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Civilian Control Of The Armed Forces Politics Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 4988 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Civilian control of the military is, undoubtedly, a basis for liberal democracy. An essential if not adequate approach of measuring the steps forward of state’s democratization is to weigh up if the armed forces are under civilian authority. The principle that ‘civilian control over the military is a prerequisite for the customary carrying out of a civilized state’ has become one of the existing attitudes of our time. The scale and form of control varies in different nature of governance, past traditions and cultural norms, and diverse observations of threat. In United States President may have a major driving force in controlling military while in parliamentary system this charge is with the cabinet. Both systems are attuned with comprehensive civilian control, and in both circumstances the parliament is, and should be, an additional instrument augmenting civilian control for various reasons in all democracies, not considering of the kind of government, the legislature has the influence of the purse [1] .

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While, the ever-increasing complication and the practical nature of security related issues, for want of know-how of a good number of legislatures, time constraints of parliaments and secrecy acts frequently mixed up in the issue of security matters limits or hamper parliamentary supervision. [2] Additionally, in those developing countries where tenets of democracy have not been broadly restored and the elected establishment has to tackle with the profound legacies of the past military or authoritarian government, the earliest precedence is to set up civilian control itself; if it is implemented primarily by the executive or the legislature is a matter of relatively less important and this fact severely aggravates the smooth functioning of civil military relations.

The emerging relation between the military and the third wave democracies in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and former Soviet empire has offered fresh patterns and perspectives for go back to our old question of who guards the guardians and what is the most favorable equilibrium amid civilian control and military effectiveness. Civil Military relations are characterized by the interplay between military officers’ efforts to secure their professional goals, such as greater autonomy or more resources, and the need for elected officials to supervise the military to ensure compliance to their own policy preferences. In developing countries, the trend is that the political leaders have extreme keenness to bring to bear civilian control, but have inadequate aptitude and capability to do so. Feaver maintains, “Because we fear others we create an institution of violence to protect us, but then we fear the very institution we created for protection”. [3] To place it another way, “how do you make certain that your instrument is doing your will, chiefly when your instrument has firepower and so may take pleasure in additional coercive muscle than you do?”

Democratic governance is not only restricted to respect for fundamental rights, pluralism and the other indispensable tenets of democracy, it also has to guarantee efficiency and usefulness in discharging the functions of the state. These characters seem to be omitted in many developing countries, lacking the dexterity, know-how, infrastructure and resources to meet the interests and the security requirements of citizens and state. With no vital institutional ability, the standards and ethos of democracy continue to suffer and insecurity might consequently remain omnipresent. In developing countries the military often take power in their hands motivating it by the necessity to provide stability, and their influence is spread not only in politics, but also in the economics, ideology, culture, and even in religion. This is caused by economical backwardness of these states, political instability, and social-class differentiation. [4] 

In fragile new democracies where the political sector is weak and the security sector is strong, politicians might rely on the overt or tacit support of the security services to maintain their tenuous hold on power. They might avoid substantial reforms for fear of provoking a coup or lesser forms of resistance.

If the state lacks the capacity to resolve the normal political and social conflicts that characterise all societies, then at least some individuals and groups will settle their disputes through violence.

As Richard Kohn maintains

Among the oldest   problems of human governance has been the subordination of the military to political authority: how a society controls those who possess the ultimate power of coercion or physical force. Since the earliest development of organized military forces in ancient times, governments, particularly republican or democratic governments, have been vulnerable to either being destroyed, overturned, or subverted by their armies. All forms of government, from the purest democracies to the most savage autocracies, whether they maintain order and gain compliance by consent or by coercion, must find the means to assure the obedience of their military — both to the regime in power and to the overall system of government. [5] 

The first reason is that, until recently, ‘civilian control’ has been a Western orthodoxy reflecting three classic Western preoccupations: keeping the military out of politics, keeping the military out of power and subordinating military values to civilian ones. Given the number of overtly militaristic regimes in the world – and politically ambitious military establishments – these are sound preoccupations. We should keep in mind that military powers are an instrument of the government, which defines policy. [6] A military force must obey only the supreme government of the state. It must carry out the will of but the government elected by people. [7] 

