My research is focused on Civil-Military Relations. In particular, I want to understand how the government, the public, and the military talk to and about each other and what consequences these conversations have for society, the state, and international security. Civil-Military Relations is interdisciplinary. A central concern is the question of “Who guards the guardians?”, or more colloquially: “Why do the people with guns listen to the people without guns?”. While the former are almost invariably subordinate to the latter in the West, this is not the case in many parts of the world and should not be taken for granted.
For healthy civil-military relations to exist, civilians need to maintain control over the military while also granting the armed forces enough independence to still fulfill their duties. These relations are influenced by a variety of factors, such as officer training, civilian influence on military decision-making, or others. From my perspective, the communications between these actors and the narratives they create are vital elements of Civil-Military Relations. Positive tones will foster positive relations, and negative ones will damage them. My work addresses not only how the main actors, the government, the public, and the military communicate with each other but also which narratives they use when they do.
My interest in Civil-Military Relations and how they are communicated was piqued as part of my being an exchange student at the University of Pittsburgh. Growing up in Germany, I, like many others, was socialized into what a former German President described as “friendly indifference” towards the military – I knew it existed, that it was there for a reason, but I did not want to have anything to do with it. The farther everything, even remotely military, was away from my life, the better. However, this changed when I first experienced how the armed forces are portrayed and understood in the United States. From soldiers proudly wearing their uniforms in public and on campus to military flyovers during sporting events, I was confronted with a completely different way of how society and the military interact with each other. These polar opposites of societal attitudes towards their armed forces left me wondering how they impact Civil-Military Relations as a whole – a wonder that has stuck with me for almost a decade now and became my research interest.