Military & Aerospace

The Military Must Find Its Voice
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Issue Vol. 26.4 Oct-Dec 2011 | Date : 05 Dec , 2011

The Civil-Military Cultural Gap

The values and beliefs that form the substance of military professionalism determine the role of the military in society, establish the boundaries and criteria for military behaviour, provide norms, and institute the professional posture vis-à-vis the civilian elite. The character of military professionalism places the military subsystem in its ‘orbit’ within the political system and, in so doing, establishes the reference point from which civil-military relations evolve. This is aptly reiterated in the credo of the Indian Military Academy:

“The safety, honour and welfare of your Country come first, always and every time.

The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next.

Your own ease, comfort and safety come last always and every time”.10

A soldiers problems today stem from the fact that, now, the irresponsible use of military force could destroy the human race. A soldier therefore has greater responsibility to society than he ever had before in history ”¦

It has always been difficult to discern clearly the relationship between society and the military. It is even more complicated now. Demographic, social, and economic changes have focused the attention of many citizens on the politico-economic environment. Constructive political engagement offers a means by which the realities and essence of military culture can be presented to the public and elected officials, as well as to the media. This is particularly important in the information age with the expansive technological capabilities available. While articulating the cost of military options, in various contingencies, the military must inform society about its capabilities at hand; and not merely attempt to reassure that it will fight with what it has got. Deficiencies in defence preparedness are too stark to ignore or brush under the carpet.

Some Issues

An effective military system must be authoritarian and driven by the need for combat cohesion, unit effectiveness, discipline under a chain of command, subordination of individual rights to the group, and unity of effort. This unique military culture must be nurtured within the democratic system. At the same time, within these parameters, individual dignity must be maintained.11 The military, by remaining isolated from society, has created an environment in which decision makers lack all sensitivity to the realities of military life. Thus, an uncertain grasp of military affairs is likely to characterize policy making for the foreseeable future. One caveat is that the military needs to indulge in political engagement and not in politics, and clearly understand the distinction. It also implies that higher military ranks, while engaging politically do not fall into the trap of placing personal interests over organizational needs.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Col Harjeet Singh

Col Harjeet Singh

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