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LSJ 431 A: Civil-Military Relations in Democracies

Meeting Time: 
MW 2:30pm - 4:20pm
* *
Joint Sections: 
POL S 430 A
Elizabeth Kier

Syllabus Description:


Spring 2021



M/W, 12:30-2:20


Prof. Kier

office hrs: Wed, 230-400pm,


Protecting a democracy from foreign threats can demand the creation of a powerful military. Yet the creation of a powerful military can undermine the democracy that the military is designed to protect. How do, and how should, democracies manage the relationship between the civilians and the military? This course examine these questions and focuses on the United States. We discuss how to ensure civilian control of the military, and the nature of good civil military norms. We address issues such as the draft versus an all-volunteer force and the “revolt of the generals” during the war in Iraq. We also examine issues of race, gender, and sexual orientation in the military.


Remote instruction

We will meet remotely with Zoom. Since the class is a small seminar designed around student discussion, it will be held synchronously. Regular participation – not just attendance – is required. To protect student privacy, seminars and office hours are not recorded.

UW students taking courses while overseas are subject to the laws of their local jurisdiction. Local authorities may limit access to course material and take punitive action towards you. UW has no authority over these laws or their enforcement. If you are living abroad, exercise caution when enrolling in courses that cover issues censored in your jurisdiction. Contact your academic advisor who will assist you in exploring options if you have concerns regarding this course. 

Students can borrow laptops, tablets, and other equipment for free from the Student Technology Loan Program. For help navigating online instruction: Zoom Instructions.



The articles & book chapters are on the course website. The book is available for purchase at the University Bookstore. It is also available online for free through HathiTrust on the UW library website. However, the online version is only available to one student at a time so you may wish to purchase the book.

  • Sherie Mershon & Steven Schlossman, Foxholes and Color Lines: Desegregating the U.S. Armed Forces, Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.

Readings questions for each section will be available on Canvas under "Files."  Use these questions to guide your reading, to take notes, and to prepare for class discussion. 



A research paper (30%); two take-home exams (25% each); and class participation (20%).

Your participation in central to class discussion. Each student has one “free pass,” but you are otherwise expected to come to class prepared to discuss the readings, the discussion questions, and each other’s research projects. If you are unable to attend a class, you are expected to submit written answers to the discussion questions within a week of your absence. Students will also give presentations on the readings.

Exams.  You will have 48 hours to complete each exam (though you should be able to complete each in less than two hours if you  study prior to the exam). The exams will be open book, open notes, but you are required to work independently. Consulting others is a violation of university policies on academic honesty.

Late exams will lose .5 pts./day. No make-up exams unless you provide a written excuse from a physician or other recognized authority. Attempts at a fait accompli (“already bought my ticket”) will fail without exception. For additional information on courses, grading, academic conduct, and university policies:

Consult if you are uncertain about the meaning of plagiarism and how to avoid it. The University has a license agreement with SimCheck, an educational tool that helps identify plagiarism. You will submit your exams and research paper through this service. It indicates the amount of original text and whether the material that you quote, paraphrase, summarize, or use from another source is appropriately referenced.



Appointments with the Disability Resources for Students office are conducted remotely: voice: 543-8924; TTY: 543-8925; fax: 616-8379; email: With a letter from their office, we can easily arrange accommodations.

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form ( 



This course focuses on U.S. civil military relations but there are many issues that we do not discuss, and other democracies grapple with similar questions. The paper provides an opportunity to explore one of these additional issues. It can focus on the United States or other democracies. 


Choosing a topic

You have lots of flexibility in choosing a topic. We will discuss it in class, I will often suggest topics, and I encourage you to talk to me about possible topics. Here are some possibilities:

