Why do they quarrel? Civil-military tensions in LIC situations

Stuart A. Cohen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Because low intensity conflicts (LICs) are embedded in a socio-political context that directly shapes and constrains their nature, they are known to place an especially high premium on the need for civil-military co-ordination. Nevertheless (and herein lies a paradox), it is precisely in LIC situations that political interests and military preferences seem so infrequently to coincide-as much at the level of local command as at the apex of the decision-making pyramid. This essay notes three characteristics of LICs that might account for that situation: their tendency to emerge rather than erupt; the fact that LICs are invariably protracted conflicts; and the 'fuzzy' nature of most counterinsurgency operations. Drawing on examples from a variety of LIC contexts (appertaining to the experience of minor as well as major democratic powers in the modern world), the essay analyzes the way in which each of these three characteristics has contributed to exacerbate tensions between soldiers and their nominal political masters.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDemocracies and Small Wars
PublisherFrank Cass and Company
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)0203485424, 9780203485422
StatePublished - 30 Aug 2003


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