Guns and Roses: The Nexus Between the Military and Citizenry in the New Security Environment

  • Steven RatuvaEmail author
  • Radomir Compel
  • Sergio Aguilar


This chapter provides an overview of the nexus between military and citizens often referred to as civil–military relations and argues that this cannot be reduced into a simplistic dichotomy as usually depicted, but consists of a syncretic and complex set of interactions and synergies which take different forms (including contradiction, accommodation and synthesis). The ever-changing new security environment has transformed and reset this relationship in a way which responds to the specific realities in different countries. It summarizes the approach of the book, which consists of 4 parts and 20 chapters, which is an attempt to bring together diverse experiences of different countries in a single volume to show how the relationship between the military and citizens cannot be understood purely in terms of a single metanarrative; such understanding requires the use of a range of interdisciplinary analytical tools in different political, socio-cultural, economic and historical contexts.

Overview of the Book

The nexus between the military and citizens, often referred to as civil–military relations, cannot be reduced into a simplistic dichotomy as usually depicted, but consists of a syncretic and complex set of interactions and synergies which take different forms (including contradiction, accommodation and synthesis), as this book attempts to demonstrate in a globally comparative way. The ever-changing new security environment has transformed and reset this relationship in a way which responds to the specific realities in different countries. The book, which consists of 4 parts and 20 chapters, is an attempt to bring together diverse experiences of different countries in a single volume to show how the relationship between the military and citizens cannot be understood purely in terms of a single metanarrative; such understanding requires the use of a range of interdisciplinary analytical tools in different political, socio-cultural, economic and historical contexts.

The title of the book, Guns and Roses, was chosen because it represents the civil–military relationship in a symbolic way and provides a social metaphor to enable us to grasp some ironies about the co-existence of contesting concepts such as war and peace, people and the military, hard security and human security and conflict and stability. Metaphorically, while guns have bullets, they also have trigger locks, which make guns, and by analogy, militaries, subdued in time of peace. In a similarly symbolic way, a rose may represent a burgeoning civil society and at the same time become a thorn to state authority and the military.

The chapters are drawn from the papers submitted to a conference on democratization and the military organized by the International Political Science Association (IPSA) research committee on democratization and the role of the military (now changed to conflict, security and democratization), hosted by the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, in June 2017, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Department of Political Affairs and Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies at Massey University, New Zealand. The funding for the conference and the book was provided by the University of Canterbury and the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Marsden research fund.

The volume has been slightly refocused to emphasize the issue of civil–military relations in the context of the new security environment. The term “security environment” here refers loosely to the local, national, regional and global contexts of threat, anxiety and tension and how they impact on social stability and development. With the onset of globalization, these levels of security are inter-related in ways which see oscillation between the local and global in a dynamic way. Global security has been shaped by a number of salient factors including the resurgence of non-state militant forces, cyber security, drone warfare, highly digitized weaponry, rising inequality, the rise of right-wing politics, resistance against the predatory nature of neoliberal capitalism, contestation over scarce resources and, recently, the rise of Trump and his unorthodox and high-risk governance style, to name a few. In this climate of uncertainty, the nexus between the military and citizenry has increasingly become complex and problematic because of the blurring line of demarcation between the civil habitat, where ordinary citizens exist, and the military as a coercive arm of the state. The military itself has slowly morphed into the civilian sphere through the embracement of human security and privatization of many of its functions, while at the same time we have seen the rise of civilian militancy through protests and to the extreme, terrorism. Even the conventional configuration of the state has been contested and threatened as a result of the rise of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, commonly known as ISIS, and other anti-state forces.

In this spectacularly shifting atmosphere, the synergy between the military and citizens needs to be fully examined because of the way it transforms and is transformed by the security environment locally, nationally, regionally and internationally. In recent times, the encounter between the military and citizenry has been manifested in multifarious forms in such situations as the invasion of Iraq, the Arab spring, the war against ISIS, the nuclear standoff with North Korea, intra-state wars, protests for greater democratization, coups and attempted coups, the fight against increased terrorism and President Trump’s militarization policy and United Nations peacekeeping operations, to name a few. Many of these events occurred in the global South countries in Asia, Pacific, Africa, Middle East and Latin America, where most of the case studies in the book are from.

