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Role of the Military in Establishing Democracy

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Military
Wordcount: 5546 words Published: 3rd Jan 2018

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Under the conditions of globalization the term governance does not point to governmental and state actors, but it refers to intertwined governmental and non-governmental, private, transnational, national and local actors and networks, which guide and govern. Efficient and democratic governance has become an intended end of the state for the external assistance provision, notably for the United States. Analyzing the changes within the Defense Department and State Department after September 11, 2001, the author argues that, by militarizing the civil spheres of assistance such as foreign developmental aid, the USA jeopardize the main goal mentioned above. There is a tendency in USA to equalize military occupation with the modern concept of governance, which is an oxymoron as the military is one among many actors of governance and it can support democratic and efficient governance only by the establishment of security and its own accountability.

Key words: military, governance, USA, democratization, developmental aid, militarization, stability and reconstruction, security


Moving a society from insecurity toward security has been a perpetual goal of every community in the history of mankind. After the end of the Cold War hopes were raised that a global security concept would emerge which would embrace political, economic, diplomatic and other aspects of security; instead of narrow, defense-oriented concepts aimed at exclusive security for states and alliances. The rhetoric of commitments to democracy and human rights has become a central issue in current world politics. The number of states ruled by the military has declined sharply, and the democratic control of the military, has started to become a norm. Between 1985 and 2001, world military expenditures declined by one-third; the arms trade underwent a 65 percent contraction at the same period. The concept of security sector reform is being developed by academic and practitioners as a framework for addressing the provision of security within the state in an effective and efficient manner, and in the framework of democratic civilian control. Simultaneously, globalization and growing interdependence have questioned conventional conceptualization of hierarchical dominance by a central government. Namely, it has been noted that large number of both international and domestic actors and growing importance of networks and other forms of interaction between state and society limit the capacity of states to govern in an autonomous manner to certain extent. Hence, both academic and practitioners have started to point out that more cooperative forms of governance are essential.

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Until the 1980s, the term governance was used as synonymous with government, but in the last two decades, political scientists and practitioners use it to refer to something broader. The new use of governance does not point to state actors and the institutions as the only relevant, but focuses on the role of networks in the pursuit of common goals: intergovernmental or inter- organizational, transnational, or networks of trust and reciprocity crossing the state-society divide.6 Providing for effective and democratic governance has become an intended end state for numerous actors dealing with various forms of external assistance.

Keeping in mind all these changes, it should have been expected that the military is only one actor in dense web of horizontal and vertical networks governing local societies, and that its role, as a hierarchical, top-down institution, is declining. This paper systematize opposite practice within the U.S. military/Department of Defense and the U.S. foreign assistance, and outlines possible consequences for democratic governance.

After the first part on the concept of governance in various academic and policy context, the main characteristic of military doctrine, budget and procurement practice of the United States after the end of Cold War will be outlined. The next part will research basic documents issued by the US government after the 9/11, 2001, and elaborate gradual transfer of civilian responsibilities to the military in areas related to foreign assistance and in stabilization and transition operations abroad. Finally, the effects of military build-up after 9/11 on the transparency and accountability of defense-related matters within the U.S. and securitization of the U.S. foreign assistance without consideration for the democratic governance in numerous states worldwide will be elaborated.


In this section the concept of governance within the academic and policy context will be defined, and the content of democratic and effective governance is elaborated. The approach toward governance applied in the US practitioners’ discussions related to the military and intervention will be presented.

Until the 1980s, the term governance was used as synonymous with government. However, there are important differences in the current discourse.

Anglo-American political theory uses the term ‘government’ to refer to the formal institutions of the state and their monopoly of legitimate coercive power. Government is characterized by its ability to make decisions and its capacity to enforce them. In particular government is understood to refer to the formal and institutional processes which operate at the level of nation state to maintain public order and facilitate collective action.

