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9780801874215
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Uneasy Balance

Civil-Military Relations in Peacetime America since 1783

In the first book to focus on civil-military tensions after American wars, Thomas Langston challenges conventional theory by arguing that neither civilian nor military elites deserve victory in this perennial struggle. What is needed instead, he concludes, is balance.

In America's worst postwar episodes, those that followed the Civil War and the Vietnam War, balance was conspicuously absent. In the late 1860s and into the 1870s, the military became the tool of a divisive partisan program. As a result, when Reconstruction ended, so did popular support of the military. After the Vietnam War, military leaders were too successful in defending their institution against civilian commanders, leading some observers to declare a crisis in civil-military relations even before Bill Clinton became commander-in-chief.

Is American military policy balanced today? No, but it may well be headed in that direction. At the end of the 1990s there was still no clear direction in military policy. The officer corps stubbornly clung to a Cold War force structure. A civilian-minded commander-in-chief, meanwhile, stretched a shrinking force across the globe. With the shocking events of September 11, 2001, clarifying the seriousness of the post-Cold War military policy, we may at last be moving toward a true realignment of civilian and military imperatives.

About the Author

Thomas S. Langston is Professor of Political Science at Tulane University. He is the author of Ideologues and Presidents: From the New Deal to the Reagan Revolution and With Reverence and Contempt: How Americans Think about Their Presidents, both published by Johns Hopkins.

Reviews

"A major contribution to the greater understanding of the challenges nations face in preparing their military for the future."

- Parameters

"Langston has identified a flaw in Huntington's classic theory; he has shown how to correct the flaw by examining the balance of military and civilian interests; and his correction helps us know when tensions in postwar realignments of civil-military relations might be reduced, if not entirely resolved."

- James Burk - Journal of Military History

Endorsements

"Thomas Langston examines through historical case studies of U.S. war-to-peace transitions how leaders face the problem of preserving a military that is innovative and prepared to fight the next major war and finding missions for the military in the meantime which will satisfy the civilian leadership and the general public. This is an important contribution to our understanding of the challenges states and their militaries face in reorienting to new security environments."

- Michael C. Desch, University of Kentucky

"Uneasy Balance is a compact, well-researched, and revealing work on how America’s military relates to the rest of society."

- 1st Lt Kevin M. Hullihan, USAF - Air and Space Power Journal
Johns Hopkins University Press
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