Guarding the Guardians: Civil-Military Relations and Democratic Governance in Africa


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Despite significant progress moving towards democracy among some African countries in the past decade, all too many African militaries have yet to accept core democratic principles regulating civilian authority over the military. This book explores the theory of civil-military relations and moves on to review the intrusion of the armed forces in African politics by looking first into the organization and role of the army in pre-colonial and colonial eras, before examining contemporary armies and their impact on society.

Furthermore it revisits the various explanations of military takeovers in Africa and disentangles the notion of the military as the modernizing force. Whether as a revolutionary force, as a stabilizing force, or as a modernizing force, the military has often been perceived as the only organized and disciplined group with the necessary skills to uplift newly independent nations.

I expand these ideas into a framework that better captures the priorities and requirements of both democratic consolidation and contemporary security challenges. It consists of a trinity: 1 Democratic civilian control of the security forces; 1 2 the effectiveness of the security forces in fulfilling their assigned roles; 2 and 3 their efficiency, that is, fulfilling the assigned roles and missions at a minimum cost. See Chapter 4 by Tom Bruneau for a more in-depth discussion of efficiency as an aspect of civil—military relations.

Control of the armed forces remains a central part of the civil—military relations framework proposed here, especially with regard to all new democracies, but most importantly those that emerge from military dictatorships. Nevertheless, it is not sufficient to describe civil—military relations in the twenty-first century in terms of control alone. Today when the overall security context has changed, national security is no longer the military's sole business. Due to the network-centricity and network-like traits of new security threats and challenges such as terrorism and organized crime , and, as a consequence, the blurring of boundaries between domestic and external security threats, military forces focused primarily on external threats , police forces focused primarily on domestic threats , and intelligence agencies focused on both are increasingly compelled to support each other, share roles, and cooperate, sometimes at the international level.

Under these circumstances, not only is control of the military insufficient to define civil—military relations, but even extending control to include police and intelligence remains unsatisfactory. The concept should, then, include the effectiveness of all security forces in doing their jobs, at the optimum cost possible—that is, efficiently. Since , when I joined CCMR, I have worked closely with Thomas Bruneau on developing this framework, while preparing and conducting one-week programs in new democracies throughout the world, or two-week resident courses at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

I used these courses, along with graduate resident courses in the school's National Security Affairs Department, as opportunities to discuss challenges and prospects for democratic consolidation, defense institution building, and reform of the security forces with military officers and their civilian counterparts from five continents.

Bruneau and I have turned these seminars into research opportunities, in addition to the planned coursework on national security issues, defense institution building, civil—military relations, and other seminar topics. What we have learned from civilians and officers regarding the current global security environment, requirements for democratic consolidation, and the interchangeable roles and missions of the security forces in their countries or regions have led us to depart from the traditional Huntingtonian view of CMR and formulate a new concept, which we have then tested in different contexts on diverse audiences.

While there is no need for me to repeat those discussions here, I will address a few of the problems with the current literature below, as it relates to our framework. First, while there is relatively abundant literature on the role of the armed forces in democratic transitions, there is much less on the armed forces in democratic consolidation. This analytical tunnel vision has not changed since the beginning of the Third Wave of Democracy, which started on 25 April in Lisbon, with the military coup that became a revolution and gradually evolved into democracy. For instance, even though neither Portugal nor Spain, whose transition began on the death of Francisco Franco in late , were military dictatorships, their militaries played a key part in the transition to democracy.

Even the transitional governments of the former Marxist-dominated states, although never under military rule, had to learn to deal with their armed forces once the Berlin Wall came down and a new political environment developed.

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In Romania, for example, the armed forces were a central actor in the transition to democracy from the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceauescu and his nefarious Securitate secret police. Under these circumstances, many analyses of democratic transitions and consolidation since include, of necessity, a discussion of the role of the military, including in some cases the intelligence services, in democratic consolidation. Some of these authors also take into account the institutions involved in CMR. The major contribution by Juan J. Overall, what these works demonstrate is that, in contrast to their authoritarian pasts, whether military- or civilian-dominated, the emerging democracies of South America, post-communist Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, and elsewhere emphasize democratic security over national security.

