How have civilian views of deference to military and civilian authority evolved? Are current trends in civil-military relations antithetical to healthy democratic norms? And what can be done to ensure the civil-military relationship is a healthy one? In Episode 3, Season 2 of the Social Science of War podcast, we explore these questions by focusing primarily on the civilian side of civil-military relations.

Our guests discuss survey data that suggests civilians are more deferential to military authority than in years past. They argue trends in this data run counter to traditional views of what constitutes healthy civ-mil dynamics in a democracy. The conversation also covers how views of retired military officers’ involvement in politics are changing and how “advice and consent” procedures for promoting senior military officers in the Senate may impact civ-mil dynamics. They conclude with some policy and pedagogical prescriptions for restoring healthy civil-military norms.

Dr. Ron Krebs is a professor of political science at the University of Minnesota who teaches courses on international relations and has focused his research in recent years on civil-military relations. Dr. Krebs is the author of two books, but the discussion in today’s episode focuses primarily on some of his recent civ-mil journal articles and op-eds: “No Right to Be Wrong: What Americans Think about Civil-Military Relations,” “Civilian Control of the Military Is a Partisan Issue,” and “More Deferential But Also More Political: How Americans’ Views of the Military have Changed Over 20 Years.”

Dr. Scott Limbocker is an assistant professor of American politics at the United States Military Academy. Most of his research has focused on the executive branch, namely the presidency and the bureaucracy. More recently, Dr. Limbocker has explored the bureaucratic principal-agent framework’s applicability to civil-military relations. Today’s discussion focuses primarily on a Lawfare article he coauthored with other members of the Department of Social Sciences at West Point, titled “Senate Confirmation Is a Recipe for Politicizing Military Personnel Policy.”

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 the Social Science of War. Hosts on Season 2 of the podcast are Dr. Nakissa Jahanbani, Dr. Alexandra Chinchilla, Lieutenant Colonel Sean McKnight, and Major Gabriel Royal. Please reach out to the podcast team with any questions about this episode or the Social Science of War podcast in general.

Image credit: Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexander Kubitza, US Navy