US Army War College

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Dr. Patrick Paterson – Civil-Military Relations: Guidelines in Politically Charged Societies

Released  5 May 2022.

Current events warrant a review of US civil-military relations doctrine. This article examines eight principles of military subordination to elected civilian officials and addresses the fundamental question at the heart of civil-military relations theory and practice—what options, if any, does the military have when civilian leadership disregards military advice? Examples drawn from US history provide an important framework to understand the complex interrelational dynamics at play.

Click here to read the monograph.

Keywords: civil-military, apolitical, civilian, defense policy, US Constitution, professionalism

Author information:
Dr. Patrick Paterson is a professor of practice of national security studies in the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies at the National Defense University in Washington, DC. He completed his PhD in conflict resolution at Nova Southeastern University. He has a master’s degree in national security studies from the Naval Postgraduate School, a master’s equivalent from the Argentina Naval War College in Buenos Aires, and a master’s degree in political science from American University. His latest book, The Blurred Battlefield (2021), addresses the need for hybrid doctrines on the use of force for Latin American militaries combating violent crime groups.