  •  Compare Lincoln’s conflict with McClennan with Truman’s conflict with MacArthur. Or compare Obama’s relations with his senior military advisers with that of another president. Describe civilian and military preferences, the nature of the civil-military interactions, and the type of power the military was able to wield.
  • How does one assess the military’s prestige with the general public? To what extent does it vary between the United States, France, and Germany?  What are the implications of your findings for civil military relations in each democracy?
  • Decisions about troop levels in war zones often create tensions between presidents and their senior military advisers. Compare these decisions across time or types of wars and discuss the implications of your findings for U.S. civil military relations.  
  • Describe the most important changes in the U.S. military’s relationship with the media since the Vietnam war. Why did these changes occur and what are their implications for the quality of democracy?  
  • What are the origins of the Posse Comitatus Act, and how has it been used in the post-World War II period?  What are the implications of its use for civil military relations?
  • How (and why) has the location of ROTC programs shifted since the 1960s? What are the implications of your findings for U.S. civil military relations?
  • How serious a problem is white supremacy in the U.S. military? What has Congress and the services done to address it?
  • Why did the Israeli Defense Forces easily accept the open integration of gays and lesbians in the early 1990s while the U.S. military successfully resisted this change until 2011?
  •  What factors explain the underrepresentation of Blacks in the U.S. officer corps, and especially in the most senior positions?  What policies could address this problem?  
  • How does the U.S. military’s policies about transgender service compare to policies in other democracies? What factors might explain these differences?
  • Why have many democracies moved the reporting and prosecution of sexual assault outside of the chain of command? What is the nature of the American political debate about this reform, and is this reform likely to be adopted here?    


Finding sources

The paper requires significant research (it is not an opinion piece). You are expected to cite 10-12 sources. Be careful in your use of the web: do not rely on blogs or other unfiltered sources. Use the UW library website to access journals and newspaper articles. See on how to access peer-reviewed journals.

I encourage you to consult the Suzzallo reference librarians for help in locating sources. You can email Emily Keller (, the political science librarian, for an appointment. She can introduce you to or refresh your knowledge of search engines and help you locate sources.


Writing well  

Your paper must be well written (and will be assessed on content and style). Strunk & White’s, Elements of Style is indispensable. I also recommend that you exchange your papers for comments on your argument and assistance with your writing. Even the most accomplished authors profit from editorial feedback.

Papers should be 2,800-3,300 words, not including bibliography. Put word count on first page. Your paper should include citations and a bibliography. To ensure the correct formatting of each, see


Due dates  

The paper proposal and overview should be emailed (using your UW email address) to the course listserve. Late submission of either will result in a .2 deduction from the final paper grade.

  • paper proposal: by noon, Tues, April 27.
  • paper overview: by noon, Tues, May 11.
  •  paper presentation: in class, Wed, June 2.
  • final paper: by 11am, Wed, June 9; submit on Canvas. Late papers lose .5 pts/day.


Mon, March 29:  Introduction

Start reading Huntington for Wed’s class. Use the discussion questions to guide your reading, to take notes, and to prepare for class discussion.


Wed, March 31: The Rise of a Professional Military, Part 1: Samuel Huntington

Samuel Huntington, The Soldier and the State, Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1957, pp. 7-97.


Mon, April 5: The Rise of a Professional Military, Part 2: Morris Janowitz        

Morris Janowitz, The Professional Soldier, Free Press, 1971, pp. 3-74 (skim pp. 54-74), 417-40.

Peter Maass, “Professor Nagl’s War,” New York Times Magazine, Jan 11, 2004.


Wed, April 7: The Cold War: Decisions about the Use of Force

(review Huntington, The Soldier & the State, pp. 59-79)

Richard Betts, Soldiers, Statesmen, & Cold War Crises, Harvard Univ. Press, 1977, pp. 1-15, 96-138, 214-224.


Mon, April 12Objective Control & Decisions about the Use of Force

(review Betts’s two forms of influence, direct and indirect)

Eliot Cohen, "The Unequal Dialogue: the theory and reality of civil military relations," in Soldiers and Civilians: the civil-military gap, edited by Peter Feaver and Richard Kohn, MIT, 2001. & the State 

Bob Woodward, “Military thwarted president seeking choice in Afghanistan,” (exceprts) Washington Post, Sept 27, 2010).

Robert Scales, “A war the Pentagon doesn’t want,” Washington Post, Sept 6, 2013; & David Barno, “U.S. war decisions rightfully belong to elected civilian leaders, not the military,” Washington Post, Sept 13, 2013.

Mark Landler and Helene Cooper, “White House Wants Pentagon to Offer More Options on North Korea,” New York Times, Feb 1, 2018.


Wed, April 14: Military Service: the Draft or an All-Volunteer Force?

Background: “Conscription in America,” from The Report of the President’s Commission on an All-Volunteer Armed Force (the “Gates Commission”). Macmillan Company, 1970.

