LSJ 431 A: Civil-Military Relations in Democracies

Spring 2024
MW 2:30pm - 4:20pm / MGH 248
Section Type:
Joint Sections:
POL S 430 A
Elizabeth Kier
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):


 Democracy & the Military: Issues in U.S. Civil-Military Relations

M/W, 2:30 – 4:20, SAV 167


Prof. Kier

office hrs: Wed, 430-600, Gowen 129


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 this relationship?

This course examines these questions through a focus on the United States. We first review dominant theoretical approaches on how to ensure civilian control of the military.  We then examine wartime civil-military relations; the draft versus the all-volunteer force; and the politicization of the U.S. military. We also explore issues such as the attitudinal gap between civilians and the military; the military’s growing partisanship; and civil-military relations during the Trump administration. The final section examines issues of race, gender, and sexual orientation in the U.S. military. 




Readings: Most of the course readings are on Canvas. The book is on reserve at Odegaard and available for purchase at the University Bookstore.

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 posted on Canvas under "Files."  Use these questions to guide your reading, to take notes, and to prepare for class discussion. 


Requirements: A research paper (30%); two exams (25% each); and class participation (20%).

Your engaged discussion is central to the seminar’s success. This means that participation – not just attendance – is required. You are expected to come to each class prepared to discuss the readings, the discussion questions, and each other’s research projects. If you are unable to attend a class, submit written answers to the discussion questions within a week of the missed class. Students will also give presentations on the readings.  

Exams will be in the PoliSci Computer Rm, Smith Hall 220. If you think you might have Covid, you must arrange a make-up. Otherwise, no non-medical make-ups without a written excuse from a recognized authority. Attempts at a fait accompli (“already bought my ticket”) will fail. For additional information on courses, grading, academic conduct, and university policies, see



Applications for accommodations from the Disability Resources for Students office are available here:  voice & relay: 206 543-8924; fax: 206 616-8379; The office is understaffed so it is important to submit your request as soon as possible.

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 Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course



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 issues in the United States or other democracies. 


Choosing a topic

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

  • There are limits on free speech in the U.S. military. Describe the restrictions and their justifications. Then examine Supreme Court rulings on relevant cases and the nature of dissents. Or, compare the limits on free speech in the U.S. military to that of other democracies.
  • 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. What are the sources of tensions; how does the military wield power; and what does this interaction say about U.S. civil-military relations? 
  • The overturning of Roe v. Wade has implications for the U.S. military, especially given that many bases are located in states that restrict access to reproductive health care. Describe the issue and how the Pentagon has attempted to address it. Or compare access to reproductive rights in the U.S. military with access in other democracies.
  • The U.S. military adopted policies to restrict media access after Vietnam. Why did the Pentagon seek to change its relationship to the “fourth estate;” what were the most important reforms, and what are the implications of these reforms for democracy?  
  • The high proportion of veterans in the January 6 insurrection drew attention to the issue of white supremacy in the U.S. military. How serious is the problem and what has Congress and the Pentagon done to address it?
  • Sexual harassment continues to plague the U.S. military. What explains its persistence despite the number of programs developed and the millions spent to address it?  What additional policies might help lower its occurrence?
  • The Supreme Court often defers to the military on judgments about military issues. Consider the origins, scope, and nature of military deference. Then consider its implications for the rights of servicemembers.  Or, compare the U.S. court’s approach to the military with courts in other democracies.
  • There are legal restrictions on the role of the regular military in civilian law enforcement. What are the origins of the Posse Comitatus Act and have federal troops been deployed as a domestic police force?
  • Blacks are overrepresented in the enlisted and underrepresented in the officer corps, especially in the most senior positions. Why does this problem persist and what policies could address it? 
  • Almost a dozen state National Guard units remained all-white until the mid-1960s. What explains this situation?  Why (and when) were all National Guard units finally integrated?
  • The Israeli Defense Forces easily accepted the open integration of gays and lesbians in the early 1990s while the U.S. military ardently and successfully opposed this change until 2011. What explains this contrast?

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. For a discussion about how to access peer-reviewed journals, see

I encourage you to consult UW reference librarians for help in locating sources. You can email Emily Keller (, the political science librarian, for an appointment. She can 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). An indispensable guide is Strunk & White’s, Elements of Style.

Papers should be 2,800-3,300 words, not including bibliography. Put word count on first page. Submit your paper as a Word document (not a PDF) on Canvas.

Your paper should include citations (including page numbers) and a bibliography. To ensure the correct formatting of each, see  For more detailed discussions, see You can use any of the standard formatting styles.