In relation to this, changes in the role of the military in the global South are worth noting here. The popularization of the human security discourse has shifted the emphasis away from the “hard” security narrative to a more society-based approach. One way in which this is manifested is the “civilianization” of the military, a process where military officers are embedded in civilian sectors of state operations. The flipside to this, as in the case of Zimbabwe and Fiji, is how it leads to the militarization of the state bureaucracy and society generally through co-option of military personnel into civilian institutions. In some cases, such as the Philippines, the military has changed strategy from direct deployment of coercion to the use of peace building as a way of creating a democratic space for citizen participation in conflict areas. In some cases, the military has been directly involved in economic development and entrepreneurial activities as a corporate institution as the case of Indonesia shows. In an age of instant image making and mass propaganda through social media, the military plays a vital diplomatic role for states as a promoter of democracy and peace through post-disaster humanitarian aid and peacekeeping operations. While these roles provide a more humane imagery of militaries, they, however, raise anxiety about their hidden and latent agendas and the implications of these on democracy and citizen well-being as militaries shift from being autonomous praetorian institutions to social organizations integrated into civilian life.

In tandem with these processes are some new developments, which may change the military dynamics once more. For instance, the continuing war on terror, the inclusion of senior military officers in Trump’s cabinet, the colossal increase in the proposed US military budget, the missile attack on Syria and the latest Cold War-type nuclear posturing with North Korea have raised further anxiety about a new era of overt global violence, which will see the major military powers reverting to their old gunboat diplomacy and direct confrontational stance. As in the Cold War, global South states may find themselves as a playground for contestation over global power once more.

Understanding the changing and complex role of the military in the global South in all these situations is of critical importance, more so because of the different ways in which different countries and regions are affected given their unique historical, political, cultural, social and economic circumstances. The global interconnectedness of countries also means that what happens in one part of the world has ramifications in another. For this reason, a global comparative study is needed to explore and unearth some deeper and critical synergies between citizenry and the military.

The book does not pretend to be all encompassing but attempts to capture selected aspects of these complex contemporary developments, focusing particularly on the nexus between the citizens and the military in Asia, Pacific, Africa, Middle East and South America. Many countries in these regions are going through exciting challenges in relation to political governance, ethnic conflict, socio-economic development and other forms of disputes, and the military has positioned itself strategically in relation to these issues. The democratization project in some of these countries has been deemed “successful”, while some have been going through cycles of crisis. There is no “one-size-fits-all” model of democracy as there are diverse configurations which reflect the historical circumstances of each country. Likewise, the nature and role of the military differ considerably, despite some shared similarities. In some countries, the military sees itself as a watchdog and vanguard of democratization and paradoxically may intervene to remove an elected government if it is deemed to be “authoritarian” or “corrupt”. In some countries, the military claim to play a politically “impartial” role and attempt to ensure political disengagement, no matter what the political circumstances might be. In some cases, the military sees itself as protector of the status quo, whether it be democratic or oppressive. In some cases, the interest of the military oscillates between these positions, depending on the circumstances. The power of political leveraging and the repressive capacity of the military are influenced by the changing conditions and differ from country to country.

The issues above provide the background to this volume. The book is a critical examination of these issues, linking together both theoretical discourse and empirical studies by some international experts in the field. This is done by different scholars with expertise on different countries through comparative case studies and the use of diverse analytical tools. The diverse narratives revolve around four major thematic foci. The first theme focuses on the sometimes engaging and sometimes oppositional relationship between the military and citizenry. The second theme deals with the way the military leverages itself to affect political change and some of the reasons for doing so, while the third theme examines the process of intervention in conflict situations to bring about peace. The fourth theme focuses on gender, civil society and sovereignty. Because these four themes are inter-related and certainly overlap in various ways, they must be seen not in isolation but as part of interconnected narratives using nuanced lenses. Rather than squeezing them to fit tightly into a predetermined mechanical comparative template, the case studies are meant to provide unique and autonomous voices of their own. Different countries have unique historical, socio-political and cultural realities and these are reflected in the diverse narratives. The different narratives reflect the changing dynamics of how security is manifested differently in different circumstances and time.

