Episode 10, Season 1 of the Social Science of War podcast is the final episode of the season and examines civil-military relations and partisanship within the armed forces.
The conversation begins with a discussion on Samuel Huntington’s concept of objective control—a model of civil-military relations taught widely in US professional military education, which the guests have multiple critiques of. It continues to explore topics such as partisanship in the military, what role service members should play in public discourse, and how to establish oversight over a military that is widely regarded as one of the most trusted institutions in American society. As a central takeaway for both scholars and practitioners, our guests concur that military leaders should be politically aware but apolitical as an optimal approach to civil-military relations.
Dan Helmer is a delegate in the Virginia House of Delegates, an Army lieutenant colonel with tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and South Korea, and an instructor in the Department of Social Sciences at West Point. He is a graduate of West Point and earned his master’s degree at the University of Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship.
Major Michael Robinson is an active duty US Army officer with service in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Balkans. He is a recent assistant professor in the Department of Social Sciences at West Point, and today’s conversation is motivated by his book, based on his PhD research at Stanford University and titled Dangerous Instrument: Political Polarization and US Civil-Military Relations.
Dr. Kori Schake is the director of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. She has served in the State Department, in the Defense Department, and on the National Security Council, has authored five books, and has held multiple academic positions, to include as the distinguished chair of international security studies in the Department of Social Sciences at West Point. She has multiple publications on civil-military relations, including a book she coedited, with General Jim Mattis, titled Warriors and Citizens: American View of Our Military.
The Social Science of War podcast is produced by the Department of Social Sciences at West Point. Visit our website if you would like to be a student or teach in the department, or if you would like to connect with any of our instructors based on their expertise.
Kyle Atwell created and is the host of the Social Science of War. Please reach out to Kyle with any questions about this episode or the Science of War podcast in general.
Image credit: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kathryn E. Holm, US Navy