skip to navigation skip to content skip to footer

Australian Journal of Defence and Strategic Studies

Australian Journal of Defence and Strategic Studies

AJDSS Volume 2 Number 2


Civil-Military Relations: Control and Effectiveness Across Regimes

Thomas C Bruneau and Aurel Croissant (eds)

Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder CO, 2019

Reviewed by Michael Evans

Published online: 3 December 2020


The field of civil-military relations is an important part of interdisciplinary strategic studies. Yet it is one in which most research is narrowly conceived and often concerned with relations between political systems on one hand and the armed forces on the other. There is far less research conducted on military interaction with civil bureaucracies in producing strategy or with the outcomes of military effectiveness.

During the Cold War era, much of the civil-military relations literature from Samuel Huntington through Morris Janowitz to Amos Perlmutter was concerned with what American scholar, Peter Feaver defined in the mid-1990s as the ‘civil-military problematique’ - that is how to reconcile protection by the military with protection from the military. In the twenty-first century, such a focus is far too conceptually restrictive. This is especially true of established liberal democracies with militaries that are fully reconciled to civil control. In liberal democracies, the military is itself a state bureaucracy and while it may be neutral in terms of the dynamics of party politics, it is never apolitical in outlook. Military establishments have their own institutional interests and goals to pursue, which range from budgets to equipment acquisition and the making of strategy. As a result, the pattern of civil-military relations existing in any modern state produces a defence output, namely the efficacy of national defence strategies, operational capabilities and military organisational systems at any given time. It is this broader subject of effectiveness that is the concern of the essays compiled in Civil-Military Relations: Control and Effectiveness Across Regimes, edited byThomas C Bruneau and Ariel Croissant. Both scholars are leading experts in civil-military relations and their edited book explores the importance of effectiveness in defence and military outputs.

The editors mount a powerful case that ‘the civilian control and military effectiveness nexus’ is understudied in civil-military relations and requires ongoing research effort by scholars. The book defines effectiveness as the capability of the military to achieve politically desired outcomes across a spectrum of activities ranging from conventional warfighting, counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, and internal security through to peace operations and the provision of humanitarian and disaster relief. These roles are, in turn, measured by three main indicators of military effectiveness. The first indicator is the presence of defence planning processes (white papers and national security strategies). The second indicator is the existence of proper organisational structures (departments of defence, joint military staffs and interagency national security coordination). The third indicator is the systematic allocation of sufficient resources to ensure that the military is equipped for the missions it may have to undertake. The editors recognise that military effectiveness as a process links itself to a distribution of political power. This distribution ranges from the polar opposites of civilian control existing in liberal Western democracies through one party control such as that in China to outright military dictatorship of the kind found in today’s Egypt.

With the above analytical framework in place, the international contributors to the volume develop a comparative analytical approach to the control and effectiveness relationship. Essays range from examining control and effectiveness in consolidated democracies such as the United States, Japan and Germany, through such emerging democracies as Chile, Indonesia and Tunisia to the authoritarian political regimes of Russia, Turkey, Egypt and China. While in all cases, the relationship between state, society and armed forces is of fundamental importance, the differences identified in regime type determine a variety in civil-military patterns of control and effectiveness.

Read the full article as a pdf


To cite this article

Documentary-note: Michael Evans, 'Review of “Civil–Military Relations:Control and Effectiveness Across Regimes” edited by Thomas C Bruneau and Aurel Croissant, Australian Journal of Defence and Strategic Studies 2020, 2(2):278-282.

Author-date (Harvard):  Evans, M., 2020. 'Review of “Civil–Military Relations:Control and Effectiveness Across Regimes” edited by Thomas C Bruneau and Aurel Croissant, Australian Journal of Defence and Strategic Studies  [online] 2(2), 278-282. Available at <>