Rethinking Civil-Military Relations

By Don Snider

Dr. Snider is adjunct research professor, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army
War College. He is also professor emeritus of political science at West Point. He served three tours in Vietnam as an infantry officer. He is co- author, research director, or editor of six books on military professions and their ethics.

Compared to most of his proposed cabinet, President Donald Trump’s pick of retired Marine Corps General James Mattis for Secretary of Defense has been one of the least controversial. However, due to his recent retirement from the military, Mattis needed – and received – a waiver from Congress to serve; the first Secretary of Defense to receive such a waiver since General George C. Marshall 70 years ago. Looking at Secretary Mattis, and the many other former military officers serving in Trump’s cabinet, The Cipher Brief asked Don Snider, a professor at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College, how civilian control over the military works in practice, and what might change under the Trump administration.

The Cipher Brief: What does the appointment of James Mattis – a recently retired General – as Secretary of Defense mean for civil-military relations and Pentagon culture?

“The Cipher Brief has become the most popular outlet for former intelligence officers; no media outlet is even a close second to The Cipher Brief in terms of the number of articles published by formers.” —Sept. 2018, Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 62

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