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30. july 2003. Michael Pugh, PhD, Director, International Studies Centre, University of Plymouth, UK "Security-sector reform is too serious a business to be left to soldiers." (With apologies to Georges Clemenceau)
In an idealised system of civil-military relations, the separation of powers, political pluralism and the engagement of civil society seem to be indispensable conditions for a non-politicised military, and a non-militarised society. As various researchers have argued, structures, rules and training policies may change the operations of armed forces, but one of the most difficult challenges is to change the mentality of the military, their political masters and of society at large. This requires the ‘transformation’ of civil-military relations rather than simply ‘reform’ of structures.
Security sector reform in transitional societies has tended to focus on the following areas:
reform of the uniformed security branches and the training of parliamentarians and civil servants;
supporting the establishment of structures of proper civilian control over the military;
training members of the military in international humanitarian law and human rights;
strengthening national parliamentary oversight of the security apparatus.
But these areas do not necessarily address the problem of military/social attitudes. In common with other former Socialist-governed states, Yugoslavia already has a high level of capacity for reform, and even for transformation.
Structural and ideological legacies
It is true that the Party’s claim to exercise control did not mean that civilians were in charge of the military. The military were brought into the Party. In the chief political decision-making bodies relating to security, the military exerted control over themselves, because they had the monopoly of expertise, and civilian expertise was lacking. Nevertheless, in terms of reform and transformation, Yugoslavia has certain advantages.
The principles of political control and Clausewitzian political subordination were assimilated by the military. Indeed, it is notable that even where the military in parts of Europe had excessive influence on security policy or were used for internal repression, there are fewer instances of rule by the military and praetorianism (intervention in politics) than in non-Communist or anti-Communist states (Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile in Latin America for example, in Turkey and Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand and many places in Africa). The principle of Party control, though deviating from civilian control in daily practice, became part of the culture and ideology of civil-military relations that could be asserted in times of crisis (with exceptions such as Poland and, possibly, Romania). Military rule was widely considered to be illegitimate. Institutionalised civilian supremacy was based upon: consensus about where legitimate sovereignty lies; consensus about processes for making policy decisions including procedures for political succession; and a capacity in the civilian sector to defend its rights through legal means. But a culture of civilian supremacy does not necessarily ensure a successful transformation of attitudes. Civilian control can be exercised for narrow personal or party interests and the suppression of political opposition. In Croatia under President Franjo Tudjman, for instance, army staff and the officer class were expected to be members of Tudjman’s Croat Democratic Union, or face dismissal.
Nor does military professionalism guarantee transformation. According to Samuel Huntington, it may be possible to change attitudes by appealing to the concepts of ‘legitimacy’ and ‘professionalism’ in order to keep the military out of politics. However, ‘professionalism’ can be interpreted as loyalty to some higher authority, such as ‘the nation’, rather than to political control. In many coup-prone states, nationalism and the need for strong central government have provided gilt-edged invitations for the military to intervene. Moreover, as Alice Hills has noted with respect to civil police, standards of professionalism are culturally dependent and often skill- and status-based, rather than linked to moral choices.
A Security-Policy Community
A transformation in civil-military mentalities requires something else than structural reform, a culture of civilian supremacy and a reliance on professionalism. It also requires the creation of a security policy community that stretches beyond the military and politicians. For framing a transformative approach to civil-military relations, it is therefore important to note a difference of emphasis between: civilian control and management, which is constitutionally established through law and formal decision-making processes, and civil-society engagement, which is largely a matter of political and social mobilisation. These are not differences - because the mobilisation of civil society can also be formalised as constitutional reform. For example, since Slovenia became independent, tribunals that hear claims for conscientious-objector status have a statutory obligation to include NGO representatives, such as peace activists, on their panels.
But the importance of civil society is in its role in creating an awareness of issues, debates and security-policy options. Yugoslavia has been engaged in this process, through CCMR, since 1995. One of its main objectives has been ‘to animate [the] professional and political interest of citizens, their associations, political parties, parliamentary and state organs for a modern arrangement of civil-military relations’.
Democratic associations of civil society can play a transformative role in changing existing mentalities. This need not be limited to budgetary and performance oversight, but could include development of structures and regulations. The role of civil society groups would also be to mediate and translate security issues between the wider society and the defence establishment. They can make military questions meaningful to society and echo social concerns to the defence establishment. Such a transfer of knowledge can also occur by other means: official statements, military press briefings, and the election of parliamentarians with an interest in security matters. But official statements are only the beginning of dialogue, press briefings can be easily manipulated and parliamentarians are elected only every few years and do not usually devote much time to defence issues (except, importantly, through standing committees).
Obviously, transformation cannot occur without a solid constitutional foundation, a system of accountability, some concept of freedom of information and a degree of consensus about what needs to be kept secret for strategic reasons, rather than maintaining military privilege and power. But there also needs to be a level of knowledge and understanding of security issues in society and a willingness in the military to accept social change and civil society influence. And it should be a genuine dialogue, in which issues are contested in a reasoned way, allowing for constructive criticism. Only then will it be possible to build a security policy community of mutual respect which becomes part of a transformation.
 Wolfgang Manig, "Problems of Transformation of the Defence Establishments in Central and Eastern Europe", in Wilfried von Bredow, Thomas Jäger and Gerhard Kümmel (Eds.), European Security (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1997), p.25. This paper draws on continuing research with Neil Cooper, "Security-sector transformation in post-conflict societies", for the Centre for Defence Studies, London.
 Manig, "Problems of Transformation", pp. 26-27.
 S.E. Finer, The Man on Horseback: The Role of the Military in Politics (London: Pall Mall, 1962), p. 226.
 Samuel P. Huntington, The Soldier and the State: the Theory and Practice of Civil-Military Relations (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1957), p. 74.
 Finer, The Manon Horseback, p. 210.
 Alice Hills, "Security Sector Reform and Some Comparative Issues in the Police-Military Interface", Contemporary Security Policy, Vol. 21, No. 3, December 2000, p. 4.
 Discussions with Marjan Malesic, Social Science Faculty, University of Ljubljana, 7 October, 1998.
 James Gow and Carole Birch, Security and Democracy: Civil-Military Relations in Central and Eastern Europe, London Defence Studies No. 40 (Centre for Defence Studies, King’s College: London, 1997), p.10.