Par Jean-Loup Samaan
Critique Internationale, vol. 2, no 55, 2012.
The Secretary of Defense and the American Civilian-Military Relationship : An Analysis of Robert Gates’ Tenure Despite an extensive literature on civilian-military relations in the United States, little has been written about the role of the Secretary of Defense. Institutional data and historical experience nevertheless show that this centrally placed actor in fact plays a pivotal role : his style and place on the presidential team allow him to strike a balance between the needs of the military and political considerations. The example of Robert Gates’ tenure as Secretary of Defense (November 2006 - June 2011) reflects this. The period following the start of his tenure was indeed characterized by a twofold dynamic : the strengthening of the military command and an apparent desire to depoliticize the role of Secretary of Defense. Together, these two processes defined the balance of civilian-military relations as Gates saw them, a balance that is not institutionalized but rather tacit. The informal character of Gates’ style argues in favor of adopting a more dynamic sociological approach in preference to Samuel Huntington’s classic theory of civilian control of the armed forces.2012
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