American University
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Creating Requirements: Emerging Military Capabilities, Civilian Preferences, and Civil-Military Relations

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posted on 2023-09-07, 05:11 authored by Alice Hunt Friend

This dissertation explores the relationship between civilian and military preferences in the United States. A standard measure of the health of the civil-military relationship is whether civilian preferences prevail over military preferences in times of disagreement. Generally, the civil-military relations literature focuses on civilian efforts to impose their preferences on the military. But is it possible that the military is able to impose its preferences on civilians as well? This study asks and answers the questions: Does the military shape civilian preferences, and to what extent? If the military does shape civilian preferences, under what conditions does it do so? I contend that both purposeful actions by the military and factors natural to the civil-military relationship, each centered on the distribution of information resources, shape civilian preferences. I hypothesize that the less information civilians possess relative to the military, the more civilian preferences are based on military preferences. In three cases of emerging military capabilities, I find support for this hypothesis. Using comparative historical methods and process tracing, I examine the congruence of civilian and military preferences across time and find that military actors frequently framed and constrained civilian thinking about, and in some contexts dictated the purposes of, special operations forces, unmanned aerial vehicles, and cyber capabilities.



American University


Degree Awarded: Ph.D. School of International Service. American University


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American University. School of International Service

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  • Doctoral

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