Structure of the Book

Part 1: Contestation or Cooperation: Dilemmas of Civil–Military Engagement

This part of the book looks at the issue of contestation and cooperation between the military and civilian society and focuses on a number of studies from Egypt, France, Bangladesh, South Africa and Fiji. Chapter  2 by Steven Ratuva provides a broad overview and examines the multi-faceted dilemmas associated with the changing dynamics of civil–military relations in a global environment. The chapter critiques Huntington’s view that there are standard institutional, professional and normative vales and behaviours which are shared universally by militaries and argues that as social institutions, militaries respond readily to and are shaped by the socio-cultural, economic, security and political habitus around them. In this way, the relationship between the military and society is often political and ideological but framed under the euphemism of professionalism. The chapter is more of a brief overview than a comprehensive analysis and provides comparative international examples to set the tone of the book in perspective.

The case study in Chap.  3 by Paul Carnegie examines the strategic responses and political intent of the Egyptian armed forces during the country’s “Arab spring”, an event which raised high expectations of progressive political transformation. Yet, as the chapter warns, it may have been better to exercise caution about Egypt’s post-uprising direction because, as we have witnessed, the result was no better than the situation at the beginning of the crisis. It argues that the rise of an autocratic military regime following the Egyptian “Arab spring”, while disappointing to many with high expectations, was not wholly unexpected. The post-Mubarak political outcome is largely the product of a polity still snared in the capricious embrace of reactionary military forces and past legacies. The oscillation between tension and accommodation in relation to the relationship between the military and the civilian realm is manifested in a complex way in Egypt, as shown by Carnegie.

Chapter  4, by Miles Kitts, examines the distribution of domestic political power within France since the 1789 revolution and provides a vastly different scenario from the Egyptian “Arab spring” as it focuses on a metropolitan military. It does this by embracing Peter Feaver’s agency theory of civil–military relations, which posits that within contemporary liberal democratic states, the relationship between civilian and military leaderships is fluid. The chapter examines how civil–military relations within changing political systems are influenced by the distribution of domestic political power in different state types, whether presidential, parliamentary or other systems. Since 1789 political power in France has fluctuated between autocratic and collective forms of decision-making. The chapter examines how since 1789 French civilian leaders have attempted to control the French military, with a focus on how the distribution of domestic political power influenced civil–military relations. It argues that when there is a concentration of domestic political power the military is more likely to be compliant with the civilian leadership, but when that power is more diffused the military is less likely to be compliant. This is because when political power is more concentrated, the military has more confidence in the government, as well as limiting the scope through which the military can inject itself into politics. However, when political power is more diffused the military feels that it has the duty and the opening through which to inject itself into politics.

In Chap.  5, Mohd Aminul Karim provides a narrative of the confrontational nature of civil–military relations in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi political culture is highly confrontational and this is reflective of deep political divisions within the society. These divisions have impacted on military professionalism and more broadly on institution building in the country. Political interference by the ruling political masters has led to institutional decay and mechanisms for accountability have been undermined. The chapter makes the argument that the Bangladeshi military is subject to “objective” and “subjective” controls by the executive and this may have an impact on civil–military relations in the long run, thus impacting on professionalism and loyalty.

In a slightly different context, Jo-Ansie van Wyk examines the relationship between the political executive and the military in post-apartheid South Africa in Chap.  6. One of the ironies is that, as the chapter surmises, despite commitments to sound civilian oversight, the executive has used its political power to exert control over the military and the ruling party’s military wing. In the context of this, the chapter intends to analyse executive–military relations in South Africa, the executive’s use of the military for political and private use, the role of the ruling party’s armed wing, accusations against the military of misconduct in border protection, rhino horn smuggling and misconduct during United Nations peacekeeping operations, and the state of the South African military. The chapter discusses these in the context of the ongoing democratization process in South Africa.

