A Word of Advice Mr. Defense Minister and Mr. Chief of Staff

There is never a quiet moment in the defense establishment. The Harpaz Affair illustrates that the Defense Minister and the Chief of Staff need to work together or else; well its best not to think of what might happen. That is all history as there is a now a different Chief of Staff and a new Defense Minister will soon be appointed; once the coalition is agreed upon and new government is formed. All indications it will be a former Chief of Staff, now elected Member of the Knesset; there are no shortage of these.

May I offer some friendly advice to both positions on maintaining professionalism. Mr. Defense Minister “you no longer wear a uniform” and Mr. Chief of Staff “you are entitled to opinions as Israel is a democracy but you have not been elected”. Let me explain to both of you your optimal working relations, using two schools of thought about civil-military relations and professionalism.

The seminal studies on civil military relations received their intellectual refinement in political science and sociology. The clearest early statements of this relationship were those of Samuel Huntington a political scientist in The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations and Morris Janowitz a sociologist in The Professional Soldier: A social and political portrait.

The Huntington School

Huntington as a political scientist viewed the armed forces as being set quite apart from society on a number of dimensions. He argued that this was as it should be, if the armed forces were to effectively address its mission and perform its major professional role: that is, defend the nation through the management and execution of large-scale violence when legitimately called upon to do so. A military profession that regarded its role strictly in military terms and was conservative in its social values, beliefs and attitudes, would remain a politically neutral arm of government and thus would be more amenable to political direction and civilian control. Huntington’s account is rooted in the idea of what might be termed a ‘pure military space’, focused on the technical means of war, occupied by a military profession using legitimate violence to achieve victory. The core competency for military elites or officers is therefore judgment concerning the appropriate use of military capabilities to achieve the assigned mission, with the measured use of lethal force a critical aspect.

The Janowitz School

Janowitz on the other hand, as a sociologist, saw the military institution as deeply embedded in society and dependent on it to effectively perform its responsibilities. Despite this the unique mission of the military rendered it somewhat different from other societal institutions and organizations. Janowitz called on the military to reflect the values and the sensibilities of liberal-democratic society, if it was to enjoy legitimacy and support from the citizenry. He viewed the armed forces in much broader terms than just a war-fighting machine and the profession as more than just a group of conservative “heroic warriors”, insulated from the rest of society. While Janowitz did not see the military profession as usurping political roles, he believed that officers’ competency- and skill-sets should include those associated with developing an understanding and appreciation of the social and political context, both domestically and internationally. The core competency for military elites or officers is based on the military profession’s values being embedded in those of its society and were expected to change according to transformations occurring therein.

Enough of the Theory – Speak Reality !

In practice Mr. Defense Minister and Mr. Chief of Staff there may well be an overlap in the Huntington-Janowitz discussions on civil-military relations and professionalism. Each has salient and relevant points. Take heed of both! Such discussions are also of value for the man-in-the-street because the frameworks simultaneously provides a substantive manner to understand the known political and military facts; which show how the tough decisions are made about Israel’s security; so long as the Defense Minister and the Chief of Staff work together. That is not a hint it is an obligation.

It is crucial for both not to overstep remits; both must be professional. Civil-military relations are not a one-way street. As decisions are made there is a reciprocal impact on the future size, shape, and organization of the armed forces and its equipment procurement; with that of maintaining democracy. Hand-in-hand Israel and its internal state the IDF have the same objectives. Keeping the equilibrium of the civil-military relations matrix ensures that the means suit the goals; that the goals are defined for the state and nation; by representatives of the state and nation; and not in pursuit of personal gains. As Purim approaches we are reminded of such issues in Israel’s past victories; and look to the future of the same.

Dr. Glen Segell, FRGS, is Researcher at The Institute for National Security Studies Tel Aviv, Lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and Senior Researcher for the Ariel Research Center for Defense and Communication.

About the Author
Dr Glen Segell is Fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies, University of Haifa.