1.2 CMR in Nepal Brief Account………..

 Statement of the problem

CMR is dynamic, country specific, constantly developing in response to political changes, external imperative, technological innovation and not a static equation. It is commonplace that civil-military relations can be gauged by the way interactions of policy and operations take place. [8] Good democratic civil-military relations, as has also been stated, are normally subjected to a functional democratic control in state and society as well as the international system. Yet, a problem arises when investigating how this good is achieved in developing states, as in other mature democracies: [9] It is assumed that these countries have developed adequate civil-military relations, but when investigating how this control functions in fact, it seems to be the military’s professional adherence to democratic principles rather than the imposed executive power of the civil authority to control the military in practice. [10] Therefore, it is not only the institutional set-up and rule of law that provides the civil control, at least not alone, but rather the political legitimacy of the civil authority which also relies on the continuous will of the armed forces to value the democratic state. There have obviously been quite a few cases where armed forces, or, more explicitly, leading military figures, have not adhered to this will, with results that range from suspension to coups d’état. [11] It is noted that the mere declaration that the military is controlled is no guarantee that it really is and also is no explanation of how this control works in the first place. The emerging harmony is, besides social and political harmony, the foundation for effective defense. It requires a culture which is based on a comprehensive framework of institutional set-up and civil authority. Hence, dogmatic demands for unconditional democratic civilian control of the military without explaining, at the same time, what exactly is meant by that, lack the necessary comprehensive approach. It is quite obvious that whatever is meant by democratic civilian control cannot be a matter of coincidence but has to rest on a sound conceptual and normative framework. At the domestic level, concepts and civil-military regimes [12] can generally be found. However, institutional set-ups, rules, norms, principles, and decision-making procedures, all affecting civil-military relations, are different in different states due to their national cultural, historical, and political distinctiveness. [13] However, the lack of such a conceptual and normative framework is problematic, especially as it touches upon one central political challenge in democratic legitimacy.

Research Questions

What are the raison d’être behind the democratic civilian control over the armed forces in a democracy?

What are the general trends and nature of CMR in developing and democratizing states?

In general what are the theoretical differences in CMR in developing and developed states?

How have been the characteristics of CMR in Nepal in different timelines?

Can Military defiance to the civilian masters be justified?

What are the policy implications to uphold appropriate CMR in developing countries with lesson learnt from Nepalese perspective?


The objectives of the thesis are as follows:

Main Objective

The main objective of this research paper is to analyze the relational aspects of CMR in developing and developed democracies and there by deriving theoretical framework to scrutinize the nature of civil military relationship of Nepal and ultimately chalking out the theoretical implications for upholding CMR and democracy in the developing countries.

Specific Objectives

To examine and explore the rationale of democratic CMR in developed democracies.

To analyze the trends of CMR in developing or democratizing states.

To comparatively assess the different practices in the approach of CMR in developing and developed states.

To explore the various distinctiveness of CMR in Nepal in different era.

To analyze the incidents where NA has defied civilian orders.

To set the policy imperatives, from lesson learnt from Nepalese perspective, for other developing countries coping with comparable problems.


As Huntington aptly observes, “the threat of military intervention comes from militaries that are politically weak; the legacy of military privilege comes from militaries that are politically strong”. [14] Such political dilemma is also described by Diamond and Plattner: “On the one hand, civilian supremacy requires reducing military prerogatives and restricting the military to a much narrower, defense-centered professional mission. On the other hand, political stability requires keeping civil-military conflict to a minimum. Reducing military prerogatives and power almost invariably generates conflict between civilian and military authorities; thus it is difficult to maximize both these goals simultaneously”. [15] 

In developed democracies, they have also developed established mechanism to have control over the armed forces, where as in many developing countries civilian control is maintained through ad hoc basic creating a strained relationship in between the civilian masters and the armed forces which takes its ultimate toll on the well-being of the state. The nature and type of political system or the society has a great bearing upon CMR. General Sir John Hackett maintains

“What a society gets in its armed forces is exactly what it asks for, no more no less. What it asks for tends to be a reflection of what it is. When a country looks at its fighting forces, it is looking in a mirror; the mirror is a true one and the face that it sees will be its own.” [16] 

According to Greenwood, [17] there are five domains: first, the relationship between the military and the state; second, the relationship between the military and the executive branch of government; third, the oversight power of the legislature; fourth, the relationship between the military and a country’s domestic security community; and fifth, the relationship between the military and pluralistic society at large. While the first three appear to belong more to the functional dimension, the fourth and fifth relate more to the sociological one.

Besides this approach, other definitions include all relations between the military and civilian society, namely, between soldiers and citizens. [18] If one follows liberal democracy theory, good civil-military relations are always linked to, and based on, the democratic control of the armed forces, which means that the military is unambiguously subordinated to the lawfully-elected democratic civilian authorities, who, in turn, do not meddle with purely professional military affairs. With regards to the research subject, the main objective and specific objectives of this dissertation, following hypothesis has been derived:

Hypothesis 1: When armed forces in developed countries can be guardians of democracy for it to thrive then democratic societies in developing countries can definitely prosper with the help from the armed forces, supposing that elected government apply the principled and righteous approaches to subordinate the military.

Hypothesis 2: If the concept of Civil Military Relations is on the rise and is being seen upon by many as a medium to strengthen democracy in the developing world then it is important for Civilian masters to have distinct recognition and better understanding of the concept and inducement of the CMR including methods of implementing it effectively or at times military can defy the civilian government hampering the democracy.