As of the 1980s, political scientists and practitioners refer to the term as distinct from government and as something broader, including civil-society actors, and the role of networks – intergovernmental or inter-organizational (Rhodes); transnational (Rosenau), or networks of trust and reciprocity crossing the state-society divide (Hyden). The term is used in different subfields of political science: public administration and policy, international relations, comparative politics.

Governance refers to self-organizing, interorganizational networks characterized by interdependence, resource-exchange, rules of the game, and significant autonomy form the state.

Rod Rhodes refers to governance as a vogue word for reforming the public sector. Such approach can be placed within the filed of public administration and policy. Scholars in this field study the tasks, organization, management and accountability structure of the public sector.

This approach is echoed within policy circles in the World Bank definition of governance as the institutional capability of public organizations to provide the public and other goods demanded by the country’s citizens or their representatives in an effective, impartial, transparent and accountable manner, subject to resource constraints. The World Bank subdivides the public sector into three broad categories: policymaking, service delivery, and oversight and accountability. Institution development cuts across all these sectors. The efficient governance is also related to this subfield, as opposite to poor governance, which the Bank identified as the cause of the prolonged economic crisis in developing countries. Other synonyms in use are ‘good’ and ‘weak’ governance respectively.

It is important to note that, keeping in mind decentralization, transfer of authority to supranational organizations, and the delivery of public services by private actors, the distinction between public and private that characterizes traditional public administration theory is not clear.

There is a baseline agreement that governance refers to the development of governing styles in which boundaries between and within public and private sectors have become blurred. The essence of governance is its focus on governing mechanisms which do not rest on recourse to the authority and sanctions of government. ‘The governance concept points to the creation of a structure or an order which cannot be externally imposed but is the result of the interaction of a multiplicity of governing and each other influencing actors.’ The last two points are very important as they imply that ‘military governance’, particularly externally imposed, is an impossible construction. The term global governance belongs in the field of international relations and it challenges the realist paradigm about the states as the most important units and the international system as anarchic, as there is no government reigning over all states.

Global governance is conceived to include systems of rule at all levels of human activity – from the family to the international organization – in which the pursuit of goals through the exercise of control has transnational repercussions.

Or, it could be defined as a shift from hierarchical and territorial relations of government to polyarchical, non-territorial and networked relations of governance – networks and complexes that are bringing together governments, NGOs, military establishments, and private companies in new ways, as a part of an emerging system of global liberal governance.15 At least three perceptions of governance can be identified in international relations: a narrow perception of governance that refers to practically all activities in transnational networks; a broader perception of global governance as a ‘meta’ affair, the process of coordinating the sum of transnational and intergovernmental activities; and third, the minimal definition of neo-realism that equates it with world government and therefore dismisses it as naive.16 Another field which refers to governance is comparative politics.

Governance is the stewardship of formal and informal political rules of the game. Governance refers to those measures that involve setting the rules for the exercise of power and settling conflicts over such rules. Within comparative politics, governance focuses on state-society interactions, and deals particularly with the role of the state in economic development – how to incorporate societal actors in order to gain the capacity to formulate and implement efficient economic policies; as well as with the theories of democratization.

Governance is not equal to democracy – democracy is one institutional setup that may or may not be the outcome of processes of governance. Additionally, as some democratic societies are not very efficient, particularly in post-conflict periods, and an important dimension of governance is to provide goods demanded by the country’s citizens or their representatives in cost-effective manner, for the Western/liberal actors it is necessary to underline both democratic and effective governance as the desired end state. As it is demonstrated above, governance is a very complex and multilayered term; nevertheless, the approach toward governance applied in the US practitioners’ guidebooks related to the external support and intervention is quite straightforward. Recent The Beginner’s Guide to Nation-Building by prominent RAND Corporation, for example, threats governance separately from rule of law, democratization, development, economic stabilization, and practically equates government and basic service provision with the governance. The opening under heading Governance is as follows: Societies emerging from the conflict may be able to wait for democracy, but they need a government immediately to provide law enforcement, education, and public health care. Electricity, telecommunications, water, and other utilities also require a government to regulate them, and, in some instances, to provide the service. Sometimes the intervening authorities initially serve as the government – The intervening authorities need to choose partners carefully with a view to creating a government and distribution of power that will survive their departure.

