact is you can prosecute people in the military for
doing things that are not problems in civilian society. There's a values
gap to a certain extent because of the sort of people who tend to join
the military. Those are manageable. And we ought to manage those things.
There's going to be friction. There are going to be tensions.
MARGARET WARNER: OK.
COL. MACKUBIN OWENS (RET.): So, I think we have to separate those gaps out.
MARGARET WARNER: Gentlemen, I'm terribly sorry, but we have to leave it there. Thank you all four very much.