Duty, honor... party? Ideology, institutions, and the use of military force [electronic resource]
- James Thomas Golby.
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- 1 online resource.
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- In this dissertation, I argue that political ideology and domestic political institutions structure civil-military debates about how and when to use military force. Although previous studies of military influence typically have portrayed civil-military relations as a stand-off between conservative military officers and liberal civilians, this characterization ignores the significance of partisan differences in American politics and neglects the importance of American political institutions. I develop an informational theory of military influence that accounts for these domestic factors and explains when and how senior military officers will influence presidential decisions about whether to use military force. I argue that divisions over political ideology, and not civil-military differences, routinely shape the most salient dimension of interaction between political leaders and senior members of the U.S. military. I also argue that domestic political institutions -- political parties, national elections, congressional approval of military appointments, and bureaucratic hierarchy -- lead to predictable patterns of convergence and divergence in the preferences of the president and his senior military advisors. My informational theory suggests that the resulting variation in preference alignment will have profound effects on whether presidents decide to use force to accomplish their foreign policy goals. Using a multi-method research design, I find broad support for the primary claims of my informational theory. I show that there are large and significant differences in the foreign policy attitudes of Republicans and Democrats that hold both for military officers and for elite civilians. Moreover, when I condition on political ideology and partisan identification, differences between the attitudes of elite civilian leaders and senior military officers disappear; in other words, I find no evidence of a general civil-military gap. Nevertheless, the disproportionate number of conservative officers in the senior officer corps does lead to an asymmetry in the ability of presidents appoint senior officers who share their preferences. Using a new dataset that includes information in the political campaign contributions of 382 retired four-star generals and admiral from 1977-2002, I show that Democratic presidents are likely to appoint liberal officers only when their co-partisans control the Senate. In contrast, Republican presidents almost always appoint conservative officers, though my qualitative analysis suggests that closer preference alignment occurs in cases when Republicans control the Senate. I then demonstrate that the resulting patterns of civil-military preference alignment and divergence profoundly affect presidential decisions to use military force. Presidents from both parties are more likely to use military force when advised by military officers whom they appoint when their co-partisans control the Senate, though the effects are larger for Democratic administrations than for Republican administrations. I also introduce evidence from five historical case studies to provide external validity for my quantitative analysis and to explore private signaling and public dissent as mechanisms of military influence. Throughout each chapter of this dissertation, I also find clear evidence of a distinct partisan asymmetry; Democratic presidents face unique challenges when identifying, appointing, and dealing with senior military leaders.
- Publication date
- Submitted to the Department of Political Science.
- Ph.D. Stanford University 2011
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