This theme of military–executive relationship is manifested in other post-colonial states like Fiji, as Vijay Naidu discusses in the case of Fiji in Chap.  7. The current government came to power on the back of a military coup in 2006. One of the features of Fiji’s political history is the constant intervention of the military in democratic politics in a way which has significantly transformed civic–military relations. The chapter examines the impact of the coups on Fiji’s democracy, the militarization of Fiji and the need for reforms in the military to reflect the changing society in the form of ethnic and gender balance.

Part 2: Military and Political Transformation

This part of the book focuses on the military and political transformation. There are five chapters in this part covering the Pacific region, Thailand, South Africa, China and Japan.

Chapter  8 by Stewart Firth examines aspects of the military and security in the Pacific Islands in the context of socio-political transformation in that region. The chapter discusses the participation of military forces in Pacific history and how they have helped to shape the political processes encased in the largest ocean in the world. It argues that security in the Pacific Islands is linked to a diverse set of issues ranging from ethnic differences to ineffective governments and increasingly the distinction between state security and human security becomes blurred on closer inspection and many of the challenges people are facing need diplomatic rather than military solutions. The chapter is an attempt to provide a coherent and systematic approach to understand the complex security dynamics in the Pacific and their implications regarding socio-political change in a very culturally diverse part of the world.

James Ockey analyses the 2014 military coup in Thailand in the context of the historical “coup cycle” of the last 80 years or so in Chap.  9. The military associates democracy with chaos and uses this narrative to justify coups and its role in the political affairs of the country. The chapter examines the fragile relationship between the military and the middle classes and the implications of these to the power dynamics and democracy in the country. The chapter provides an analysis of significant issues relating to attitude adjustment, reconciliation, promotion of patriotism and fun combination and creation of institutions to bring order to chaos, reinforcement of discipline and respect for the law by the Thai military. It explores the implications of the military attitude that seeks to impose and perpetuate greater military-style order on society for the future of democracy in Thailand.

In Chap.  10, Theo Neethling explores the philosophical and practical dynamics relating to the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in terms of its security roles. The chapter analyses the new comprehensive guidelines for a more balanced defence force, the questions of budget allocation and the role of the defence forces as a foreign policy instrument. It argues that one of the challenges is trying to convince politicians, taxpayers and the citizenry at large that an increase in the defence budget is imperative and required for the SANDF to play a more meaningful role in South Africa’s foreign policy in the arena of international peace missions.

Chapter  11, authored by Kate Hannan, offers a brief overview of the role of China’s military during two particularly sensitive periods in Chinese contemporary politics: the use of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to impose discipline on the Red Guards in Mao Zedong’s personalized 1967–68 Cultural Revolution; and the June 1989 events in Tiananmen Square, when Deng Xiaoping ensured that a section of the PLA played a decisive role in the outcome of the crisis. The chapter examines the current reform measures that focus on tightened Communist Party control of the PLA, which is viewed as a professional and institutionalized source of power for the party. While the PLA and its various branches continue to be charged with upholding the party’s ruling position and firmly maintaining social stability, there are moves to increase international security cooperation in areas crucially related to China’s overseas interests.

In Chap.  12, Radomir Compel examines the main tenets of Huntington’s hypothesis regarding the second-wave democratization of Japan as well as some of the counter-arguments. Huntington used the Japanese occupation and political transformation experience as a basis for his theory of democratization—the change from the zealously militaristic authoritarian regimes into peace-loving countries cherishing individual freedoms and democratic ideals. The chapter argues that there were other important issues, such as maintenance of public order, which were the prerequisites for success of democratization efforts. The chapter emphasizes that the primary goal of the occupation authorities was not democratization, but preservation of order. Reforms only happened after the preservation of the imperial system was guaranteed.

