Tradition Abandoned: America's Military in a New Era

American civil-military relations will remain vexed for some time.

Issue: Summer 1997

Overlooked by the general public, resolutely ignored by policy
elites, misconstrued by those few scholars who attend to its study,
the relationship between the United States military and American
society clamors for attention. Despite our best efforts to pretend
otherwise, we have a serious problem on our hands.

At first blush, this may seem an exaggeration. After all, the polls
in recent years rank the military at or near the top of major
institutions that Americans trust and respect. Such polls are
misleading. They mislead because popularity at the level of mass
politics counts for little within the precincts of elite politics
where national security policy is made. Indeed, attributing great
weight to public opinion may exacerbate civil-military problems by
conveying to the officer corps an inflated view of its status and
political clout.

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