Justification of the study

The state may have the control of military by the civilians and at times it may not entail democracy but to have democracy without civilian control seems next to impossible. In democracy it is quintessential to have an appropriate control over the armed forces which allows a state to support its principles and rationales, its organizations and practices, on the widely accepted spirit fairly than on the options of military, whose viewpoint by explanation spotlights on the requirement for internal order and external security. An existing model in one state may work only in this society, taking into consideration its peculiarities, traditions, social, cultural, political and other factors, but its adoption by another state and society is impossible – and possibly it will become a source of many problems. Civil-military relations and civilian democratic control over military forces are developing; there is no unique model, for it is, like democracy, a process of perfecting. Likewise, it is impossible to talk about any achievement in this sphere, the issue of civil military relations and civilian democratic control over the military has not been completely “solved”, it should correspond to the level of the state’s development. [19] 

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Studies of civil-military relations often rest on a normative assumption that civilian control of the military is preferable to military control of the state. The principal problem they examine, however, is empirical: to explain how civilian control over the military is established and maintained [20] . The particular nature of the state-society relation, the political system in operation, the external context, and the prevailing ethos and culture of the military determine the relationship between the civil authority and armed forces. Civil-military relations are classified on the basis of their nature, and differing situations and communications between civilian authorities and the military result in differing conclusions.

There is also a general belief that the military is amongst the slightest known or least democratic institutions. In human experience; martial customs and procedures clash by nature with individual freedom and civil liberty, the highest values in democratic societies.

Policy Relevance

The trends of battered Civil Military relation in the developing countries with reference to developed democracies present an interesting subject matter which certainly has important policy implications for policy makers in all developing countries. The unpleasant CMR adversely affects the stability of a state, thus the socio-economic well-being of the nation.

This dissertation not only seeks to advance our understanding of the dynamics of civil military relation in Nepal but also suggests appropriate policies to uphold suitable CMR. It also assesses how lesson learnt from the Nepalese perspective might with essential adjustment, be applied to other developing countries, coping with comparable problems.

 Research Design-A Conceptual Framework

Study on politico -military relations of the successful democratic countries.

Evolution of the militaryand the parallel developmentof the concept of statehoodtaking place

Collect data based on the analysis and inter-relation study

Study the history and evolution of Armed Forces

Studies on the comparatively new concept of civil -military relations and its impact on democracy with focus on Nepal

Study the evolution and history of Democracy

Analyze the role of Armed Forces in democracy and dictatorship

Analyze the past and the current trends of governance, democratic norms and relation among the Armed Forces in Local and International scenario.

Inter-relation study and identification of key parameter from secondary data to form questionnaires and designing of research to prepare and show relevance to the primary data source

Collect data based on the analysis and inter-relation study

Studies on the political and the militaryculture s that have influencedthe governance of various states including that of N epal

Interrelation, coexistence and conflicts between democracy and armed forces.

The methodology will be based after closely scrutinizing the main and specific objectives of the study. For the achievement of this, it is essential to understand the evolution and history of the armed forces and democracy. The interrelation between the two from historical and modern aspect is necessary, in view of the approach. This will be done by looking at secondary sources of data such as books, journals and articles published on the subject and various concepts brought forward by various academicians and agencies which are essential in researching on democracy and military. The case studies of countries enjoying mutual relations or problematic encounters between the management of armed forces and democracy will also help in finding out the root causes and solutions to the main instigation of the problem or solutions for the maintenance of balance or imbalance between the two. Advantage of the internet will be utilized in the optimum level. The research will be an explorative, analytical and a descriptive study. This will also include some of the areas known to the researcher. The information and data will be obtained both from first hand and secondary sources, related standard published books of various local and foreign scholars and papers written by experts which are related or can be related to the subject.

It is also important to study and research the open data sources on the legal and operational framework of the military and its command and control mechanism in relation to the state body. This will also be primarily done with the publications related to the subject. At the same time some of the symposiums, conferences and discussions held to support and enhance the relations between democracy and the armed forces will also be studied as a source of primary data. Direct communications and support on the subject with various think tanks and other establishments to include experts from Nepal who have either worked or had experience working in similar areas will be made to gain extensive knowledge on the subject and its relevance in the global context.

Once key parameters are identified and analysis of the data is made, it would involve relentless interactions with prominent personnel from intellectuals on the subject. The method would involve in-depth interviews and focus on group discussions.

