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Four Guardians

A Principled Agent View of American Civil-Military Relations

Jeffrey W. Donnithorne

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Exploring the profound differences between what the military services believe—and how they uniquely serve the nation.

When the US military confronts pressing security challenges, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps often react differently as they advise and execute civilian defense policies. Conventional wisdom holds that these dynamics tend to reflect a competition for prestige, influence, and dollars. Such interservice rivalries, however, are only a fraction of the real story. In Four Guardians, Jeffrey W. Donnithorne argues that the services act instead as principled agents…

Exploring the profound differences between what the military services believe—and how they uniquely serve the nation.

When the US military confronts pressing security challenges, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps often react differently as they advise and execute civilian defense policies. Conventional wisdom holds that these dynamics tend to reflect a competition for prestige, influence, and dollars. Such interservice rivalries, however, are only a fraction of the real story. In Four Guardians, Jeffrey W. Donnithorne argues that the services act instead as principled agents, interpreting policies in ways that reflect their unique cultures and patterns of belief.

Chapter-length portraits of each service highlight the influence of operational environment ("nature") and political history ("nurture") in shaping each service's cultural worldview. The book also offers two important case studies of civil-military policymaking: one, the little-known story of the creation of the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force in the early 1980s; the other, the four-year political battle that led to the passage of the Goldwater-Nichols Act in 1986. Donnithorne uses these cases to demonstrate the principled agent framework in action while amply revealing the four services as distinctly different political actors.

Combining crisp insight and empirical depth with engaging military history, Four Guardians provides practical utility for civil-military scholars, national security practitioners, and interested citizens alike. This timely work brings a new appreciation for the American military, the complex dynamics of civilian control, and the principled ways in which the four guardian services defend their nation.

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Four Guardians

Jeffrey W. Donnithorne

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Reviews

Reviews

Four Guardians is a laudable effort that should be carefully and widely read by scholars and practitioners of civil-military relations. This ambitious project attempts not only to explore the impact that each distinct military service culture will have on civil-military relations, but also to extend and re-imagine one of the most prominent theories.

A great read for field-grade officers preparing for joint staff or any assignment that requires making predictions on other services' behavior in policy debate. Despite six years of joint experience, including five years on USA posts, I found new insights into understanding the other services. We are destined to fight together and Donnithorne's book prepares the reader for that destiny.

Tackling a topic that is as timeless as the Federalist papers and as timely as tomorrow's headlines, Four Guardians is a meaningful contribution to the evolution of civil-military relations theory.

This excellent book represents a useful refinement on the way we think about US civil-military relations. Nuanced and well written, Four Guardians will appeal not only to those who focus on US CMR but also to anyone who teaches less specialized courses on defense policy.

In Four Guardians, Jeff Donnithorne gives us the most lucidly written, systematic, and comprehensive explanation to date of the forces that have shaped each service's behavior. His book is essential reading for policymakers heading for the Pentagon, as well as scholars interested in understanding how large organizations acquire their unique personalities.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
288
ISBN
9781421439921
Illustration Description
19 figures
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1. Principled Agent Theory
2. Thinking Like a Sailor
3. The Few and the Proud
4. Washington's Own
5. Fighting for Air
6. Getting There Fast
7. Getting to Yes
Conclusion
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Jeffrey W. Donnithorne
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Jeffrey W. Donnithorne

Jeffrey W. Donnithorne is a professor of strategy and security studies at the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies (SAASS), Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base.