Warriors & Citizens: American Views of our Military is a collection of focused assessments of survey data that was implemented to determine how well the American population understood civil-military affairs. The surveys in question - the Triangle Institute for Security Studies (TISS) survey of 1998 and the YouGov survey of 2013 - asked questions related to how well participants understood military life and its requirements; the relations between the military, the government, and the public; and various hypothetical situations in order to assess their perception of the civil-military dynamic. The bottom line determined by these surveys, and reflected in this book, is that the American people have great trust in the military as an institution, but don't truly understand how it functions. To quote General James Mattis and Kori Schake, both editors and contributors to this book, in the first chapter called "A Great Divergence" they state,
“While pessimism Americans have about the policies being pursued stokes support for stronger actions, the public’s ignorance about military issues precludes them from developing stable views on the complex issues of current conflicts where military operations are tightly integrated with issues more often associated with law enforcement and justice. [Some contributing authors] worry that this combination will lead to ineffectual counterterrorism policies, policies that symbolize toughness without achieving lasting effects, unless political leaders engage the public more substantively.”
For the many contributors to this book, they have all identified some issues resulting from this gap. Some are minor, inconsequential issues while others are major and create problems for our security. Some are present, while others are potentialities. From these writings, however, Mattis and Schake mention three particular issues coming from the divide - there are more, but we will focus on the small set of concerns. These following three issues are of concern for our military and, therefore, our nation. Later on, I will discuss why these same issues can be found in businesses - though to a lesser degree in severity - but first, the problems as they apply to civil-military relations.
Military as Spokesman of Dictated Policy
The U.S. military operates under objective civilian-control by the government. What this means is that while the military is afforded considerable autonomy to develop its own requirements - DOTMLPF. They are still ultimately under the control of our elected president and their appointed representatives. Every branch has a civilian secretary, and the whole Defense Department is headed by a civilian - the Secretary of Defense. The president - who dual-hats as the commander-in-chief - has the final say, and as long as their orders are lawful, the military will execute. Congress, additionally, can declare the military's budget, conduct inspections, and raise and maintain the Services. Control, in a sense, is divided between these two – the executive and legislative branches of government – and the military is compelled by professionalism and law to subordinate itself.
The president is elected. Congresspersons are elected. Ideally, they are supposed to carry out the will of the people - as nebulous as that concept may be - as their representatives. As the civil-military divide increases, you have an electorate that doesn't know the requirements of their nation's security and the needs of the military that provides it. The civilian leaders of the executive and legislative branches as well suffer from this divide as more now than ever, they have chosen to focus predominantly on domestic affairs. They themselves have become ignorant of military affairs, and this has created a lack of confidence in their abilities in the eyes of the public. As a result, they dictate general policies for the military to carry out without an effective understanding of the long-term effects of those policies on military readiness. They then require the military's spokesmen to support those policies and leverage the military's good image to gain the people's placid acceptance.
“Respect for the American military is widespread, but the public’s knowledge of the military is shallow… It contributes to strategic incoherence, encouraging politicians to consider their strategic choices hemmed in by public opposition and to shift responsibility for winning policy argument onto the military.”
Difficulty in Sustaining the War Effort
Conflicts are as diverse as business endeavors. There are different desired ends, unique operational and mission requirements, and these together can impact what is required to achieve those ends. Civilian political leaders have to balance both domestic and foreign policy requirements, while the military leaders provide their uncensored and honest assessments of military realities. In our history, often military leaders provided estimates for military forces necessary for campaign victories that were too high for those civilian leaders to accept. They would have to curtail the military's numbers, at the detriment to the success of operations.
For civilian leaders and the public that elects them, there is danger in failing to understand the nature of wartime operations and the uncertainty that it creates. Battles can be relatively easy to plan for desired effects. Still, the campaigns necessary to shape an environment, to shape a war, are so complex that other than resources, the most crucial aspect is time. Warfare is a "whole of government" activity, and while the military can be relied on to carry on the fight indefinitely we can't guarantee the civilian government and the electorate can do so as well. Failure to keep the people engaged falls on the shoulders of civilian leaders.
“Political leaders just are not expending the effort to change attitudes; they are instead decrying their lack of public support to justify inaction. But by expending political capital to engage and educate the public, political leaders could create larger decision space: they could expand their strategic options by fostering an educated public and choosing strategically sound courses of action that would draw and sustain public support.”
But military leaders - and military members as a whole - can help support this by educating the populous of the harsh realities of conflict and the uncertainty of warfare. Hopefully, War Is My Business helps in this effort.
Imposing Social Policies to the Detriment of Military Capabilities
All organizations have a purpose for their existence. Businesses seek to achieve their objectives through commerce, trade, etc., and the military organization seeks to achieve its objectives through force or threat of force. All seek to influence others and shape their environments for their benefit, and while the ways and means may appear different, this premise underlies all human activities. The ways and means are essential; however, and were tailored specifically to influence and shape their people and their environments. If you were to change the characteristics of the ways and means of armed conflict then you inherently change how effects are produced.
Some changes to the policies imposed on the military can have uncertain effects on how we conduct operations and achieve objectives on a battlefield. Whether those changes have positive or negative outcomes, we can't be sure until they are put to the test; in daily garrison operations; in field training exercises; and in combat. Change creates uncertainty, and warfare already carries great amounts of uncertainty. Most of the time, the military operates on calculated risks, but with increased uncertainty, it becomes much more difficult to calculate that risk and achieve objectives. Since lives are literally at peril, and the security of the nation is in danger, the military is naturally conservative when it comes to change. Too many changes, or too big a change, too quickly is seen as dangerous and foolhardy. If you ever thought the military was slow to change its ways and systems, now you know why.
“Those people making decisions about military issues are generally in line with public attitudes, but those elites who shape the cultural environment create pressure on politicians to make choices not in line with the traditional values of military culture or the attitudes of the general public… To the extent that sustaining a military is fundamental to sustaining the American Experiment, decisions made for nonmilitary reasons and against military advice are potentially reckless.”