Civil-military relations literature proceeds from a heavily Western-centric premise, that claims that the military must not be involved with politics. Samuel Huntington, for instance, claims that militaries should be content with having autonomy over their professional affairs in exchange for non-interference in the political domain. This arrangement (objective control) is presented as normatively superior to the alternative (subjective control) whereby militaries are not autonomous but rather embedded in (and subordinated to) the political system.
In Southeast Asia today, there exists a range of arrangements along a spectrum. Some countries (such as Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines) operate, at least nominally, under a regime of objective control. In others, the military operates explicitly (Vietnam and Lao PDR) or implicitly (Cambodia) as a tool of the ruling political party. Indonesia is a former military dictatorship that has reformed its armed forces; Myanmar operates what might be called a transitional model. Thailand has only recently emerged after five years of military rule, and the possibility of a return cannot be ruled out.
This one-day conference, consisting of panel presentations and a roundtable, will explore the following key questions:
What is the relationship between the military and the identity of the nation, people, or elites?
What is the relationship between the military and political authority?
How does the military impact structures of legitimacy?
What are the key principles, myths, or events that have helped shape the relationship between the military and the country? Is that expected to change or remain the same in the future?