The importance of civil military relations in complex conflicts : success and failure in the border states, Civil War Kentucky and Missouri, 1860-62

Piper, Carl William

June 2011

Thesis or dissertation

© 2011 Carl William Piper. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

[From the introduction]:
Despite taking place in the mid-nineteenth century the U.S. Civil War still offers numerous crucial insights into modern armed conflicts. A current or future federation or new ‘nation’ may face fundamental political differences, even irreconcilable difficulties, which can only be settled by force. In future states will inevitably face both separatist issues and polarised argument over the political development of their nation. It is probable that a civil war may again occur where the world may watch and consider forms of intervention, including military force, but be unwilling to do so decisively. This type of Civil War therefore remains historically significant, offering lessons for approaching the problems of strategy in a politically complex environment. Equally it offers insights into civil-military relations in highly complex conflicts where loyalties are not always clear.

Success and ultimate triumph in the U.S. Civil War relied a great deal on the efficiency of civil-military relations and a willingness to approach each in a flexible, innovative manner. Within grand strategically vital regions where loyalties were uncertain and political complexity was very high, success in the realm of civil-military relations became the decisive factor in securing political control. Success in this dynamic and fluid realm of civil-military relations directly enabled military potential to be maximised, accelerating the implementation of the initial stages of a war winning strategy. This strategy would ultimately preserve the Union and propel the United States towards world power status.

Theories of civil-military relations from and based around the thoughts and methods of Samuel Huntington argue for the separation of the professional military and their political leadership. Huntington’s theories as first laid out in ‘The Soldier and the State’, developed from the American historical experience, with the United States’ civil-military relationships present and future in mind, often ignored the complex and unique nature of some conflicts. Huntington at times ignored what the he considered to be historical factual anomalies in favour of theoretical framework. It would be unwise to analyse civil wars and complex conflict in this manner, these are often fought out on many levels with local and regional conflicts tied up in the wider struggle. What may be appear to be a very clearly defined conflict at this wider level can be in fact be far more complex regionally and indeed locally.

Department of Politics and International Studies, The University of Hull
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