In other words, these new regimes focus on control of the armed forces as more important than the ability of the armed forces to defend the country. While the danger of military coups admittedly has not totally disappeared in many parts of the world, even the literature on civil—military relations in consolidated democracies does not go beyond achieving and maintaining democratic civilian control.

Third, the conceptual literature on other security instruments and democracy is also problematic. Most of the studies that do exist are not analytical but rather are about tradecraft or intelligence failures, or they advocate policy positions. There is also minimal discussion in the literature about what security forces, including police and intelligence agencies, do beyond national defense, or the implications of their roles and missions for democracy.

In March , there were 99, military and police personnel from countries engaged in peace support operations in 14 countries experiencing conflicts. On the other hand, in countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, Pakistan, and the Philippines, the police fulfill military functions. Because threats span a spectrum from global terrorism to national and international drug cartels to street gangs, militaries and police forces rely heavily on intelligence agencies to identify threats and plan missions.


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There is, in short, a great variety of activities that incorporate different instruments of state security to deal with contemporary threats, opportunities, and challenges in both national and international environments. This combination of activities, and the resulting mixing of armed forces, police, and intelligence agencies, are the issues that democratically elected policy-makers must deal with to meet domestic and, increasingly, global expectations and standards. Nevertheless, none of this literature deals with what the militaries or other instruments of security are expected and able to do in terms of roles and missions.

An exclusive focus on control to the detriment of effectiveness, and even efficiency, can endanger national security. Argentina, which is analyzed in Chapter 12 by Tom Bruneau and myself, provides an example of precisely this obsession and its negative impacts. Unfortunately, while these attacks awoke the political elites to post-Cold War security challenges, those in power have still maintained their single focus on strengthening civilian control.

Considering the preceding discussions, my argument in this chapter is twofold. On the one hand, the exclusive focus on civilian control is a significant impediment to understanding the larger and more complex relationships concerning democracy, elected policy-makers, and security forces.

Civil-Military Relations and the Future Challenges of National Security Strategy

In a democracy, policy-makers craft and implement security decisions and policies that are in the service of safeguarding democratic values, national interests, and the citizens themselves; successful policies, however, go hand in hand with effective security forces. We must remember that even when civilian control is unquestioned, as in the United States, civilian control by itself is no guarantee that the policy-makers will make good decisions, or implement policy in such a way as to result in military success.

I therefore argue that there is need for a new concept of civil—military relations. Even though virtually all recent, and some not-so-recent, scholarship rejects Huntington's model, nobody has yet come up with a new basis for what is essentially a contribution to normative political theory rather than empirical theory. I have found from my experience working with civilians and officers in both developed and developing democracies that the analytical focus exclusively on civilian control is neither empirically adequate nor, for the purpose of developing comparisons, conceptually adequate.

In fact, as previously mentioned, militaries have long been engaged in humanitarian assistance, such as disaster relief, or to back up the police in domestic upheavals and riots. Peace support operations PSO became increasingly critical in the former Yugoslavia, parts of Africa, Lebanon, and elsewhere, and more and more countries have opted to furnish military, police, or gendarmerie forces for this purpose.

New global threats such as pandemic terrorism require governments everywhere to reevaluate their military capabilities in terms of both control and outcomes. In this context, attacks by international terrorists in Bali, Nairobi, New York, Washington, Madrid, London, Amman, Mumbai, Moscow, and elsewhere, have compelled militaries everywhere to become involved in fighting terrorism to a greater or lesser extent, a job usually performed by intelligence and police forces.

Thus leaders must pay attention to matters both of control and outcomes, using instruments beyond the armed forces. They must provide for security that today is both domestic and international, such as providing troops to NATO for PSO in Afghanistan, and cooperation in intelligence and law enforcement to counter the threat of international terrorism.

