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Our Army

Our Army: Soldiers, Politics, and American Civil-Military Relations

Jason K. Dempsey
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Our Army
    Book Description:

    Conventional wisdom holds that the American military is overwhelmingly conservative and Republican, and extremely political.Our Armypaints a more complex picture, demonstrating that while army officers are likely to be more conservative, rank-and-file soldiers hold political views that mirror those of the American public as a whole, and army personnel are less partisan and politically engaged than most civilians.

    Assumptions about political attitudes in the U.S. Army are based largely on studies focusing on the senior ranks, yet these senior officers comprise only about 6 percent of America's fighting force. Jason Dempsey provides the first random-sample survey that also covers the social and political attitudes held by enlisted men and women in the army. Uniting these findings with those from another unique survey he conducted among cadets at the United States Military Academy on the eve of the 2004 presidential election, Dempsey offers the most detailed look yet at how service members of all ranks approach politics. He shows that many West Point cadets view political conservatism as part of being an officer, raising important questions about how the army indoctrinates officers politically. But Dempsey reveals that the rank-and-file army is not nearly as homogeneous as we think--or as politically active--and that political attitudes across the ranks are undergoing a substantial shift.

    Our Armyadds needed nuance to our understanding of a profession that seems increasingly distant from the average American.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3217-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  7. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    Americans are well aware of the example George Washington set for the relationship between the fledgling American state and its military. The image of Washington as victorious military commander grandly announcing his retirement and abruptly departing Annapolis by horse, thereby forgoing any Napoleonic aspirations to power, is indelibly inked in the American psyche.¹ The idea that the uniformed hero would ride away from the army he almost single-handedly maintained and led through the Revolution,hisarmy, to return to his home on Mount Vernon, voluntarily relinquishing a very good chance of becoming America’s first monarch, was a stunning precedent in...

  8. Chapter 2 Soldiers and Politics
    (pp. 10-33)

    Political participation among members of the military is not a new phenomenon, but several factors place today’s military in a unique position in American history. First, it is only in the last fifty years that a large standing military has been a permanent part of the American landscape. We have had large military forces before, but they were typically built up in response to a specific conflict and reduced immediately after the termination of hostilities. Second, the military votes. Officers have often been active in politics, but only in recent years has voting been both accepted as a norm among...

  9. Chapter 3 An Overview of Army Demographics
    (pp. 34-44)

    As the united states moves farther away from the memory of World War II and deeper into the all-volunteer era, fewer people gain exposure to members of the military. Those not in the military are often left with stereotypes to inform their understanding of those who serve. The intent of this chapter is to provide an overview of those aspects of military service relevant to the analysis of military opinion. Here I consider the demographic composition of the army and explain some of the ways in which the military differs from the general population, specifically in the areas of gender,...

  10. Chapter 4 Social and Political Attitudes
    (pp. 45-69)

    Having outlined the demographic differences between the members of the U.S. Army and the civilian population in the previous chapter, I now turn to general attitudinal differences between these two populations. In addition to comparisons with the civilian population, I look at key subgroups within the military. Specifically, I look at the army as a whole, soldiers (this category includes the enlisted ranks plus warrant officers), the officer ranks, and senior officers (those in the ranks of major and above). For comparisons with the civilian population, I present data from national surveys of the civilian population conducted in 2004 including...

  11. Chapter 5 Conservatism
    (pp. 70-94)

    As previously discussed, the army has historically been labeled a conservative institution. It has even at times been viewed as reactionary, although attitudes, as seen in the last chapter, have often been more nuanced.

    The C&S Survey breaks no new ground in its finding that the officer corps largely identifies itself on the conservative end of the liberal-conservative spectrum. However, the army is not as uniformly conservative as conventional wisdom would suggest and in the aggregate more closely resembles the general population than many would believe.

    The C&S Survey asked respondents to place themselves on a seven-point scale ranging from...

