How should the military engage citizens in a democracy?

Democracy
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Contemporary military personnel worldwide, belong to a profession as observed by Samuel Huntington in his book The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations. The noble profession is soldiering. Looking at the roles of the military since the existence of humanity, it is not in doubt that these men and women in uniform are professional managers of violence. Globally, the military is established to fight wars and carry out other peacetime functions. So countries arm, train, and equip military personnel to do horrifying things with force in order to achieve favourable political results. For this reason, many people are appalled when the same military that is mandated to defend citizens of a country is involved in activities that are considered inimical to the wellbeing of those to be protected.

Drawing inspiration from Clausewitz in his book On War, all military problems are political. It is absolutely true because the military takes orders from political masters who are mostly civilians in a democracy. These are civilians in positions of authority and responsibility who probably have not served in the military. The issue that has been bothering military scholars recently is how the military should engage the society in a democracy. Globally, it appears political leaders are taking a healthy, if any, civil-military relations for granted. But military leadership must display courage to withstand pressure from political leaders when ordered to carry out actions that are unethical to their professional calling.

 

Military leadership must always display courage. There are two types of courage: moral and physical. Moral courage is the ability to distinguish right from wrong. As a leader, one must have the courage to stand up and express his or her views politely based on professional competence irrespective of what your superiors, colleagues, and subordinates think on any issue. And the leader must accept full responsibility for his actions.

In the military and indeed any profession, a “yes man” is a horrible man. He must be avoided by all. Even though he may rise very high to the peak of his career, he will disgrace his or her followers when it is least expected. A field marshal, or a minister may be a “yes man, but he or she will not be seen as a leader by the followers. A “yes man” would be used by his superiors and dumped. He will be disliked by colleagues, while his subordinates will have no respect for him. What about physical courage? It is bravery in the face of physical pain, death or threat of death. Fear is a natural phenomenon like hunger. Anyone who says he is not frightened is a liar. It is one thing to be frightened and another to show it. Even when you are afraid, you must not show it. Once you show fear in front of subordinates you are leading, it is time to quit.

Sometime in 2017, “France’s military chief resigns after Macron budget argument,” according to Financial Times. The military chief, General Pierre de Villiers, was quoted as saying that “he no longer felt able to command the sort of armed forces that is necessary to guarantee the protection of France and the French people.” In the US, military analysts and observers are of the view that President Donald Trump crossed an important line by asking active-duty military personnel to lobby the Congress in their own self-interest for increase in defence budget.

Back home in Nigeria, recent utterances credited to the Nigerian Army (NA) is very disturbing. A deeper analysis of some of these comments gives an impression that the NA has constituted itself into a mini “government” by ordering the suspension of UNICEF and publicly calling for the closure of Amnesty International operations in Nigeria. Sometime ago, the NA was reported as warning Britain against interfering in the just concluded Nigerian elections.

The 2019 general elections are over in Nigeria. Most Nigerians and some members ofthe opposition didn’t have anything inspiring to say about the role the military played in some states during the general elections. In a democracy, whenever insecurity is anticipated during elections, the first layer of defence should be the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). But the NPF has its man-made challenges. The most important challenge of the NPF is lack of trust and confidence by most Nigerians coupled with inadequate logistics and firepower to deter sophisticated political thugs from snatching and destroying ballot boxes. But for the challenges of the NPF, the military would not have been in demand to respond jointly with the former to combat various crimes in the country.

The military, however, is not to be at any polling unit unless there is a complete breakdown of law and order which may threaten the country’s democracy. If democracy is threatened through misconduct of some political thugs, and the NPF cannot handle the situation, then the military may be ordered through appropriate channel to intervene in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended. In defence of the 1999 Constitution and the people of the country, the military must be on standby despite divergent views expressed by members of political parties, civil societies and citizens.

The military must be seen at all times to be above politics.In as much as the efforts of the military is appreciated, it does not confer on the institution the status of a special, privileged class of men and women within the Nigerian society. Our political leaders can do their part by denouncing attempts to mobilize the military as a political actor during elections. The military must be preserved as an instrument of national power, and not to be regarded a political party itself. In case political leaders do not know how far they should politicize the military, it is incumbent on military leadership not to dabble into politics. A dip into politics by the military is very dangerous for democracy as this may backfire sooner or later. Thank you!

 

MA Johnson

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  1. […] How should the military engage citizens in a democracy Tue, 02 Apr 2019 Contemporary military personnel worldwide, belong to a profession as observed by Samuel Huntington in his book The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations. The noble profession is soldiering. Looking at the roles of the military since the existence of humanity, it is not in doubt that these men and women [] read more… […]

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