In short, the challenge in the contemporary world is not only to assert and maintain civilian control over the military but also to develop effective militaries, police forces, and intelligence agencies that are able to implement a broad variety of roles and missions. Therefore, while the conceptualization presented here includes civilian control as a fundamental aspect of democratic consolidation and does not assume it exists in any particular case, control is only one aspect of the overall analysis. That is, to understand what armed forces, police forces, and intelligence agencies actually do in the twenty-first century, how well they do it, and at what cost in personnel and treasure, requires a comprehensive analysis of CMR that encompasses the three dimensions of control, effectiveness, and efficiency.

That is the goal of the framework described below. This is, of course, the assumption behind most analyses of civil—military relations, leading not only into military governments but also out of them.

Who Guards the Guardians and How

Control is the fundamental concern as well with regard to the intelligence apparatus, which paradoxically works in secrecy while the very foundation of democracy rests on accountability and transparency. This becomes clearer in the case of most non-democratic regimes, military governments, or former Soviet bloc countries, where the intelligence sector enforced state security, protecting the authoritarian regime against its own citizens. Control is also important with regard to police forces, which in many countries are corrupt and even involved in organized crime activities e.

The next question is, how are these three main instruments of state security controlled by democratically elected leaders? There is a wide spectrum of possible control mechanisms, which will be described below. Most countries, and especially newer democracies, however, are characterized by the paucity in the number and robustness of these controls. Nor does a narrow focus on the mechanisms for democratic control encompass most of the contemporary roles and missions in which security forces are engaged. Rather, democracies should consider control over all three instruments of security in implementing the contemporary spectrum of six roles and their myriad missions.

While at the local level these may be easily conceptualized, at a more global level, things are much more complicated. Any discussion of multinational efforts such as countering terrorism and organized crime, or supporting peace operations, must include the umbrella organizations that are charged with carrying out specific missions. While each of these organizations has its own policies and bureaucracy, national executive branches maintain control in coalition operations through mandates with further caveats.

My main argument, building on research and work within CCMR, is to conceptualize control in terms of authority over the following: Institutional control mechanisms, oversight, and the inculcation of professional norms although professional norms can also contribute to effectiveness. Institutional control mechanisms involve providing direction and guidance for the security forces, exercised through institutions that range from organic laws and other regulations that empower the civilian leadership, to civilian-led organizations with professional staffs.

These latter can include a ministry of defense for the military, a ministry of the interior for national police, and a civilian-led intelligence agency; one or more committees in the legislature that deal with policies and budgets; and a well-defined chain of authority for civilians to determine roles and missions, such as a National Security Council-type organization. In a functioning democracy, oversight is exercised not only by formal agencies within the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, but also by the independent media, NGOs, think tanks, and even international organizations, such as Human Rights Courts.

Table 3. Feaver argues that the surge decision does not fall into either camp. Ricks takes issue with Feaver for giving too much credit to Bush and his people and not enough to elements of the military Generals Petreaus and Odierno. This debate reanimates the question of how much civilian involvement is correct. While my work of late with David Auerswald has been on the why— why do countries manage their military operations as they have in Afghanistan revised version appearing in International Studies Quarterly in —the normative question of how much involvement is appropriate cannot be avoided.

I have always believed that war was too important to be left to the Generals. I worked on a daily basis with people directly under Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and found myself developing a great deal of contempt for the civilians that were imposing their will on the military. Sure, part of this was identification with the uniformed folks around me, but most of it was watching a SecDef who was unwilling to listen to the advice of the military and being blind to the consequences. He viewed the military as having been empowered by the Clinton Administration indeed, the military folks expressed much nostalgia for that bygone era.

I was on the receiving end of the same snowflake memo from Rumsfeld needing an immediate response three times because the responses the first two times did not produce the desired answer nor did the third. After my year on the Joint Staff, I got to watch from afar Rumsfeld micromanage the invasion of Iraq into the failure of postwar planning. So, where do I stand now? Surely, war is still too important to be left to the Generals.