  12. Chapter 6 Party Affiliation in the Army
    (pp. 95-126)

    The question of the partisan political identification of members of the army has served as a lightning rod for public debates over the Iraq War, has been a central focus of the last two presidential campaigns, and has generated volumes of discussion among students of civil-military relations. Unlike the question of ideological self-identification, the question of party affiliation has direct implications for perceptions of the military among the American public, for the role of active and retired members of the military in political campaigns, and for the interactions between senior military officers and civilian political elites. In this chapter I...

  13. Chapter 7 Political Participation
    (pp. 127-151)

    This chapter examines how the attitudes of members of the army translate into political activity. This is an important topic for two reasons. First, news reports in recent years have cited extraordinary voting rates among members of the military, based primarily on claims by the Federal Voting Assistance Program about military voting rates in the 2000 and 2004 elections. In its 2005 report, the Federal Voting Assistance Program reported voting participation rates of 69% and 79% for 2000 and 2004, respectively (including those who reported attempting to vote and failing to do so—12% and 6% in 2000 and 2004,...

  14. Chapter 8 The Army’s Next Generation
    (pp. 152-176)

    The findings of the previous chapters suggest that the political attitudes and propensity toward political activity of members of the army may be shaped prior to their entry into military service. It also appears that officers are quite different from enlisted personnel, both in their rates of political participation and in their ideology and political affiliations. To explore the reason for the differences between officers and soldiers, and to more closely examine how the military may or may not socialize new members, in this chapter I depart from an analysis of the active-duty army to take a closer look at...

  15. Chapter 9 Army Attitudes in 2004 and Beyond
    (pp. 177-186)

    The armed forces of the United States have played a central, if at times symbolic, role in the last five national elections. In 2000 some observers believed that the presidential election hinged on the status of ballots from overseas military personnel. In 2002 the nation was dealing with the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil, was engaged militarily in Afghanistan, and was considering military action against Iraq. The 2004 election coincided with the ongoing conflict in Iraq, and the election campaigns focused heavily on support from the military and the military service records of the two presidential...

  16. Chapter 10 The Way Forward
    (pp. 187-196)

    Members of the army are increasingly considered “up for grabs” in terms of their political affiliations. This presents a unique opportunity, and challenge, for the military. For the first time in a generation, the institution’s leaders have a chance to shape how members of the military approach politics and, by extension, the public’s perception of the “politics” of the army. Military leaders should embrace examinations of the military’s diversity, reinforcing the ideal that the army is a servant of the country and beholden to neither political party. Army leadership must also recognize that they need to be proactive in reestablishing...

  17. Update: The 2008 Election
    (pp. 197-200)

    When analyzing data through 2007, the compelling question was where the military was going if it was shifting away from the Republican Party. The results of the 2008 election suggest that the army is moving toward a more balanced distribution of Republican and Democratic identifiers. Representative poll data for the military in 2008 are unavailable, but the Military Times surveys are again useful for assessing trends within the military population. In September 2008 the Military Times sent e-mails to about 69,000 subscribers and collected responses from 2,982 active-duty members of the military, 1,543 of whom were in the army.¹ As...

  18. Afterword
    (pp. 201-206)

    The tone of discussion about American civil-military relations has changed considerably since this project began. At the time, the central concern of scholars and observers of military affairs was how to check a military that seemed to be challenging civilian control. The pendulum has swung. Scholars are now writing about the dangers of neglecting military advice and the limits within which members of the military may challenge commands from civilian authorities. This shift in scholarly discourse is reflective of a period of instability in American civil-military relations.

    Over the last eight years, we have witnessed a period in which the...

  19. Appendix A: Citizenship and Service: 2004 Survey of Army Personnel
    (pp. 207-222)
  20. Appendix B: The 2004 Cadet Preelection Survey
    (pp. 223-239)
  21. Appendix C: Comparison Surveys
    (pp. 240-242)
  22. Appendix D: The Virtual Army and Virtual Officer Corps
    (pp. 243-244)
  23. Appendix E: Rules Governing Political Participation of Members of the Army
    (pp. 245-246)
  24. Appendix F: Adjutant General’s Absentee Voting Message
    (pp. 247-248)
  25. Bibliography
    (pp. 249-258)
  26. Index
    (pp. 259-266)