Past event

Culture of Contempt: the Corrosive Effect of US Military Officers' Attitudes of Superiority on Civilian Control - Dr Risa Brooks, Marquette University ISWS Seminar Series

Presentation of project – Risa Brooks and Sharan Grewal


“A long tradition of scholarship on US civil-military relations has lamented the presence of a ‘gap' between American society and the military. In particular, surveys show that many military officers view the military's culture as not just distinct, but superior to civilian culture. These individuals believe military culture is more disciplined, honorable and selfless than civilian culture. Scholars have been less clear, however, about whether this superiority matters, or is problematic for civil-military relations.

“We address this issue, arguing that when military officers view civilian culture as inferior, they are more likely to view civilian leaders as illegitimate and unworthy of respect. In turn, they are more likely to support behaviors that subvert civilian control. We develop a typology of civilian control that emphasizes three mechanisms in which military officers can constrain, contest and limit civilian authority. Our empirical analysis provides strong and consistent evidence of these corrosive attitudes effects on these dimensions of control across three surveys of US military personnel: the 1998-99 TISS survey of 2901 military officers, a 2014 YouGov of 275 veterans, and an original 2020 survey of 770 West Point cadets.”

Dr Brooks is the Allis Chalmers Associate Professor of Political Science and a non-resident senior associate in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Dr Brooks' research focuses on issues related to American and comparative civil-military relations, military effectiveness, and militant & terrorist organizations; she also has a regional interest in the Middle East.

She is the author of Shaping Strategy: The Civil-Military Politics of Strategic Assessment (Princeton University Press, 2008) and editor (with Elizabeth Stanley) of Creating Military Power: The Sources of Military Effectiveness (Stanford University Press, 2007), as well as many articles in the field of international security. She received her PhD from the University of California, San Diego and her professional experiences include positions as Research Associate at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (London, UK), Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), and a predoctoral affiliation with the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University. For the 2017-2019 academic years she is also an adjunct scholar at the Modern War Institute at West Point. She is currently an associate editor of International Security.

Dr Brooks' current research includes a book project (with Peter White) that evaluates the nature and implications of "political control of the military" in authoritarian regimes. It includes a new theory of variation in political control, which is evaluated with large-n quantitative analysis and qualitative analysis in cases selected from around the world, including several from the Middle East and North Africa. Her research on the United States focuses on issues of military professionalism, military advice and civilian control of the military. An additional current project explores the implications for territorial safe havens for the incidence of complex terror attacks in Europe and the United States and includes data collection of terrorist attacks in both regions. In addition to her academic work, Dr Brooks remains engaged with policy debates related to her areas of expertise, and national security more broadly.

Email [email protected] to register by 5pm on Sunday 29 November.