Edward M. Kennedy, “Inequities in the Draft,” New York Times, February 24, 1971.

Joseph A. Califano, Jr., “Doubts about an All-Volunteer Army,” reply by Roger T. Kelley, The New Republic (March 3, 1973); and Califano’s rejoinder, The New Republic (April 21, 1973).

John M. Swomley, “Why the Draft Should Go,” The Nation (July 11, 1969).

Thomas B. Curtis, “The Draft; Unjust and Unnecessary,” The Forensic Quarterly (May 1968).

Milton Friedman, “Why Not a Volunteer Army?” New Individualist (spring 1967): 3-9.

Charles B. Rangel, The US military is as unequal as America. Want a fair fight? Reinstate the draft, The Guardian, Sept 30, 2014.

David Barno, “A New Moral Compact: A military draft that could actually work,” Foreign Policy, Nov 9, 2012.

Amy Schafer, Generations of War: the Rise of the Warrior Caste and the All-Volunteer Force (excerpts), Center for American Progress, 2017.


Mon, April 19:  Post-Cold War: A Crisis in Civil-Military Relations?

Richard Kohn, “Out of Control,” The National Interest (spring 1994): 3-17.

“Exchange on Civil Military Relations” (excerpts), The National Interest (summer 1994).

Sharon K. Weiner,  “Military Advice for Political Purpose,” in Mission Creep: the Militarization of U.S. Foreign Policy, edited by Gordon Adams and Shoon Murray, Georgetown Univ. Press, 2014.

Edward Luttwak, “Washington’s Biggest Scandal,” Commentary (May 1994): 29-33.

Daniel Rabil, “Impeach my commander in chief,” Washington Times, November 9, 1998.

Lt. Cdr. Bryan McGrath, “Injecting the military into politics,” Washington Times, November 13, 1998.


Wed, April 21: No seminar: first take-home exam available on Canvas at 1230

The exam will specify the expected word count. You are required to work independently. Consulting others is a violation of academic honesty. Submit your answers on Canvas by 1pm on Friday, April 23.


Mon, April 26: Civilians & the Military: A Dangerous and Widening Gap?

Thomas E. Ricks, “The Widening Gap between the U.S. Military & U.S. Society,” Atlantic (July 1997): 66-78.

Ole Holsti, “Of Chasms & Convergences: Attitudes and Beliefs of Civilians & Military Elites,” in Soldiers and Civilians, edited by Peter Feaver & Richard Kohn, MIT, 2001. You are not required to read Holsti. Instead, note the greatest agreement/ disagreement between military leaders and civilian nonveteran leaders on the tables on pages 28, 33, 34, 38-39, 48-49, 55, 58, 60, 83, 86.

Heidi Urben, “Party, Politics, and Deciding what is Proper: Army Officers’ Attitudes after Two Long Wars,” Orbis (Summer 2013): 351-68.

Phillip Carter and David Barno, “Military bases are our most exclusive gated communities — and that hurts veterans,“ New York Times (opinions), Nov 8, 2013.


Tues, April 27: Submit paper proposal by noon

Use your UW email to send your proposal to the course listserve by noon on Tues, April 27 (the day prior to class). The proposal (150-250 words) is meant as a first-cut at a possible topic. It should be well written but does not need to be well developed. It should state your puzzle. Or, if uncertain what you want to research, briefly discuss one or two topics.

All group members are expected to carefully read the proposals in their group and to come to the small group discussion with questions and comments on each proposal. This means that all students must submit their proposals by the due date. Late submission will result in a .2 deduction from the final paper grade.


Wed, April 28: Small group discussion of research proposal  

See instructions immediately above.


Mon, May 3: Rumsfeld & Iraq: “The Revolt of the Generals”

Richard H. Kohn, “The Erosion of Civilian Control of the Military in the United States Today,” Naval War College Review (summer 2002): 9-37. 

Peter Spiegel, “President comes to the defense of Rumsfeld,” Los Angeles Times, April 15, 2006.

Scott Shane, “A Break with military tradition,” Star Tribune (Minneapolis) April 16, 2006.

Dean Godsen, “Why America’s generals are out for revenge,” Times (London), April 4, 2006.

E.J. Dionne, Jr. “Roots of the uprising,” Washington Post, April 18, 2006.