Part 3: Civilian Violence and Peace Intervention

One of the increasingly important roles of modern militaries as well as other security forces such as the police is peacekeeping and peaceful intervention in “post-conflict” situations. This part of the book examines this, drawing on some comparative cases.

In the first case study in Chap.  13, Jon Fraenkel provides an analysis of the role of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) which, in response to a request by the Solomon Islands government, was deployed in 2003 to help bring about stability following civil unrest which caused turmoil in the country. RAMSI consisted of Australia, New Zealand and 13 other Pacific nations and came to an end in 2017. The chapter reviews what the mission achieved, how it was constituted and how it compares with other so-called state-building missions in places like Kosovo, Bosnia, Sierra Leone and East Timor. In such places, security forces were often reconstructed from scratch. In Solomon Islands, RAMSI pursued a “two forces” model, with key objectives of the mission being delivered by an organizationally separate “Participating Police Force”, largely comprising officers from the Australian Federal Police Force. In the initial phases, the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force was largely left on the side-lines, thus causing demoralization among its senior officers. Over the longer run, the Royal Somon Island Police Force (RSIPF) was reconstituted, with a new generation of younger officers emerging. The chapter assesses the initial core organizational framing choices of RAMSI, examines what has been achieved, and asks what the likely legacy will be.

The next case study, in Chap.  14 by Sergio Aguilar, examines the European Union’s (EU) military missions to protect civilians, ensure delivery of humanitarian aid and defend United Nation personnel in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and Central African Republic. The chapter looks at the context of these operations and the way the EU accomplished its new assignments, and follows with the discussion about an emerging EU presence in the security field. The reason for such operations was a strategic decision to test and prove the capacity of EU contingents to act autonomously of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or individual EU member countries. The chapter also introduces various criticisms of the missions, including objections that they were little more than “cosmetic operations” or “French projects”, and critiques their short periods of deployment, which made them look like “bridging projects” for United Nation peacekeepers. Aguilar concludes with remarks about the challenges the EU forces faced vis-à-vis criticisms about their impartiality, insufficient force generation, participation deficit, fragmentation and lack of political will at home or involvement with community policing, all issues that pose questions about whether the EU can really play a major role in the maintenance of global security.

Chapter  15 by Jovanie Espesor focuses on civil society’s involvement with the state security apparatus, and methods used for reconciliation between once divided communities, as well as strategies for engagement with terrorism. The chapter examines the process whereby the Armed Forces of the Philippines engage in peace-building operations while fighting various guerrilla and insurgent groups in conflict-stricken communities in the southern Philippines. It looks at various initiatives of the Armed Forces, and evaluates how they contribute to the attainment of peace, which has been hard to arrive at in Mindanao for more than four decades. The chapter also focuses on the relationship between the military with major power brokers, particularly the warlords and rebels, as well as the civil society and vulnerable groups in the conflict zone. It concludes that the Armed Forces of the Philippines are not merely relying on a hard approach to fight insurgency and terrorism in Mindanao, but they also employ soft measures through their engagement in peace building to lessen communal divide, and hence promote reconciliation at the grassroots.

Anthony Hustedt’s chapter (Chap.  16) looks at outcomes from negotiations with terrorist groups. Traditional approaches regarding states engaging in talks with extremist organizations suggest that peace talks are often accompanied by an increase in violence. While such approaches appear to generally hold true, they may not properly isolate the driving mechanisms behind such violence. The chapter analyses the source and motivation for the rise in violence seen to occur alongside negotiations. Judging from the experience of extremist violence in the Southern Philippines, the chapter compares attacks conducted by insurgent organizations participating in negotiations, and those excluded from such a process, and finds that a distinct divide appears in the frequency and intensity of violence conducted by each group. The emerging patterns suggest that the increase in violence stems from groups excluded from the bargaining table, and that negotiations actually served to reduce violence delivered by participating organizations, keeping them engaged in the peace process. This confirms that community engagement is as important a weapon for the military as other more traditional instruments of power.

