Ralph Bunche Journal of Public Affairs


- 55 - About Face: A Perspective of Civil-Military Relations through the Lens of Principal-Agent Theory Randall D. Swain Eastern Kentucky University This essay uses the principal-agent theory to offer a framework for explaining shirking tendencies by the U.S. military in civil-military relations. Through the lens of the framework presented here, the principal-agent theory explains why shirking tendencies by the U.S. military is more likely to occur when a Republican occupies the White House, than when it is occupied by a Democrat. Besides providing a framework for conceptualizing civil-military relations, the importance of this work lies in the manner in which the principal-agent theory is applied. While the majority of inquiries into principal-agent theory focuses on executive control of bureaucratic agencies that have domestic policy agendas, this is one of the few—if any—that uses principal-agent theory to examine executive control of an agency (the U.S. Military) that has a foreign policy related agenda.



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