Max Boot, “A General disgrace,” Los Angeles Times, April 19, 2006


Wed, May 5:  Trump & “his Generals”: The Politicization of the Military?           

Gordon Adams, “If All You Have Is a Mattis, Everything Looks Like a Nail,” Foreign Policy, Dec 2016.

Greg Jaffe & Missy Ryan, “Military brass like what they hear from White House — but worry about becoming props,” Washington Post, March 15, 2017.

Dion Nissenbaum, “Trump Gives Generals More Freedom on ISIS Fight,” Washington Post, April 14, 2017.

Lindsey P. Cohn, “The Precarious State of Civil-Military Relations in the Age of Trump,” War on the Rocks, March 28, 2018.

“America’s top brass break with Donald Trump,” The Economist, June 7, 2020.

Aaron C. David, “How Trump amassed a red-state army in the nation’s capital — and could do so again,” Washington Post, Oct. 1, 2020.

Phil Stewart, “How Trump fell out of love with his generals, and why the feeling is mutual,” Reuters, Sept 23, 2020.

Fred Kaplan, “The Generals Won’t Save American Democracy,” Slate, Aug 12, 2021.


Mon, May 10: Democratic Values: Race in the U.S. Military, Part 1

Sherie Mershon and Steven Schlossman, Foxholes and Color Lines: Desegregating the U.S. Armed Forces, Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1998, pp. 1-134. Available online with the UW library.


Tues, May 11: Submit description of research paper by noon

Use your UW email to send a description of your research paper to the class listserve by noon on Tues, May 11 (the day prior to class). The proposal (250-350 words) should be well written and well developed. It should 1) specify your puzzle; 2) outline how you are addressing it; 3) survey the evidence you have found; and 4) list 10-12 sources that you have or will consult.

All group members are expected to carefully read the proposals in their group and to come to the discussion with questions and comments on each proposal.  This means that all students must submit their proposals by the due date. Late submission will result in a .2 deduction from the final paper grade.


Wed, May 12: Small group discussion of research paper 

See instructions immediately above. 


Mon, May 17: Democratic Values: Race in the U.S. Military, Part 1

 Mershon & Schlossman, Foxholes & Color Lines, pp. 135-251.


Wed, May 19: Democratic Values: Open integration of gays & lesbians in the U.S. Military

Capt Mark Cantrell, “No Place for Homosexuals,” Marine Corps Gazette (April 1993): 65-73.

Maj. Arthur J. Corbett, “Disband the Marine Corps,” Marine Corps Gazette (January 1993).

Lt. Col. Michael R. Lehnert, “The Homosexual Assault: A Clash of Values,” and Maj. Michael D. Weltsch, “The Homosexual Issue: Back to the Seventies,”  Marine Corps Gazette (June 1993).

Merrill A. McPeak, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Change,” New York Times, March 5, 2010.

Aaron Belkin, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Is the Gay Ban Based on Military Necessity?” Parameters: The U.S. Army War College Quarterly (summer 2003): 108-18.

Alan K. Simpson, “Bigotry that hurts our military,” Washington Post, March 14, 2007.


Mon, May 24:  Democratic Values: Women in Combat in the U.S. Military

See “Debate: Women in Combat” for readings and instructions on how to prepare for class debate.


*** Second take-exam will be available on Canvas by 3pm on Mon, May 24 ***

The exam will specify the expected word count. You are expected to work independently. Consulting others is a violation of academic honesty. Submit your answers on Canvas by 3pm on Wed, May 26.


Wed, May 26:  No seminar: second take home exam due by 3pm. Submit on Canvas.

 See instructions immediately above.


Mon, May 31:  Memorial Day


Wed, June 2:  Research paper presentations 

Everyone gives a five-minute presentation on their paper’s main findings. Practice to ensure that you speak no longer than five minutes. It is important to leave time for questions and to learn how to time a presentation.


Wed, June 9:   Submit research paper on Canvas by 11am

                         Note instructions on length, format, and sources.

Catalog Description: 
Explores issues of civil-military relations in the United States including debates about the garrison state hypothesis; military advice on the use of force; the civil-military "gap"; and issues of race, gender, and sexual orientation in the military. Offered: jointly with POL S 430.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Include in front page slideshow: 
Last updated: 
October 13, 2020 - 9:14pm