I’ve written before hat I believe Samuel Huntington’s classic definition of a military officer as a “manager of violence” is no longer sufficient. Once upon a time that definition might have sufficed, but in today’s world, officers are responsible for a much broader domain than mere violence. I have suggested that officers should be “full-spectrum conflict managers.” Officers must understand and be able to differentiate between different types of conflict, and thoroughly understand why conflicts begin and escalate; they must know how to employ military, diplomatic, economic, and informational capabilities in harmony to shape a conflict and achieve their strategic objectives; and they must understand the conditions under which conflicts end, and how to restore security and stability in war-torn environments. I also recently suggested that building a smart, networked, innovative military might require changing classic definitions of “military professionalism” to encourage more vocal junior officers. I’ve thought about writing a paper on all this, but with all my other projects underway, I’ve never had a chance to do so.
So I was pleased to find Dr. Tony Corn’s new article at Small Wars Journal: From War Managers to Soldier Diplomats: The Coming Revolution in Civil Military Relations. He phrases things differently than I do (and with far more sophistication), but his point is essentially the same. The stagnant academic field of “civil military” relations needs an overhaul to catch up to the modern world. Here’s his thesis:
The changing nature of democracy, the changing character of warfare, and the changing conception of professionalism since 1957 make it today imperative to reassess the relations between the Soldier and the State in general and the importance of Professional Military Education in particular. In the age of Hybrid Wars, the role of the professional soldier will continue to shift from that of War Manager (Cold War) to that of Soldier Diplomat (Long War)…
A number of trends have converged to politicize the environment in which officers are asked to accomplish their mission, but our definitions of military professionalism still demand soldiers to be thoroughly apolitical. Corn writes:
Yet, in view of all the developments mentioned above, it is not too early to start thinking about a new theory of civil-military relations which would squarely confront the main challenge of the 21st century: namely, how to increase the political literacy of the officer corps while continuing to prevent political partisanship. This challenge, in turn, calls for a re-definition of military professionalism.
Corn holds up the example of diplomats, who learn political skills but are still expected to avoid political partisanship. In fact, many diplomats are tasked with implementing policy they detest. Surely military officers can strike a similar balance. The military has been adapting to the charged political and legal environment in which it operates, but there is no systematic effort to teach officers political savvy. Corn writes:
the risk is not that the military is gaining greater political literacy, but that this political literacy (be it in the form of “military governance” or “strategic lawyering”) is being acquired through a haphazard self-education, and against the backdrop of increasing frustration against the political class.
You’ll find lots of other interesting ideas in this article, particularly about military education. I hope this article sparks some discussion and a serious reconsideration of how we define military professionalism.