A “See You Soon” To Arms: A Study on Post-War Military Reforms

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A “See You Soon” To Arms: A Study on Post-War Military Reforms

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In the world of wars and their lessons, it has been commonly declared that the military always “fights the last war.” That is, states always use lessons from the last war when fighting the next one – sometimes even excessively. The reality, however, is that countries learn and reform their militaries very differently after wars. In some cases, civilians participate extensively in military reforms. In others, the military has complete autonomy to reform itself. How to explain this variation? What are the determinants of civilian participation in post-war military reforms? Existing literature tends to be overly deterministic regarding who, among civilians and the military, is key to military reforms and innovation. Yet there is extensive empirical variation in time and space in civilian participation in reforms. I argue that the balance of political power between civilians and the military determines who gets to lead reforms. In post-war contexts, this balance of power is largely determined by whom the public assigns responsibility for what took place in the war. I also theorize how the public assigns blame or credit to each actor. In the first chapter, I develop a theory of reforms to explain the causal path between war events and military reforms. I argue that 1) both civilians and the military have strong incentives to lead reforms, 2) the relative popularity of civilian leaders and the military affect the balance of political power between them, which, in turn, determines who gets to lead these reforms, and 3) wars affect the popularity of these actors. I then propose a set of prerogatives that are taken to be the responsibility of each of them. For example, civilians are expected to be held accountable for initiating wars and gathering allies, while the military should be held responsible for issues such as desertion rates, war crimes, and battlefield performance. In the empirical portion of the dissertation, I test my theory on the effects of blame and credit on civilian participation in reforms using original quantitative data on post-war states. The dataset includes military reforms (organizational, doctrinal, recruitment, and force structure), whether civilians or the military enacted them, and whether blame or credit was assigned to civilians or the military by the public for war outcomes. I find strong support for the argument that blame and praise assignment is associated with subsequent levels of civilian participation in reforms, even controlling for previous indicators of civil-military relations and other country- and conflict-specific variables. The sources of responsibility assignment also generally conform to theoretical expectations. Civilians tend to be blamed or credited for war initiation, and the military is held responsible for what they do in the battlefield. Three case studies on post-Vietnam War U.S., post-Six-Day War Israel, and post-Yom Kippur War Israel trace the causes and mechanisms of civilian levels of participation in reforms, as well as the determinants of blame and credit. They rely on archival work, oral histories, and secondary works from the historical literature. My findings have important implications for the literature on military reforms and innovation, military effectiveness, civil-military relations, democratic stability, and the domestic consequences of war.



University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. 2023. Major: Political Science. Advisors: Tanisha Fazal, Ronald Krebs. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 421 pages.

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Accorsi Amaral, Pedro. (2023). A “See You Soon” To Arms: A Study on Post-War Military Reforms. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/258627.

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