Similarly, regardless recent changes in the meaning of the term governance, it is used with regard to past events, again as synonymous for rule/government:

The idea that the military has a central and key role to play in terms of democratization and governance is not new. The U.S. military has experience in military governance in Cuba and the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, in Germany during World War I, in Latin America during the Banana Wars, in Germany and Japan and other territories during World War II. To meet the World War II’s requirements a Military Government Division was established on the Army Staff and a School for Military Government was created at the University of Virginia in 1942.

Linkage of governance and military goes back in openly colonial times, as the roots are found in 1899, when the Bureau of Insular Affairs was created as America’s first colonial office, created to support the Army’s reconstruction and occupation duties in the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico.


Within this section the main characteristics of military doctrine, budget and procurement practice of the United States after the end of Cold War are outlined, and security gaps within peacekeeping missions noted by the Clinton administration.

By contrast to substantial declines in defense budgets and arms trade worldwide, US military spending declined by only 17 percent between 1985 and 2001. Actually, the United States moved from spending only 80 percent as much as the (perceived) adversary group in 1985 to spending 250 percent as much in 2001. While the world changed rapidly and radically after 1990, America’s armed forces did not – apart from reducing in size. Between 1990 and 2001, the US armed forces bought 45 major surface combatants and submarines, more than 900 combat aircraft, and more than 2000 armored combat vehicles (while upgrading another 800).

Defense Planning Guidance’ drafted in 1992 by Paul Wolfowitz, Under Secretary of Defense, proposed the following:

With the demise of the Soviet Union, the US doctrine should be to assure that no new superpower emerges to challenge the USA’s benign domination of the globe.

The US would defend its position by being military powerful beyond challenge.

The USA would act independently when collective action cannot be orchestrated through ad-hoc coalitions.

Pre-emptive attacks against states seeking to acquire nuclear, biological or chemical weapons were desirable.

The paper was buried during the Clinton administration, but still the Defense Department had basically spent the nineties buying one type of military while operating another. The military was split into two rival camps over decade: one that had to deal with the international security environment as it was (Military Operations Other Then War – MOOTW) and another that preferred to dream of the one that ‘should be’. Or, in other words, during the decade prior to the terrorist attacks against the United States in September 2001, thinking about defense was driven by a theory about the character of future war rather than by clear visions of emerging threats in the context of history and contemporary conflict. Proponents of what became known as military transformation argued for a ‘capabilities based’ method of thinking about future war. In practice, however, capabilities-based analysis focused narrowly on how the United States would like to fight and then assumed that the preference was relevant. ‘Defense transformation’ was firmly rooted in a widely accepted yet fundamentally flawed conception of future war: the belief that surveillance, communications and information technologies would deliver ‘dominant battlespace knowledge’ and permit US forces to achieve ‘full spectrum dominance’ against any opponent mainly through the employment of precision-strike capabilities.

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Readiness was defined as being fully prepared to execute the two-war scenario, although after 1989 the rising requirement was for a capacity to handle frequent and multiple smaller-scale contingencies of a complex sort: not just traditional combat missions, but also non-traditional missions, including stability and humanitarian operations. Despite that, during the 1990s the lion’s share of the military’s time and resources was devoted to ‘traditional’ activities and threats. The vaunted ‘two-war strategy’ made claims on almost all of America’s conventional assets; it dominated planning, training, and procurement. By the decade’s end, ‘operations other than war – especially peace, stability, and humanitarian operations – were considered anathema.28 Baseline is that the military was expected to wage a major war (or two) against raising peer competitors, and no connection with democratic governance was established.