In briefly studying the subject in the context of Nepal which will involve meeting with military experts, retired military officers politicians, various parliamentary committees related to the implementation and monitoring of Security Forces and concerned ministries. All of these would be done on a mixed approach of interviews and surveys. Similarly on Civil Military Relations part, a detailed research on the implementation of civil military relations from unification times, hitherto without knowing its theoretical aspects until current time will be studied. Data collected through questionnaire and quantitative methods will be presented on simple summary tables, column charts and pie charts.

On completion of the process, analysis will be made and come out with the problems and challenges facing the perspective of CMR in developing countries. Based on the above methodologies, focus would then be made on recommending the prospects and opportunities of the research.

A comprehensive draft of the study will then be finalized for distribution to the key persons involved to further bring out with recommendations and their thoughts to make the study more realistic and achievable. Academic consultations and advice would also be taken before presenting the final draft thesis as per the regulations of the University.

Any notable changes or ideas that may come after the initiation of the study (not mentioned in the process) will also be incorporated


This survey is planned to intake the insight of senior army officers on significant matters in civil-military relations in Nepal. The survey is both exclusive and vital, since such a straightforward random sample of retried, senior Nepalese officers has never been produced before. The survey targets two groups: a simple random sample of all retired army officers of the rank of brigadier and above; and a focus group of some selected politicians, bureaucrats, and security experts. This focus group, by virtue of its diverse experience in handling real world issue might provide more informed insights into leadership attitudes, in light of which we can evaluate the survey findings. We may thus be able to identify patterns and trends that might have important policy implications.

To achieve the goal of capturing perceptions of senior officers on important issue in civil-military relations, ideally, the following conditions will have to be met;

(a) The questionnaire will incorporate issue, derived from relevant, theoretical propositions and those that will be qualitatively analyzed.

(b) The survey sample should be representative of the senior officer populations; the responses of these officers will be compared with the views of the focus group which was selected on the basis of its expertise in, and exposure to, policy formulations and decision-making at higher levels of the Nepalese government.

The following guidelines were observed in developing a survey instrument:

(a) A balanced questionnaire was crafted comprising simple, intelligible, clear questions that were neither loaded nor leading.

(b) Where unavoidable, hypothetical questions were sparingly used to tie attitudes to some realistic contingencies (for example, total collapse of civil administration).

(c) A no-opinion option was offered.

(d) Open follow-ops to closed questions were used.

In addition, the questionnaire will be presented and ambiguous, unclear phrases were suitably replaced. A copy of the questionnaires is attached at Appendix A(UNDER CONSTRUCTION). The focus group is at Appendix B (UNDER CONSTRUCTION).

survey data, capturing officers perceptions, were analyzed, and the findings matched with the results of hypotheses-testing; divergences, if any, will be explained.

(b) As it was not possible to elicit responses for the questionnaires from serving officers of the Indian army, retired officers were used as surrogates.

(c) The simple random survey, sample was drawn from the population of experienced, senior officers, representing different branches and thus having diverse background and experiences. By virtue of their ranks and long years of experience, these officers would have been exposed to important civil-military interactions.

(d) In addition to the simple random sample mentioned above, a focus groups of about 15 persons, representing politicians, retired persons from the bureaucracy, the police, the academia, and the organizational and the decision making contexts of important policy decisions that affected, and in turn were influenced, by civil-military relations in Nepal in different timelines.

Research Writing PROPOSED

Tentatively the report writing will have following chapters

Preliminary pages

Tiltle page



List of tables and illustrations


Chapter Division

Chapter I: Introduction (Introduction to the research work, thesis statements)

Chapter II Review of Literature

Theories of Civil military relation

Professionalism and armed forces

Political system and governance

Democracy and the armed forces

Chapter III: Rationale of Democratic Control over Armed Forces in Democracies

CMR and Democracy

American Democracy and control over armed forces

British Democracy and control over armed forces

Indian democracy and control over armed forces

Theoretical outlines on the practices of CMR and mature democracies.

Chapter IV: The Concept of Civil Military Relations, Democratization of various components of the State and approaches implemented in the developing World.

4.1 Developing states and CMR

4.2 Pakistan’s political system and armed forces.

4.3 Democracy and CMR in Eastern Africa.

Democracy and CMR in Latin America.

Theoretical outlines on the practices of CMR and developing countries.

Chapter V: Comparative theoretical assessment of the nature of CMR in developing and mature democracies.

Chapter VI: An Assessment of Civil Military Relations in Nepal.

6.1 Formation of Unified Nepal, Nepalese Army and historical outlook of the Civil Military Relations in Nepal.

6.2 The CMR in Nepal under democracy.

6.3 The cause and implication of military defiance of civilian orders.

6.4 The Civil Military Relations through theoretical lenses.

6.5 Discussion and analysis of Survey and Questionnaire on CMR in Nepal.

Chapter VII Key findings and Recommendations on the implementation of CMR in the developing world and Nepal based upon the findings from the current challenges faced.


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