the military and domestic politics

Written by Omair Farooq Khan 12:14 pm Book Reviews, Published Content

The Military and Domestic Politics: A Concordance Theory of Civil-Military Relations

In “The Military and Domestic Politics: A Concordance Theory of Civil-Military Relations,” Rebecca Schiff uses the concordance theory to better understand and explore the reason for military intervention than the traditional theory of separation which has its roots in the Western system, making it incompatible for non-Western countries. She also gives due importance to institutional development and culture in understanding the civil-military relations of a state.
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About the Author(s)
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Omair Farooq Khan has a master's degree in International Relations from Hungary. He is working as a freelance researcher and writes analytical and research articles for online sources. His areas of research include environmental peacebuilding, natural resource governance in post-conflict societies, climate change and migration, and the theories of international relations.

The Book and the Author

The Military and Domestic Politics: A Concordance Theory of Civil-Military Relations‘ by Rebecca L. Schiff mainly revolves around the concordance theory which has enriched the research in the field of civil-military relationships; before, civil-military research was confined to the theory of separation which was predominantly a Western approach to understanding civil and military affairs of the state.

Rebecca L. Schiff is a well-known political scientist who received her doctorate from the University of Chicago. She works as a council member for the inter-university Seminar on Armed Forces and Society. She also teaches at the US Naval War College and is currently a research fellow at the Swedish National Defense College, Stockholm. Since the start of her doctorate, she took a keen interest in analyzing the civil-military relationship in North America, Latin America, the Middle East and South Asia. 

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The main theme of this highly insightful book is that the traditional theory of separation is not enough to explain the military intervention in politics as such theories have origin in Western countries which are not well equipped to understand military intervention in the political affairs of non-Western countries.

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Civil-Military Relationship

‘The Military and Domestic Politics’ considers domestic factors such as the evolution of state institutions, cultural realities and historical background in the exploration of civil-military relationships. Schiff further empirically justifies her argument by explaining the civil-military structure in post-revolutionary America, America during WII, Argentina, Israel, India, and Pakistan.

Rebecca Schiff has sketched an unconventional yet important perspective on civil-military studies. The book has nine chapters which are rich in historical background, theoretical framework, and well-analyzed case studies. The Military and Domestic Politics has made an exceptional and valuable contribution to the field of civil-military studies, security studies, military sociology, and war and conflict studies.

She illustrated that traditionally the civil-military relationship was primarily understood through Western experience and the idea of separation of power, instead of understanding the domestic composition of institutions and culture. Schiff does not limit herself to civil and military spheres while explaining the military intervention in civil and political affairs.

She explained the partnership and agreement of the military, political elite, and citizenry through four indicators. The more harmony among the military, political elite, and citizenry over these four indicators, the fewer chances of military intervention in political affairs. Concordance theory works as a means to achieve the agreed partnership among military, political institutions, and society as a whole, keeping the institutional and cultural importance of the country.

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The Concordance Theory

Schiff explained how the concordance theory worked very well in post-independent India, but that failed time and again in Pakistan whether it was a civilian government or military regime. Moreover, according to Schiff, the traditional theory of separation of civil-military relations is not enough to understand the civil-military relations of a country.

After independence, India had shunned the theory of martial races which aggressively alienated Indian minorities, and integrated citizens from all cast and ethnicities. On the contrary, the military in Pakistan never represented a full cross-section of the society. India inherited the three-tiered system from the British; the sole reason why the Indian army is regarded as a “professional corps” by Western military studies experts.

Except for the war with China and Pakistan in the 1960s, the Indian military felt comfortable working under the supervision of the civilian government. Unlike in India, the trust deficit between political institutions and the military still exists as the military look down on civilian institutions in Pakistan and regards them as incompetent and unreliable.

The most important indicator is the leadership factor when it comes to the establishment of civil-military relationships in India and Pakistan. Post-independent Indian foundations were based on secular political culture which was strengthened by the cult of Gandhi, Nehru and Patel. Pakistan, however, lost its founding fathers and the most influential personalities.

Schiff’s analysis shows that modern India has evolved through a fusion of modern democratic systems of participation into a centuries-old caste system. Complex integration and partnership of modern and traditional value systems explain the non-interference of the military in India.

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Her understanding and in-depth analysis of political and military institutions and the cultural difference show concordance in India and discordance in Pakistan. It proposes a more dichotomous relationship between military and civilian institutions. It also suggests that military intervention can be prevented if both institutions work in their own sphere of power and advocate political apparatus to oversee the military affairs.

The concordance theory presents a more inclusive and comprehensive approach to understanding the civil-military relationship in a country irrespective of the fact that the country practices separation of power between military and political authorities. It also stresses more on the cultural and institutional anatomy of the country.

Whether Pakistan breaks the shackle of dis-concordance in future and embraces institutional development and cultural impact on the civil-military relationship, this volume surely explored different dimensions which led to the military takeover of civilian governments in past.

Traditionally, academics and researchers had been solely dependent on the civil-military relationship and excluded institutional evolution and cultural causes (along with the four indicators) of military intervention in political affairs.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article/paper are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Paradigm Shift.

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