Delegation or Dereliction? When Governments Assign Too Many Defense Posts to Military Officials
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Delegation or Dereliction? When Governments Assign Too Many Defense Posts to Military Officials

  • Author(s): Pion-Berlin, David
  • et al.
Abstract

Sometimes democratic political leaders voluntarily cede the armed forces too much authority, assigning them positions that should have gone to civilians. The over-delegation of posts to soldiers can invite problems of dependency, as civilians grow accustomed to the military handling defense policy. This study investigates the delegation of leadership positions in six advanced democracies: Israel, Taiwan, Spain, the US, the UK, and France. It finds that in the first three countries officers dominate many top-tier positions within the defense ministries, while in the latter three, civilians do. Deficiencies in civilian control are unexpected since these countries either face serious external threats or are members of NATO. It is argued that what links the three countries with civilian deficiencies is the presence of wide and longstanding gaps between military and civilian expertise and an absence of incentives to close them. Where civilians suffer from serious knowledge deficits, there is often a temptation to defer to the generals by delegating key ministerial posts to them.

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