On my second day in Belgium, the Atlantik-Brücke conference, a Canada-Germany conversation, got underway and was immediately quite interesting. The opening session had two speakers that provided broad surveys of the world’s crises, and I was struck that there seemed to be some comparisons that did not work for me. Why? Because some crises are harder than others and that we can focus on three dimensions of each crisis so that we can compare apples and oranges: the degree of difficulty of the actual policy problem, the stakes, and the level of consensus among the key players.
Robert’s review of The American Culture of War yesterday was both extremely funny and informative. It also mentioned a problem I’ve seen in a lot of the civil-military relations literature: too much over-identification with a political leaning or ideology. This area of scholarship reminds me sometimes of Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men” – if I’m walking around the annual conference of the Inter-University Seminar at Armed Forces and Society without a uniform on, I’m immediately put in a category by some scholars. That’s unfortunate – understanding the determinants of civil-military relations and its influence on international relations is a really important area of research. Thankfully, not all scholarship in this area is that way. In the interest of providing an example of research that could serve as a counterpoint to the work outlined in Robert’s review, let me highlight some additional scholarship that my former colleague/advisor/buddy, Dale Herspring and I have done on the subject.