Overall, American Power is a policy framework that is easy to read and yet full of substance. It bridges the gap between intellectual and practical policy. And while there is nothing necessarily revolutionary about the framework, it hammers home the United States’ role in the world as a promoter of democracy and the liberal order. I am in agreement with Miller that democracy promotion and the liberal order will always be in the United States’ interests.
The nomination of James Mattis as Secretary of Defense briefly brought the often overlooked concept of civilian control of the military to public attention. Commentators debated whether Mattis’ qualifications, personality, and presumed influence on the administration justified an exception to the law prohibiting recently retired generals from serving in that post. Reassuringly, in that discussion as well as in the larger conversation about the unusual number of retired and acting general officers now serving in traditionally civilian posts, there has been no discernible challenge to the notion of civilian control of the military. Yet underneath this consensus as to the desirability of civilian control, hide differences in understanding about what it actually entails. In short, we want civilian control but do not precisely know what it is.
In the Kantian framework, different kinds of agents pursue democracy at three levels: the individuals within a nation, the states in their relationships with one another and also with their citizens, and humankind. In this post we shall look at how individuals within a nation should behave if they want to truly abide by democratic principles. Should they rebel and when? Should they support war, and which type of war if any?
It is useful—and necessary—to stop, think and reflect on the idea of democracy and its relationship to violence and ultimately war. What is a democracy? What does it mean to behave and act according to its principles? What does it mean for a citizen and what does it mean for a state? Are democracies more peaceful than other regimes? How should democracies act and react in the international world?