In reality, the Clinton’s administration in the 1990s was involved in many peacekeeping or humanitarian interventions, within the UN framework or without it. Since Korea, the U.S. military has resisted performing police duties. However, it become obvious that the security gaps created during various international missions required putting boots on the ground, as actual security threats could not be eliminated by high-tech equipment pilled under the pressure of defense industry and Cold War era military officers’ mentality. The Americans had to press its European allies to provide police and constabulary forces for the growing number of missions, and frequently faced with difficulties. In 1997, the Clinton administration began an interagency effort to analyze and learn from the experience of the peace operations. The National Security Council (NSC) requested from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to prepare the first draft of a Presidential Decision Directive on international police and judicial assistance in countries emerging from ethnic conflict to find ways in which the United States could improve its capacity and that of the United Nations to rapidly deploy effective civilian police forces and rebuild criminal justice system during peace operations.29

U.S. military leaders believed that peace operations dull combat skills, expend resources, and reduce readiness; in addition, soldiers were neither trained nor equipped to deal with civilians. This predilection to avoid ‘nation building’ was reinforced by the traumatic experience of Somalia. At the Pentagon, the majority view was that discussions on this topic were to be avoided, stressing a myriad of problems and uncertainties involving legal authority, funding, administrative restrictions, and interagency differences.30 But the assignment went to Office of Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, which believed that future peacekeeping missions were inevitable and that the Pentagon had a duty to provide clear guidance regarding ‘constabulary’ functions. The process stretched into three years and only on February 24, 2000, Presidential Decision Directive 71 (PDD-71) on ‘Strengthening Criminal Justice Systems in Support of Peace Operations’ was unveiled. It was under the pressure of the Department of State, as its officials were concerned about the UN’s inability to stem violence in Kosovo.31

The Directive extensively addressed the role of civilian police, but also elaborated the understanding reached within the Defense Department on the need for U.S. military forces to perform ‘constabulary’ functions during peace operations ‘if necessary’. Also, it provided a list of areas in which the U.S. military agreed it would cooperate and coordinate its activities with civilian police forces; and instructed the State to enhance U.S. capability to provide civilian police, including the increase of the speed with which is able to recruit, train, and deploy American civilian police abroad (through commercial contractors). However, at the time president Clinton left office, the efforts of assigned leading agency, State Department, to implement PDD-71 made little progress as differences arose between agencies with conflicting organizational cultures and institutional priorities.32


This part analyses basic documents issued by the US government after the 9/11, 2001, and elaborate gradual transfer of civilian responsibilities to the military in areas related to foreign assistance and in stabilization and transition operations abroad.

During the Bush’s administration’s first months in office, Washington agencies began an internal debate over the property of U.S. involvement in what were called ‘complex contingency operations’, ‘stability and support operations’, or ‘multidimensional peace operations’. To many it seemed safer and intellectually more comfortable to retain the U.S. military’s Cold War mission and to leave responsibility for peacekeeping to others.33 PDD-71 was abandoned and forgotten, so that even superb experts years later claim that the United States has been engaged in non-stop nation building since the end of the Cold War, but ‘every one of this operations started virtually from the scratch, with little attempt to tap the expertise developed in the past’. The terrorists’ attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, inflicted massive casualties, but could not be seen as a purely military threat. The response to terrorist threat has been possible within three layers: nonmilitary international solutions, military options, and homeland security measures. An examination of federal spending since September 11, 2001, in light of such framework reveals that in budgetary terms, military solutions are clearly preferred, even though much of the new money devoted to the defense department have little effect in addressing the problems of terrorism. Nonmilitary international measures are the clear losers of the budget sweepstakes.35

