Conference: Civil Direction of the Military

Where and when

22 June 2012, Ankara HiltonSA Hotel, Turkey


Democratic control of the armed forces has two main chapters. Much of the literature deals with the first chapter, which is parliamentary oversight of the defence sector.  The second chapter gets less attention: civil direction of the military. This describes the relationship between the politicians responsible for defence, and the leadership of the armed forces. This is the subject of the conference.

The principles of civil direction of the military are clear. In a democracy, the government answers to parliament and the nation for the actions of all state officials, including the military. This will only work if ministers control and lead the security agencies for which they are responsible. It requires certain governmental structures, and a certain type of working relationship between the politicians in charge and the uniformed officials working under them. In 1957 Samuel Huntington defined civil direction of the military as "the proper subordination of a competent, professional military to the ends of policy as determined by civilian authority."[1] This definition raises as many questions as it answers. What does ‘proper subordination’ mean? And how deeply should defence politicians get involved in the execution of defence policy?

In the first part of the seminar, we will ask ourselves how civil direction ought to work. Then we will go on to discuss how it works in practice. We will look at experiences in Turkey, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

We aim to share experiences and identify lessons. We will not seek to establish an ideal model for civil direction. Countries organise their defence establishments in many different ways, taking into account local conditions, needs and preferences. They need, and have a right, to do so. However, we will review some general principles that are considered good practice. Then we will discuss efforts in a number of countries to put these principles into practice.


For the purposes of registration if you would like to participate in this training workshop please first contact Maarten Eisema ( and/or Merijn Hartog ( 

Samuel Huntington. The Soldier and the State: the Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations. Harvard University Press, 1957.


Promoting Good Governance in the Security Sector of Turkey


If you have any questions regarding this event please contact CESS.