But it is now much clearer that the battles are too complicated to be left to the folks back home. The advent of technology means that leaders in their offices can monitor the efforts of corporals and privates on the ground, but they should not. Yes, there is now the strategic private or corporal: a low level grunt who can cause the entire mission to collapse because of a single bad decision think Canada in Somalia in more so than Gitmo or Abu Ghraib.

But the tactical President or Prime Minister is even more likely to cause problems since they lack the expertise and attention to command every single unit in the field. Rumsfeld cutting the numbers of military police units being sent to Iraq in stands out here. More importantly, we need to recognize that there is no perfect formula because the civilians are imperfect and the military leaders are imperfect. It is easy to pick on Rumsfeld, who was probably the worst Secretary of Defense in American history. Churchill, who is often seen as the epitome of the wartime leader, thought that the Balkans were the soft underbelly of Europe and had a pretty mixed track record overall.

There is a tendency to conflate strong with smart the strong state debate in the s —that strong civilian leadership will make the right choices. The funny thing about hanging out with the military folks for a year is that I developed an appreciation not just that individuals matter, but that trust and relationships matter when it comes to war. The key is not so much having a perfect division of labor between President, SecDef, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and operational commanders, but that they have good relationships with each other.

The decision-makers need listen to the advice, even especially if they do not want to hear it. They do not have to follow it, but they ought to take it seriously. The military needs to give its unvarnished views so that the President and SecDef can make informed decisions.

This may all seem obvious, but the debate between Feaver and Ricks suggests otherwise. The quest for the perfect mix of professional and civilian supremacism is a chimera. Feaver is probably wrong in giving heaps of credit to the Bush Administration, but he is right that better policy is likely to emerge when the focus is on the policy and less on one side or the other dominating the process. There are so many things wrong with this assertion that I had to address it here.

This one was f eatured at the Huffington post : Here are some other fun examples. But as a qualitative analyst I decided to take a closer, more systematic look at a sample of these comments and tweets. I discovered something more nuanced: the answer to that question seems to depend greatly on which new media tool the data came from.

The pie charts you see below are the results of myself and a student assistant coding tweets and comments for these attributes , disaggregated by source. We analyzed comments from three sources: Twitter, Facebook and Reddit. The Reddit and Facebook comments were easy enough to capture with a little technical help — thanks Alex. Luckily my partner Stuart Shulman has invented a tool for capturing live Twitter feeds , and he happens to be sitting on a searchable archive of over a million tweets from Cairo and Egypt.

DiscoverText also allows you to tag and sift through text data you gather, so last weekend we went through a total of 77 tweets, Reddit comments and unique Facebook comments. The FB page says there are or so, but a lot of them are duplicates. Fortunately DiscoverText also contains a de-duping tool so we were able to eliminate those entirely. You can see a couple of things right away. First, you find less diversity among the tweets: they basically fall into just four code categories, whereas the range of commentary in the FB and Redidt threads is wider.

But secondly, the tweets and FB comments share something in common: they are primarily composed of mindless validations of the original quote, whereas the Reddit thread contains many more original, substantive comments and even discussion.

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DiscoverText also makes it easy to drill down into specific categories of text. Of the truly original, deliberative comments for example , you can see some interesting conversations develop. As noted, in contrast to the mindless re-tweeters, the more critical thinkers argued over the applicability of the quote to the situation in Egypt.

Not sure how this applies to Egypt since they have a separate military and police. Which, coincidentally, the military has sided with the people while the police remain loyal to Mubarak. Cool quote but nothing to do with Egypt.


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We want the Army! I suggest you re-read what Adama is saying. That is the only thing saving the egyptians as the military appear to be unwilling to crack down on the protesters. The people distrust, resent and hate the police due to decades of corruption, violence and abuse of power. They have no such feelings about the military and largely regard them to be impartial, helpful and for the people.

