This volume comprises the best essays of Prof. Richard Kohn focusing on civilian control of the military in American history and contemporary national security affairs.
One of the oldest problems of human society has been preventing armies from overthrowing their governments. From ancient times to the present–from Caesar crossing the Rubicon to Egypt’s army hovering in the in the background as the ultimate arbiter of power to newly-installed Chinese leader Xi Jinping taking control of China’s military instead of leaving that to his predecessor as was practice for nearly forty years–civilian control of the military has been crucial to political life. The founders of the United States certainly understood this principle. They wrote explicit provisions into the first state and federal constitutions to assure it. For over two centuries, American security has rested on the foundation of military subordination to civilian authority, with little worry about a coup or even an attempt. Yet the relationship between the most senior military officers and the political leadership have been anything but smooth, and in recent years the chains of civilian control have weakened – not to the point of direct challenges to civilian authority, but in the relative influence of the military in policy and decision making, the deference of politicians to generals, and a growing belief that the relationship has been so filled with tension and distrust as to endanger the country’s security.
This book will be of much interest to students of US politics, American history, civil-military relations and military studies in general.
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Richard Kohn is Professor of History and director of the Curriculum in Peace, War and Defense at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
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