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This chapter argues that the realities of civil–military relations in Vietnam defy the Western models that dominate the literature. The control architecture underlying this relationship is based on the mutual embeddedness of the military and the Communist Party. While the Party exerts political control over the military, the military’s participation and influence in elite politics and policymaking are not only legitimate but also an integral part of the architecture. The chapter explicates the architecture of Vietnam’s civil–military relations and charts the military’s influence in politics since the Third Indochina War. It shows that, paradoxically, military conflict is not the only and not even the main reason for a surge in the military’s influence in Vietnamese politics and foreign policy after the Cold War. The military gained more influence because it assumed a major political role. While the military’s influence has been on the wane recently, the Party’s control continues to prevail over the trends of commercialization and professionalization.

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Civil–Military Relations in Asia
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This book explores civil-military relations in Asia. With chapters on individual countries in the region, it provides a comprehensive account of the range of contemporary Asian practices under conditions of abridged democracy, soft authoritarianism or complete totalitarianism.

Through its analysis, the book argues that civil-military relations in Asia ought to be examined under the concept of ‘Asian military evolutions.’ It demonstrates that while Asian militaries have tried to incorporate standard, western-derived frameworks of civil-military relations, it has been necessary to adapt such frameworks to suit local circumstances. The book reveals how this has in turn led to creative fusions and novel changes in making civil-military relations an asset to furthering national security objectives.

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The eras that preceded the Jokowi years and the fossilization of the views and values therein, is one factor that has contributed to the TNI’s evolution into its present form. This path dependency can be summarized as follows: because civilians are to be mistrusted and only the military knows what is best for the nation, TNI entrenchment in economic, political and social life is both natural and necessary. An additional factor is Jokowi’s need for legitimacy, which has compelled him to accommodate figures associated with the New Order. Accordingly, this chapter goes into greater depth than existing scholarship in analysing the ideology and actions of military hardliners who have surrounded the president. Leaning on and delegating authority to such figures has shifted civil–military relations in favour of the TNI, particularly when it comes to MOOTW, in numerous ways. This chapter considers several of them: Army counterterrorism manoeuvring, proxy war threat inflation, old guard anti-communism and the TNI’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. All represent military entrenchment couched in a serious distrust of civilian leadership.

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This closing chapter attempts to plumb an Asian contribution to civil–military relations by revisiting the research questions set out in Chapter 1. Chiefly, the idea of melding civilian progress and material well-being in a defence statement is an Asian formulation that echoes across the 13 country studies in this book. Three big themes emerge: the enduring impact of colonialism by foreign powers and other legacies of the past, civil–military fusion and its links to development and political guardianship of the nascent modern Asian state and lastly, civil–military relations and its connection with defence diplomacy and MOOTW. Asian military evolutions are revealing of cumulative and synthetic slow-motion phenomena unfolding across the region’s politico-security landscape, but it will prove rewarding to study them if one does not always associate the Asian military in stark formations like authoritarianism versus democracy.

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South Korea is not completely distinct in its practice of civil–military relations from the rest of Asia. As we argue in this chapter, the tussle over democracy in civil–military relations is more a symptom than a primary explanatory framework for South Korea. This is in view of the heavy social, psychological and ideological burdens imposed by the legacies of Japanese colonialism, as well as the panicked improvisation of the South Korean economic growth strategies that started under General Park Chung-hee’s direction between 1961 and 1979. Today, the failure to fully civilianize, or better yet, to fully liberalize, remains endemic to the South Korean political system. The threat from North Korea serves as a political prop for authoritarian elites. In short, South Korea’s current political stability was attained at a cost and its economic powerhouse status achieved through compromises arbitered by military rule and justified against a geopolitical environment of exaggerated insecurity.

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For Bangladesh, defence diplomacy has evolved as a cornerstone of its military since the restoration of democracy in 1991. This chapter highlights the evolving roles and activities of the Bangladesh Armed Forces in this context as well as an extension of traditional diplomacy of the country. The military’s training and education facilities foster international cooperation and regularly host members of foreign armed forces. Bangladesh’s involvement in United Nations peacekeeping in particular has been instrumental in strengthening the defence diplomacy sector and has become an inseparable part of the military’s identity. It is argued that Bangladesh succeeded in promoting itself as a keeper of international peace and security through its participation in peacekeeping. Consequently, the chapter concludes that despite its peripheral position Bangladesh has been able to carve out its own space in international politics by virtue of promoting soft power through defence diplomacy, notwithstanding the fact that these activities are often circumscribed by manifold challenges.

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This chapter examines the state of civil–military relations in India against the backdrop of the country being a major military power in the Indo-Pacific. The chapter also profiles the evolution of India’s civil–military relations by examining the changing relationship between the different members of its defence leadership and its resulting impact on the nation’s military effectiveness. The chapter engages with contemporary debates in India’s defence management concerning national security policy, jointness among forces, bureaucratic efficiency, force modernization and development, and politico-military diplomacy to discern the parameters of civilian control over the Indian military organization. It is concluded that India’s institutional framework of higher defence management is unsuitable for its current security obligations and requires critical policy adjustments.

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This chapter explains the return of the Tatmadaw at the helm of government in Myanmar as well as the military’s involvement in COVID-19 management and exploitation to preserve its interests. One element that previous studies have not yet discussed to explain the phenomenon is the influence of doctrinal belief of the Tatmadaw, which is heavily inspired by the developmental guardianship idea. The developmental guardianship thinking has driven the Tatmadaw’s return to politics as the military aims to maintain its centrality. Moreover, the global outbreak of COVID-19 galvanized the military’s position as the developmental guardian and justified expansive military involvement in non-defence affairs. The discussion on the role of the doctrinal element, in this case the developmental guardianship paradigm, is this chapter’s main contribution to the contemporary literature on military and politics in Myanmar.

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Although Article 9 of Japan’s constitution states that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be sustained”, yet, Tokyo maintains one of the most capable military forces in the Asia-Pacific. The chapter evaluates the enhanced visible profile that the late Abe Shinzo’s administration sought in deploying the JSDF overseas on defence diplomacy and HADR missions to persuade and in the process, (re-)acclimatize the public to its important existence. The chapter also examines publicity campaigns that attempted to justify and endear the JSDF to the public. The focus on ‘endearing’ the JSDF to the public through popular anime cartoon characters for instance appears somewhat unique in the region, contrasting with concern about the authoritarian nature of military control over past Japanese politics or its role in developmental societies. At the same time, this more light-hearted focus on cartoon characters co-exists with a serious underlying message that the JSDF is increasingly necessary as the regional security environment deteriorates rapidly.

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Authors: and

This book explores civil-military relations in Asia. With chapters on individual countries in the region, it provides a comprehensive account of the range of contemporary Asian practices under conditions of abridged democracy, soft authoritarianism or complete totalitarianism. Through its analysis, the book argues that civil-military relations in Asia ought to be examined under the concept of ‘Asian military evolutions’. It demonstrates that while Asian militaries have tried to incorporate standard, Western-derived frameworks of civil-military relations, it has been necessary to adapt such frameworks to suit local circumstances. The book reveals how this has in turn led to creative fusions and novel changes in making civil-military relations an asset to furthering national security objectives.

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