1st Edition

Military Courts, Civil-Military Relations, and the Legal Battle for Democracy The Politics of Military Justice

By Brett J. Kyle, Andrew G. Reiter Copyright 2021
    252 Pages
    by Routledge

    252 Pages
    by Routledge

    The interaction between military and civilian courts, the political power that legal prerogatives can provide to the armed forces, and the difficult process civilian politicians face in reforming military justice remain glaringly under-examined, despite their implications for the quality and survival of democracy. This book breaks new ground by providing a theoretically rich, global examination of the operation and reform of military courts in democratic countries. Drawing on a newly created dataset of 120 countries over more than two centuries, it presents the first comprehensive picture of the evolution of military justice across states and over time. Combined with qualitative historical case studies of Colombia, Portugal, Indonesia, Fiji, Brazil, Pakistan, and the United States, the book presents a new framework for understanding how civilian actors are able to gain or lose legal control of the armed forces. The book’s findings have important lessons for scholars and policymakers working in the fields of democracy, civil-military relations, human rights, and the rule of law.

    Chapter 1. Why Military Justice Matters

    Chapter 2. The Role of Military Justice in the Modern World

    Chapter 3. Judges, Generals, and Politicians: The Fight Over Military Justice

    Chapter 4. Full Subordination in Portugal and Colombia: Playing by Civilian Rules

    Chapter 5. Jurisdictional Contestation in Indonesia and Fiji: Competing for Control of Military Justice

    Chapter 6. Military Overreach in Brazil and Pakistan: When the Generals Become the Judges

    Chapter 7. From Full Subordination to Military Overreach and Back Again: Military Justice in the United States

    Chapter 8. Conclusion

    Appendix. Military Legal Subordination in the Modern World


    Brett J. Kyle is Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Nebraska at Omaha, USA.

    Andrew G. Reiter is Associate Professor of Politics and International Relations, Mount Holyoke College, USA.

    "This pathbreaking book has much to offer legal scholars, political scientists, and the informed public alike. Kyle and Reiter built an extremely valuable data-set that allowed them to carefully but authoritatively explain the reasons behind the different evolutionary paths of military justice in a number of well-chosen case studies grounded in meticulous historical research and benefiting from novel theoretical insights. In short, this is a volume of excellent, innovative, and eminently readable scholarship."

    Zoltan Barany, University of Texas, USA

    "Military Courts, Civil-Military Relations, and the Legal Battle for Democracy: The Politics of Military Justice fills a void left by legal and civil-military scholars alike, introducing us to the important political role military courts play in democracies. This exhaustive study that draws on an original large-N dataset along with three, in-depth, paired country comparisons, develops an innovative framework that categorizes military tribunal powers into ones of military overreach, jurisdictional contestation and full subordination. It offers an explanatory model that accounts for why some nations push forward with court reforms while others slide backwards, with implications for the rule of law, human rights, and democratic advances. This is a superb study that should become required reading for all those fascinated by civil-military interactions."

    David Pion-Berlin, University of California, Riverside, USA

     "Brett Kyle and Andrew Reiter have delivered a painstakingly constructed dataset of military justice in 120 countries worldwide, whilst simultaneously drilling deep with comparative historical analysis into seven fascinating case studies to illustrate and explain causation over time. The result is a powerful contribution to longstanding yet understudied issues concerning military-civilian relations. This volume provides a sound framework for understanding different causal pathways of change in military court systems. The book will be of great interest to policymakers, political scientists and legal scholars, and law and society scholars more generally."

    Tamir Moustafa, Simon Fraser University, Canada

    "This book addresses a crucial, yet often forgotten topic for democratic regimes: the inherent tension between the need to build efficacious armed forces bounded to the rule of law. Brett Kyle and Andrew Reiter remind us of the importance of military justice for democracy, emphasizing the political dynamics behind whether military justice is subordinated to civilian laws, military justice overreaches to include civilians, or civilian and military justice clash over jurisdiction. Based on an original database on military justice systems covering 120 countries, and on seven interesting and thorough case studies, the book explores how military justice systems were established, how and why they evolved, and their relationship to democracy and the rule of law. In a period where more and more democracies are calling upon the armed forces to face internal security and political crises, Kyle and Reiter’s important book offers more than an insightful academic exercise. It provides a template for consolidating a military justice system consistent with democracy and preventing backsliding."