The importance of peace building at a grassroot level in the form of community engagement is captured by Asha Gupta in Chap.  17, where she raises the question of whether the military can be entrusted with the role of police. With the shift in the security paradigm from territorial to human security, the role of the military has changed drastically in the post-Cold War era. Instead of fighting wars and protecting the national sovereignty and territory, the military is now engaged in peace building. As such, the military will need to shift emphasis from using its powers for destruction, repression or dominance to utilizing it to build democracy and uphold human rights. The aim is to protect citizens from war, terrorism, poverty, hunger, environmental degradation and other problems and play the role of police as far as safety is concerned. Gupta concludes that this paradigm shift from a “combatant” to a “policing” role is still in the process of habitualization and institutionalization. Both the military and the police aim at providing security to citizens, but both still have a long way to go to understand each other’s mode of operation. Unless and until there is global cooperation and resource pooling, neither inter-state nor intra-state armed conflicts can be fully resolved.

Part 4: Gender, Civil Society and Sovereignty

Part 4 consists of three chapters focusing on gender, civil society and sovereignty and their relationship to the military and conflict.

Chapter  18 by Marcus Boomen focuses on gendered violence against males in Bougainville, an autonomous territory of Papua New Guinea during the civil war between 1988 and 1998. The term “gender violence” is often used to highlight violence against women; however, the chapter demonstrates how, at least within times of conflict, this term can also be used to identify types of violence committed against men. It will use the case study of the Bougainville civil war to demonstrate how in certain types of conflicts, combatants’ inability or unwillingness to distinguish hostile forces from the male civilian population can result in the disproportionate targeting of this group. Consequently, males can be at risk of assault, torture and murder at the hands of combatants as a result of their gender. The intention of the chapter is not to try to marginalize the victimization of women during times of war but merely to demonstrate how gender roles and expectations can result in unique forms of violence against men as well.

Chap.  19 by Cornelia Baciu examines the relationship between the military and civil society organizations as a mechanism for democratic control and oversight of the armed forces, using Pakistan as a case study. Transition to a democratic system of governance can be particularly challenging in countries with a strong tradition of military influence in politics. The normative importance of NGOs in governance processes has increased since the end of the military regime of General Pervez Musharraf. However, the military continues to maintain a strategic role in politics even in the unstable democratic transition period post 2008. The chapter argues that civil society organizations represent a democratizing force which can be leveraged to create conditions for progressive transformation and accountability of the military.

One of the critical roles of the military is to protect sovereignty and legitimacy of the state as well as the right of the citizens to be protected by the state, as Jose Zambrano discusses in Chap.  20. While the chapter does not directly address the role of the military, it nonetheless provides some theoretical parameters within which one may understand contexts in which sovereignty defines the relationship between the state and its citizens. To this end, the chapter provides a critical assessment of the doctrine of the responsibility to protect (R2P) of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) and provides possible windows for future changes.

A Final Word

Finally, it is hoped the volume will provide some useful resources for students of civil–military relations, political science, sociology, security and strategic studies, peace and conflict studies and diplomacy. It captures up-to-date accounts of some of the latest developments on the relationship between the military and democratization by experts, drawing on examples from Asia, Pacific, Africa, Middle East and South America. It is also interdisciplinary in that it brings together analysis from different disciplines such as political science, sociology, anthropology, development studies, security/strategic studies and conflict/peace studies. In addition, it provides wide-ranging sub-themes within the broad rubric of military and democratization relating to gender, peace building, civilian oversight, coups, geopolitical contestation and internal repression, which make the book diverse in knowledge base, balanced, informative and representative. Furthermore, the volume has an international comparative coverage with three inter-related levels of analysis—the global, regional and national.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Macmillan Brown Center for Pacific StudiesUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand
  2. 2.School of Global Humanities and Social SciencesNagasaki UniversityNagasakiJapan
  3. 3.Faculdade de Filosofia e CiênciasSao Paulo State UniversityMaríliaBrazil

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