With the attack on 9/11 a new Big One threat was found – possible pear competitions like China dropped off the radar, to be replaced by terrorist groups ‘with global reach’ and any rogue nation suspected of supporting them.36 Global War On Terror (GWOT) was proclaimed, and although the Bush administration touts a multi-faceted campaign to disrupt and destroy terrorism worldwide – one that balances military measures with diplomatic and economic ones, it has reached primarily for the handy one – the military actions. Only after initial military operations quickly removed the Taliban and Ba-athist regimes from power, the disconnection between the true nature of these conflicts and pre-war visions of future war was revealed. Previous reluctance toward Military Operations Other Than War helps explain the lack of planning for the aftermath of both invasions as well as why it took so long to adapt to the shifting character of the conflicts.37

But how such adaptation to the character of the conflict has been carried out – Alongside the threats to national security of the United States on its own soil, since September 11, democracy has become critical for the legitimization of interventions and post-conflict engagements. In the States it has been embraced by both supporters and opponents of Bush administration policies, and has become the proposed solution to all sorts of global challenges: terrorism, civil war, corruption, post-communist transitions, economic backwardness’ While the moral dimension of encouraging democratization through a foreign military presence is complex and multifaceted,38 or blatantly highly dubious, within this paper only concrete changes related to the U.S. foreign assistance are discussed.

The U.S. arm sales and military assistance have been controversial form the aspect of human rights and democracy promotion for long time. However, the changes in these areas as of 9/11 are of major significance. Although weak and failed states are defined as a security threat,39 much of the expansion of military-to-military relations occurs with countries that fit the criteria of poorly performing states as determined by the UN Development Program, the World Bank, and Freedom House.40 At the same time, the bar has been raised for developmental aid, and weak and failing states are explicitly excluded from a new program which promotes development on the ground that the aid would not be effective for the areas of poor governance. Namely, The Millennium Challenge Account, proposed by President G. W. Bush in March 2002 and authorized by the Congress, promises to deliver substantial new flows of foreign assistance to low-income countries that are ‘ruling justly, investing in their own people, and encouraging economic freedom’.

More specifically, U.S. military and police aid to 47 poorly performing states, analyzed in a massive research conducted by a think-tank in the States, began to multiply in 2002, so that taken together these countries received 114 times as much assistance in 2004 as they did in 2000. The bulk of money went to seven countries classified as ‘war on terror’ states – Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Indonesia, Tajikistan and Djibouti. U.S. government documents claim that an underlying purpose of aid to all of these states is to encourage human rights and pluralistic politics. In fact, on September 11 three of these seven countries were legally banned from receiving U.S. security assistance by Foreign Assistance Act which prohibited aid to countries whose government reached power through a military coup and countries developing nuclear weapons. Additionally, Congress had prohibited most aid to Indonesia’s security forces due to serious human rights concerns. However, the Bush administration waived these prohibitions in the weeks following the attacks on 9/11.42 The aid was channeled for various purposes, primarily weapons and equipment, but also even food, uniforms, and salaries for some militaries in Central Asia so unestablished, unprofessional or underequpped. Additionally, the United States trained 4.5 times as many military and police personnel from the war on terror countries in 2003 as it did in 2000, excluding joint military operations and joint training exercises, which do not appear in official reports to Congress.

Within the same research, another group of 12 poorly performing states were categorized as strategically important: Georgia, Nigeria, Kenya, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Guinea, Eritrea, Cameroon, Zambia, Chad, Tanzania and Niger. The principal U.S. interest served by security aid has been to maintain governments friendly to the United States; these countries have something US whishes to protect – natural resources, geographic location, or a position of regional leadership. The aid for these states in 2004 raised about 70 percent over 2000 levels. For majority of them the State Department’s 2004 foreign aid request called for improving the recipient country’s ability to participate in peacekeeping missions. Peacekeeping means interoperability, i.e. that militaries have similar structures and training and use similar weapons and equipment. It benefits U.S. defense industries; and peacekeeping mission provides US with a politically palatable reason for maintaining close military ties with troubled countries. Transferring weapons and teaching lethal skills are less controversial for the U.S. Congress to approve, if the goal is to create a corps of blue-helmeted guarantors of human rights and regional stability.44 The adaptation to ‘culture-centric warfare’ within the U.S. military itself has been slow. For example, the Army released its first counter-insurgency manual in decades and West Point has offered its first-ever class entirely focused on counterinsurgency warfare only three years after 9/11.45 On 28 November 2005, the Department of Defense issued Directive 3000.05 ‘Military Support for Stability, Security, Transition, and Reconstruction Operations (SSTR)’. Military support to SSTR is defined as Department of Defense (DoD) ‘activities that support U.S. Government plans for stabilization, security, reconstruction and transition operations, which lead to sustainable peace while advancing U.S. interests.’ It practically represents a new doctrine as defines a new policy for DoD.