    Julio Ríos-Figueroa, CIDE, Mexico

     "This wonderful mixed-method study demonstrates that military jurisdiction matters, and that its subordination to civilian control cannot be taken for granted. Deploying a wealth of new evidence, including a rich set of case studies, Kyle and Reiter add immeasurably to our understanding of military courts and their role in democracy."

    Tom Ginsberg, University of Chicago, USA

    "There's a new book out that is must reading for anyone concerned with military justice and its evolving place around the world…Military Courts, Civil-Military Relations, and the Legal Battle for Democracy: The Politics of Military Justice presents a combination of detailed studies of trends in a few countries as well as a wealth of information about specific events in many. Perhaps most valuable is the authors' effort to assign every national military justice system to one of three overarching categories…the authors are to be commended for an important contribution to the military justice literature. Those responsible for the day-to-day administration of military justice, as well as practitioners, judges, and legislators, will find it worthwhile and thought-provoking."

    Eugene R. Fidell, Global Military Justice Reform Global Military Justice Reform: For your military justice library (globalmjreform.blogspot.com)

    "Kyle and Reiter’s excellent book illuminates several areas of interest to scholars of military organizations, civil-military relations, and democracy. The book offers insight into concepts of military professionalism and how it relates to "politicization", an important contribution to studies of both coups and subtler forms of military participation in governance. Their finding that security threats often lead to the expansion of military institutional salience, power, and jurisdiction – often with the express invitation of the government and the support of the judiciary – present a cautionary tale about how civil-military relations have bearing on democratic institutions. This study adds significantly to our understanding of how public trust in militaries matters, how military organizations’ understanding of their role in society can have substantial effects on governance and institutions, and how to think about operationalizing and testing these kinds of relationships."

    Lindsay Cohn, U.S. Naval War College, USA

    "In their new book, Military Courts, Civil-Military Relations, and the Legal Battle for Democracy: The Politics of Military Justice, Brett J. Kyle and Andrew G. Reiter make important contributions to perennial academic and policy concerns over democratic accountability… the book will be of interest to scholars of civil-military relations, democratization, human rights, and transitional justice…[and] has interesting implications for several strands of academic and policy research".

    Eric Wiebelhaus-Brahm, Human Rights Quarterly, 44:1, February 2022, pp. 223-228

    "this comprehensive understanding of military justice systems globally certainly represents a milestone for scholars of justice systems, military politics, civil-military relations, regime change and democratization, and would be highly recommended to policymakers and legislators dealing with military justice as well."

    Charlotte Bascaule, BRASILIANA: Journal for Brazilian Studies. Vol 10, No. 2, 2021. ISSN 2245-4373

     "This book by Brett Kyle and Andrew Reiter does what no other volume before has done: it provides an overview of military justice systems in the modern world and examines the ways in which they are created and changed…[it is] an impressive piece of scholarship, one that should attract the attention of a broad audience of students, experts, and practitioners in the civil–military field."

    Aurel Croissant, Perspectives on Politics, 20(1)

    "The book is one of the first global studies of military justice systems, an important endeavour given current developments under international law and increasing scrutiny of military jurisdiction. …the detailed case studies and conclusions are important within the context of military justice reforms worldwide, as they provide crucial academic policy consideration for the improvement of civil-military relations and enhancement of the rule of law within any court system. The research will be of use to academics, civil society, and policy researchers working in the field of military justice as well as transitional justice and provides a welcome cross-disciplinary analysis of a timely topic."

    Claire Simmons, Journal of Peace Research Book Notes – Peace Research Institute Oslo (prio.org)