The Role of Constitutional Law in Civilian Control of the Military

Atipiboonsin, Apinop, Law - School of Law, University of Virginia
Versteeg, Mila, University of Virginia School of Law

This dissertation discusses the role of the constitution in establishing civilian control of the military through the lens of comparative constitutional studies, filling the gap in the literature. The first part discusses how constitutions can be seen and used in various ways to control the military based on the original dataset, which includes all available past and current constitutions. The latter part of the dissertation provides a theoretical framework for these eclectic constitutional provisions through an analysis of the principle of separation of powers and the unique characteristics of the military.

The main argument is that constitutions can both constrain and empower the military through similar forces unique to constitutional law. Constitutional texts function more than just the reflection of a country’s civilian-military relations. Due to its power to make credible commitments and create legitimacy, the constitution can mobilize all civilian actors against the military to ensure civilian control. However, when the constitution involves the military without a specific design, there is a great danger that the military can instead preserve and extend its political roles through the abusive use of constitutionalism.

Case studies of countries from Turkey, Thailand, and Myanmar illustrate the limited usage of the constitution as a tool for civilian control and the risks that powerful militaries may use the constitution to further authoritarian gains. Thus, the dissertation suggests that a better understanding of how the constitution might affect the military is not only academically relevant but also instructive for constitutional drafters and practitioners who face the problem of civilian control.

SJD (Doctor of Juridical Science)
military, comparative constitutional law, authoritarian constitutionalism, constitutional law, empirical legal research, constitutionalism, civilian control, quantitative research, military law
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