Stability operations are a core U.S. military mission that the Department of Defense shall be prepared to conduct and support. They shell be given priority comparable to combat operations and be explicitly address and integrated across all DoD activities including doctrine, organizations, training, educations, exercises, material, leadership, personnel, facilities, and planning.47

A December 2005 Presidential Directive was issued to ‘promote the security of the U.S. through reconstruction and stabilization for foreign states and regions at risk of, in, or in transition from conflict or civil strife.’ The directives states ‘the response to these crises will include among others, activities relating to internal security, governance and participation, social and economic well-being, and justice and reconciliation.’

DoD Quadrennial Defense Review from early 2006 includes increased funding for fighting non-state actors, new efforts to improve interagency cooperation, and emphasis on agility and speed to counter emerging, asymmetric threats; and plans for over 30 percent increase in civil-affairs units.49 It provides ‘roadmaps’ for Stability, Security, Transition, and Reconstruction (SSTR), Irregular Warfare, and Building Partnership Capacity to address new military requirements and to advance them in future defense programs.50

However, while the directive demonstrates the importance of incorporating democracy as well as governance efforts in this work, it doesn’t define both the Department of State’s and Defense’s roles in these kinds of endeavors, along with how they can coordinate with other actors including NGOs, contractors, foundations, universities, and the private sector. The three roadmaps call for increased military involvement in establishing and supporting democratic and effective governance across the spectrum of conflict, but the concepts in these roadmaps are underdeveloped.51


Same important improvements have been made both with the military and civilian authority with regard to the involvement on the ground in foreign (AFRICOM), and the administration’s Building Global Partnerships Act.55 Namely, the Office of the Secretary of Defense has developed a proposal, the Building Global Partnership Act that authorizes the military to do nearly everything it has done in Iraq and Afghanistan anywhere in the world, without subscribing to the human-rights and other restrictions that govern State Department dollars. The proposal reaches well past the Pentagon’s traditional areas: military-to-military training-assistance programs and weapons sales, and it would allow Defense to engage itself in virtually entire architecture of another country’s internal security. The downstream threat is that the State Department becomes the supporting institution for Defense Department initiatives, instead to formulate and lead the foreign policy according to its criteria and priorities.56

The Pentagon’s expanding foreign assistance role raises concerns that U.S. foreign and development policies are being subsumed by a short-term security agenda, that it will exacerbate the longstanding and glaring imbalance between the military and civilian components of the U.S. approach to state-building, and may undermine long-term U.S. foreign policy and development objectives to advance security, good governance and growth.57 Alongside relying more heavily on military instruments that on civilian ones, the U.S. approach is distinctive from many other donor governments, the European Union, and the United Nations, with regard to its underlying motivations.

Whereas many other donors place the emphasis on foreign coherence for development – that its, ensuring the alignment of national policy instruments to alleviate poverty and lay the conditions for self-sustaining growth in target countries – U.S. engagement with weak and failing states is focused overwhelmingly on what might be termed policy coherence for national security – that is, integrating policy tools to prevent weak states from generating transnational security threats that could harm the United States and its allies… (rather) than on alleviating the structural causes of instab


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