Know Thy Military:
How Governmental Policies Weaken Civilian Control
My book challenges the assumption that power-hungry officers are the main actors threatening civilian control of the military. Highlighting the civilian side of the bargain, the book shows that elected politicians' decisions about the use of force can weaken civilian control of the military even in states with low coup risks. I argue that when governmental policies require the military to act beyond their profession, it leads to the erosion of civilian control in forms other than coups – insubordination, competition, and civilian deference to the military.
I use my proficiency in Russian, Ukrainian, Hebrew, and English to compare Russia in the First Chechen War, Ukraine at the beginning of the war in Donbas, the United Kingdom in the Northern Ireland conflict, and Israel during the First Intifada. I gathered evidence through fieldwork in Russia and Ukraine, digital fieldwork in Israel, interviews with civilian and military elites, archival research, and analysis of contemporary media in four languages.
Challenging the conventional wisdom, this study shows that elected officials’ policies about the use of force rather than the military’s political ambitions lead to the weakening of civilian control. This book highlights a previously overlooked unintended consequence of the use of force in international relations.