In the Shadow of General Marshall: Old Soliders in the Executive Branch

Guiberson, Ryan, Government - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Ceaser, James, Department of Politics, University of Virginia

The usurpation of political authority by tyrannical military figures is a theme that pervades the history of politics. The United States has avoided such an occurrence and the prospect of a military coup d’etat rarely registers as a realistic concern in American politics. Despite the unlikelihood of this classic form of military usurpation, other more insidious forms lurk and must be guarded against to protect civilian control of the military. One potential manifestation has been referred to as a military colonization of the executive branch. This form implies that retired senior military officers increasingly pursue executive branch positions and unduly promote the interests of the active duty military, its leaders, and military solutions to national security issues. This work addresses military colonization claims by examining the number of retired senior military officers that have served in executive branch positions, trends in where they participate, and their political behavior in these positions. It also uses interviews with retired senior military officers to gain their perspectives on the incentives and disincentives of executive branch service. The study concludes that in the post-Cold War period, participation rates of retired senior military officers in key executive branch positions do not diverge significantly from broader post-World War II patterns. In addition, their behavior while serving in these positions differs markedly from the expectations of military colonization purveyors. These individuals have predominantly reinforced civilian control of the military rather than impeded it.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
civil-military relations
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: