Failure of the Separation Theory and Military Interventions in Domestic Politics

The separation theory proposed by Samuel P. Huntington establishes the US model of civil-military relations (CMR), based on the separation of civilian and military domains, as the ideal for other nations to follow. However, later scholars of CMR, such as Rebecca L. Schiff, have proposed harmony of interests between the military, government and citizenry and the convergence of the civil and military domains as a better model to be adapted by young post-colonial societies like Pakistan.

Schiff proposes the concordance theory, which argues that the civilians and military should aim for a more harmonious and cooperative relationship which may or may not involve the separation of their domains of influence. She asserts that the separation model is based on the unique historical experiences of the US and may not apply to other societies. Therefore, other nations should aim to establish their own model of CMR based on their cultural and historical circumstances. Other scholars, like Morris Janowitz, also discourage the complete separation of the military from society. But, he argues that the military must not mirror society and maintain its distinct identity and practices, which may be deemed un-democratic.

After the Second World War, the US policymakers exported the democratic peace theory across the world to establish democratic governments as opposed to the less desirable communist ones. It was proposed that democratic nations are less likely to go to war with each other as opposed to totalitarian nations. Since this theory reflected the experience of the US dealing with “militarised societies” like Nazi Germany and Japan, where the military exercised great influence over domestic politics, the physical and ideological isolation of the military from political institutions assumed centre-stage in the new US democratic model being disseminated worldwide. However, due to cultural and political differences with the US, numerous countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America saw several military coups. CMR in these countries remained strained, and the resulting political instability caused an economic decline. On the other hand, concordance theory, as proposed by Schiff, calls for a more cooperative and harmonious arrangement between civilian and military domains. Although it does not preclude civil-military separation, it does not consider it a necessity.

Civilians and military should aim for a more harmonious and cooperative relationship which may or may not involve the separation of their domains of influence.

Countries like South Korea, Indonesia and Türkiye utilised the nation-building capabilities of their armed forces and adopted a more concordant model of CMR. Militaries in these countries became partners of the civilian governments in nation-building by providing security and economic support as well as policy inputs on several matters of governance. In the early years after South Korea’s independence, military officials were appointed to several governmental and managerial positions. Several generals were made members of the cabinet and ambassadors and were given managerial positions in state-owned enterprises such as Korea Electric Power Company and Korea Coal Company. This civil-military concordance, apart from the turbulent 1961 coup, led South Korea to maintain an annual average growth in GNP of more than 10% from 1963 until the late 1970s, when per capita income tripled in less than twenty years. Similarly, in Türkiye, which has a history of military coups and civil-military discordance, the National Security Council (MGK) has led to greater concordance. The MGK is a government body composed of civilian and military members who give recommendations to the Turkish President on national security, military and foreign policy. The advice of the MGK is to be given priority by the Council of Ministers. In the US itself, the military can be seen exercising its influence over political matters. The appointment of Mike Pompeo, a former military officer and director of the CIA, as Secretary of State and the 2009 tensions between the Pentagon and White House are two examples. In 2013 Sen. John McCain attempted to pressurise Gen. Martin Dempsey to criticise Obama’s Syria policy. These examples show that even the US military is not wholly apolitical and that the Huntingtonian model does not seem to be entirely in practice in the US.

In the case of Pakistan, the initial years were marked by political instability due to weak political institutions and the early death of Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah and first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan. CMR remained discordant, although Pakistan adopted the British model of parliamentary democracy just like its neighbour India and many of the officers of the Pakistan Army were trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the UK. Fragile political leadership and weak institutions offset the military’s professionalism resulting in the coup in 1958. Edward Feit argues that the early problems of Pakistan resulted from the lack of a strong leader with the stature to maintain unity amongst power contenders. On the other hand, the dynamic leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru in India strengthened political institutions. Rebecca L. Schiff argues that concordant CMR depends upon the agreement of the military, government and citizenry on four indicators; social composition of the officer corps, political decision-making process, recruitment method and military style. She asserts that discordant CMR in Pakistan’s early years was due to the lack of agreement on these indicators. However, there has been a significant improvement in agreement upon these indicators in recent years. Pakistani military’s active participation in nation-building, infrastructure development and human security indicates an improvement in concordance with the citizens and government.

Likewise, Pakistan Army’s recruitment for the officer corps has become much more broad-based as compared to its early years. A study of the district-level recruitment shows that efforts have been made to enhance prospects of officer recruitment from Sindh, Balochistan, and former tribal Pashtuns. Similarly, the democratic continuation since 2008 and the military’s active defence of projects of national interests such as CPEC shows rising agreement in the decision-making process.

Finally, the military is becoming positively distant from its older insularity traditions. Pakistan’s military has been actively involved in nation-building since independence. Pakistan Army established the Frontier Works Organization (FWO) in 1966 to construct the Karakoram highway; 810 men died building the road. The FWO continues to contribute to key infrastructure projects in Pakistan, such as highways, dams and power stations. The Pakistan Army raised an infantry division in September 2016 to protect infrastructure projects under CPEC. The military has also actively spearheaded relief operations in times of national calamities, such as the 2005 earthquake. This is also in line with Pakistan’s new security policy, which gives primary importance to economic and human security.

CMR during Imran Khan’s government was remarkably harmonious with convergence between civilian and military leadership over matters of economic policy, foreign policy and domestic politics. However, relations became strained, according to analysts, over the appointment of the ISI chief. Nonetheless, the Pakistani military remains committed to the continuation of democracy. It continues to play a prominent role by utilising its expertise in the fields of disaster relief, infrastructure construction, logistics and organisational management.

Ali Afzaal Gondal

Ali Afzaal Gondal is currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree in International Relations at the National Defence University, Islamabad. He is a former intern at CSCR.

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