I think the top military commanders are being very cautious at this point just like all the Western governments because so much is up in the air. If they choose the losing side, they might pay with their lives. If the western governments choose the losing side, they might make an enemy of a very powerful player in their regional interests Israel, Iran, etc. Better the devil we know in the current regime, a transition to full democracy will allow the popular fundamentalist Brotherhood terror group to take power.

This is not clear cut….. Both in theory are actually doing that. The difference is more in the nature of the enemy: The military fights external enemies, the police, the internal enemies. The purpose of the police has never been to serve or protect the people. They are and have always been a means by which the state can impose its will on the people.

The modern myth that the police are somehow the noble champions of justice for the little man can be shattered by merely being black, or a woman, or transexual, or gay, or any other minority. The military is expected to protect the physical borders, the police to protect agreed upon immaterial borders within the physical borders.

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Alternatively, some commenters discussed the origin of the quote itself, and some got off on tangents about the nature of Cylon resurrection, the value of BSG relative to Star Trek or Firefly , or how to quantify the exact nerd quotient on display in the comment thread. What a load of absolute horseshit. Go and actually read about what is happening in Egypt instead of wasting your time with stuff like this.

This is why the series was so great. It was one of the few sci-fi shows that truly reflected and touched on relevant ideas and issues of our day. It can offer an incredible commentary on many aspects of society. And to one of the above posters- if you cannot see Cmdr. Replication data for this study is available at the Dataverse Project.

Comments on our working draft are very welcome. He works in the area of military defections and civil wars. Which Middle Eastern regimes seem liable to fall? But what can we say? What ideas do we have at our disposal for thinking through what militaries will do? One important factor might be professionalization. Multiple different internal security agencies, for example, keep an eye both on officers and on each other.

These techniques really do seem effective at preventing coups. It is not as though heavily politicized armies have a great overall track record of defending regimes. The threat of punishment for defection depends on the willingness of others to inflict it. And popular uprisings can throw a previously stable expectation out the window. As I argued in a paper last year, an external rebellion can provoke a cascade effect within the military.

The trouble for the analyst is, as Kuran argued, that this implies that prediction is extremely difficult if not impossible. Everyone has a strong incentive to keep their preferences and their likely actions a secret—from the dictator and, necessarily, from us. But in my paper I also tried to develop some limits to these revolutionary cascades.

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In particular, some regimes are governed by minority groups that are given heavy preference—especially within the military. Jordan, Syria and Bahrain are important examples. This means that opposition tends to rally among out-groups—and, in consequence, the loyalty of the in-group gets reinforced. Essentially, over time, a stable expectation can develop, associating some groups with the regime and others with the opposition. In rebellions, they have little other choice than to stick with the regime. Palestinian and Sunni officers, respectively, were more likely to defect.

Guarding the Guardians: Civil-Military Relations and Democratic Governance in Africa Guarding the Guardians: Civil-Military Relations and Democratic Governance in Africa
Guarding the Guardians: Civil-Military Relations and Democratic Governance in Africa Guarding the Guardians: Civil-Military Relations and Democratic Governance in Africa
Guarding the Guardians: Civil-Military Relations and Democratic Governance in Africa Guarding the Guardians: Civil-Military Relations and Democratic Governance in Africa
Guarding the Guardians: Civil-Military Relations and Democratic Governance in Africa Guarding the Guardians: Civil-Military Relations and Democratic Governance in Africa
Guarding the Guardians: Civil-Military Relations and Democratic Governance in Africa Guarding the Guardians: Civil-Military Relations and Democratic Governance in Africa
Guarding the Guardians: Civil-Military Relations and Democratic Governance in Africa Guarding the Guardians: Civil-Military Relations and Democratic Governance in Africa
Guarding the Guardians: Civil-Military Relations and Democratic Governance in Africa Guarding the Guardians: Civil-Military Relations and Democratic Governance in Africa

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