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What are the Other Civil-Military Relations?

Photo/Jamie Peters/Flickr

Scholarship on civil-military relations has been almost exclusively focused on the power struggle between the political elite and the military elite along with the repercussions of this struggle. The study of civil-military relations classically describes how a civilization can have a military power under its control. This field has typically been focused on civil control mechanisms over the armed forces, on questions such as what prevents or causes military coups, and to what degree the military elite is involved in everyday policy.

While those topics are significant, they represent only a fragment of the actual interaction between armies and civilian. The other civil-military relations (OCMR) refers to the interactions between soldiers and civilians and the military and other social institutions. It examines militaries and soldiers in a broader perspective, and not only as political players operating in politics in its narrower sense. It accounts for armies’ engagement with peace or environmental activists, and ‘hearts and minds’ or counter terrorism efforts where soldiers work together with civilians. Recognizing that armies interact with civilians in many ways, OCMR addresses armies and soldiers’ social media presence and its implication and continues with the real-life collaboration with nongovernmental organizations. It also looks at privatization and outsourcing of services. This means that OCMR tries to explain the implications of private military and security companies that have been replacing formal militaries in many situations.

But OCMR is not only about the classic roles of armies in war. It is also relevant in the context of development, aid and relief, and conflict management endeavors, where armies supply aid, policing, health services, and logistical support for local communities and victims. A significant portion of my research explores different aspects of the OCMR. I find this topic understudied, yet extremely relevant to understand conflict dynamics given most of the time armies do not directly engaged in combat yet they do interact with other actors and institutions.

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