The University has a license agreement with Turnitin, an educational tool that identifies plagiarism. You will submit your research paper through this service. It indicates the amount of original text and whether the material that you quote, paraphrase, or summarize is appropriately referenced. For a discussion of plagiarism and how to avoid it, see


Due dates

  • paper proposal: by 2pm Sat., April 20. Use your UW email to send your proposal as an attached Word file (not a PDF or google doc) to the class listserve. Late proposals lose .2 from final paper.
  • paper overview: by 12pm Tues., May 7. Use your UW email to send your proposal as a Word file (not PDF): Late overviews lose .2 from final paper.
  • paper presentation: in class on May 29. Absence leads to .5 deduction from final paper.
  • final paper: by 5pm, Mon., June 3. Submit as a Word document (not PDF) on Canvas. Late papers lose .5 pts/day.    



1.  Mon., March 25: Introduction


2.  Wed., March 27: 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.


3.  Mon., April 1: 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.


4.  Wed., April 3:  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, 1977, pp. 1-15, 96-138, 214-224.


5.  Mon., April 8: Objective 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. 

Bob Woodward, “Military thwarted president seeking choice in Afghanistan,” (excerpts) 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.


6.  Wed., April 10: Military Service: The draft or an all-volunteer force?

Edward M. Kennedy, “Inequities in the Draft,” New York Times, Feb. 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 U.S. military is as unequal as America. Want a fair fight? Reinstate the draft,” The Guardian, Sept. 30, 2014.

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

Karl Eikenberry, “Reassessing the All-Volunteer Force,” in David M. Kennedy, Editor. The Modern American Military, Oxford, 2013.


7.  Mon., April 15:  Post-Cold War: A crisis in civil-military relations?

Richard Kohn, “Out of Control,” The National Interest (spring 1994. 

“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, Nov. 9, 1998.  

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


8.  Wed., April 17: 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 by referring to 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.


** 2pm., Sat., April 20: submit paper proposal **

Your proposal (150-250 words) is a first-cut at a possible topic. It should be well-written but your topic does not need to be well-developed. It should state your topic/puzzle. Or, if uncertain what you want to research, briefly discuss one or two possibilities.

Use your UW email to send your proposal as an attached file in Word (not as a PDF or google doc). Use the class listserve Late submission will result in a .2 deduction from the final paper grade.


9. Mon., April 22:  Small group discussion of research proposal  

You are expected to carefully read the proposals in your group and to come to class with questions and comments on each. 


10. Wed., April 24:  First exam.  Political Science Computer Room, Smith Hall, 220.


11. Mon., April 29:  :  Rumsfeld & the war in Iraq: the “revolt of the generals”

You are required to read 26-37 not all the article.  Richard H. Kohn, “The Erosion of Civilian Control of the Military in the United States Today,” Naval War College Review (summer 2002), pp. 26-37.

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.


** 1pm, Tues., April 30 **

Send one short discussion question based on the Trump readings to You must use your UW email address.


12. Wed., May 1: Trump & “my generals:” The politicization of the U.S. military?  

Everyone is expected to send one short discussion question based on the readings to by 1pm on Tues., April 30 Use your UW email address.

Gordon Adams, “If all you have is a Mattis, everything will look 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.

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.

David, Ignatius, “Gen. Milley’s stress test,” Washington Post (Opinion), Sept. 18, 2021.


13. Mon., May 6: Democratic Values: Race in the U.S. military, part 1

Sherie Merson and Steven Schlossman, Foxholes and Color Lines: Desegregating the U.S. Armed Forces, Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1998, pp. 1-134. 


 ** 12pm Tues., May 7: submit paper overview **

The overview (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 sources that you have or will consult (do not just include a link: include the full citation).

Use your UW email to send your proposal as an attached file in Word (not PDF). Use the class listserve Late submission will result in a .2 deduction from the final paper grade.

Any changes in your paper topic after submission of your paper overview on May 7 must be cleared with Prof. Kier


14. Wed., May 8:  Small group discussion of research paper 

You are expected to carefully read the proposals in your group and to come to class with questions and comments on each proposal in your group. 


15.  Mon., May 13:  Democratic Values: Race in the U.S. military, part 2

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


16.  Wed., May 15:  Democratic Values: 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 (Jan. 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.


17.  Mon., May 20:  Democratic Values: Women in combat

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


18.  Wed., May 22:  Second exam.  Political Science Computer Room, Smith Hall, 220.


Mon., May 27: Memorial Day: no class


19.  Wed., May 29:  Research paper presentations  Everyone gives a five-minute summary of their paper’s main findings. Practice to ensure that you speak no longer than five minutes. It is important to learn how to time a presentation and to leave time for questions.


* Mon., June 3:  submit paper as Word document (not a PDF) on Canvas by 5pm *

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 Met:
Social Sciences (SSc)
Last updated:
July 17, 2024 - 3:09 pm