Book Review-Seminar Discussion Preparation


2. AUTHOR: Peter D. Feaver

3. AUTHOR’S BACKGROUND (use info from book, internet or other biographical sources):

· Academic background, Studied under Samuel Huntington, Duke Professor of Political Science, Director Security Studies and Director American Grand Strategy, with focuses in International Conflict Prevention and Peacekeeping U.S. Foreign Policy.

· Practical experience, twice on the NSC staff at the White House and Naval reserve officer.

4. BRIEF OUTLINE ILLUSTRATING SCOPE AND RANGE (time period, geographic areas, countries or organizations, etc.):

· Intro – Sets up the problem, How do civilians control the military?

o Proposes a new theory of Civ-Mil relations called Agency Theory p.1

o Defines “Shirking” as degree of disobedience to civil authority 3

o Introduces the idea that “Civilian leaders have a right to be wrong”

o Justifies use of Rationalist framework p. 12

· Chapter 2 attempts to show the limits and weaknesses of Huntington’s theory

o Asserts Huntington is wrong because it did not hold true during the Cold Wa

o Population did not become as conservative as Huntington predicted

o Huntington did not anticipate the “Liberal Hawk” who could hold different philosophies for domestic and international issues

· Chapter 3 Generally defines the Principle – Agent framework

o Civ-mil relations are a game of strategic interaction p. 58

o Defines monitoring mechanisms from principle agent literature 86

o Defines military punishments available to the principle 94

· Chapter 4 Plays out the Civ-Mil relationship in a Game to demonstrate its characteristics

o This game illustrates the possible outcomes of the relationship depending on preference alignment, shirking, monitoring, and punishment

· Chapter 5 Applies Agency Theory to the Cold War to demonstrate more explanatory accuracy as compared to competing theories

o Agency theory subsumes Huntington’s theory

o Cold War fit the pattern of intrusive civilian monitoring and military workin

· Chapter 6 Applies Agency Theory to 1990’s crisis in Civ-Mil Relations

o Crisis resulted from increased civilian monitoring with increasing military shirking and a decreased military expectation of punishment p. 225

· Chapter 7 Applies Agency Theory to Post-Cold War use of Force

o Civilian principles can manipulate the cost-benefit calculations even of reluctant military agents and thus prevail if they are sufficiently determined p. 282

· Conclusion Agency Theory re-conceptualizes civil-military outcomes beyond the coup/no-coup dichotomy and replaces it with a working-shirking continuum that captures rich variation in patterns of interactions. p. 285


  • Thesis - Due to the principle/agent civ-mil relationship in U.S., there is great latitude in how the relationship will look on a day to day basis because the civ leader’s monitoring type, military’s choice to work (fully comply) or shirk (not), and the choice to enforce or not and type of punishment drives the dynamic. The civilian has a right to be wrong due to constitutional authority.

· Conclusion - Agency theory is grounded in the deductive logic of democratic theory and can be backed up empirically p. 9

    • Preserves the civ-mil distinction

    • But without an ideal-type division of labor

    • Preserves military subordination, without assuming military obedience p. 10


· Feaver’s "agency” theory assumes that democracy requires civilian control of the military, even when civilians are wrong. Civilians have the right to be wrong.

o Following this assumption, civilians are the "principals" in the model who hire military professionals as their "agents" to prosecute their military security policy

o the military (the agent) can work or shirk. Working means doing things to the principal's (civilians') satisfaction; shirking means not doing something to the principal's satisfaction.

o Civilians may then monitor intrusively or not monitor intrusively to ensure that the military works. The military determines, based upon their preferences, the costs and payoffs of working or shirking under intrusive or non-intrusive monitoring.


· You are wrong, he is right


· Strengths –

· proves very useful for examining the day-to-day conduct of civil-military relations

· model turns out to provide a surprisingly powerful interpretive tool for explaining changing patterns of civilian control over the military from the Cold War to the present

· Weaknesses –

o The Unitary Actor Problem - Others will object that civilians and military professionals do not act solely as rational and self-interested or as unitary actors.

§ To this objection, Feaver reasonably responds that the rationalist and unitary assumptions provide a benchmark from which we might measure the influence of normative commitments or effects stemming from multiple-principal or multiple-agent problems

o The Dual Principle Problem - The realities of the American constitutional system make the military agents to both the Executive and to the Congress. This in tum can make murky exactly what constitutes shirking.

§ He favors the notion that the Executive branch has the lead due to the "commander in chief clause, but this gets very messy - particularly in instances of the use of force - as his chapter 7 proves repeatedly.

o The Military is Right Problem - Page 5 - Most controversial, perhaps, and in contradistinction to his theory, is that under certain circumstances military shirking may be, in a broader sense, "working" because the resulting civil military conflict may create superior policy outcomes and strengthen democratic control writ large.


· Liberalism has largely separated its domestic and international agendas/philosophies, this was in large part driven by the cold war (initially)

· Liberal Hawks have compromised parts of Liberalism to Realism (the opposite of cognitive dissonance? Because they are ok with actions not following beliefs?)

· Huntington developed a very persuasive and logically grounded argument for a political problem, ultimately though it was a political solution “professionalism”

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