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CCMR Program Educates International Leaders on Balance Between Defense and Democracy

Article by Kate Lamar, Photos by Javier Chagoya

Posted June 24, 2010

Brigadier General Ater Benjamin Bil, a senior officer in the Sudan People’s Liberation ArmyThe Center for Civil-Military Relations conducted an Executive Program in Defense Decision-Making at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), June 7- 18th for a group of international government and military officials that came from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South and Central America.

“This session brings people together from four continents, people who are senior leaders and who can share similar experiences and insights,” said Dr. Thomas Bruneau, the course director and a faculty member with the National Security Affairs department in NPS’ School of International Graduate Studies.

The center has run the program once a year for the past decade and works in partnership with the Offices of Defense Cooperation in U.S. embassies to select suitable candidates for the program. Typically, participants come from countries that have a recent history of political conflict or civil war and are transitioning to a democratic state.

Brigadier Gen. Ater Benjamin Bil, a senior officer in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), is very aware of the complexity involved in rebuilding after an extended conflict, as his home of Southern Sudan is still working through this transition.

“I belong to an army that came from a guerilla military force, so we had no established institutions in place,” said Benjamin Bil. “Everything I’m learning here is very useful. These ideas about democratic control, civil control of the army, civil-military relations, government executives and media relations – these are all very useful.”

Similarly, Khimlala Devkota, an advocate for the Nepalese Supreme Court and a Maoist member of parliament, is working on rebuilding his country following years of conflict that ended with a peace accord in 2006.

“The thing about the security within my country is that it was kept very secret from the people and officials were not held accountable,” said Devkota. “This program helps us to know that security programs need to be accountable to the people.”

Khimlala Devkota, an advocate for the Nepalese Supreme Court and a Maoist member of parliament.

“How to make government effective, people friendly and pro-people, to gain the people’s support for government - this idea, which I generated from the discussions here, I want to bring back to my country,” said Devkota, one of four Nepalese officials who attended the course. “I would recommend to my party that political and particularly military leaders participate in this program.”

The course is designed to offer the international participants insights into the challenges they face in their own countries by providing examples from other countries struggling with similar issues.

“We’re not saying to do things the way we do,” Bruneau said about the curriculum. “We’re giving them insights, concepts and comparative examples, so that they can then draw their own conclusions about what the best decisions are for their country.”

The CCMR instructors also connect participants with resources they can utilize to make more informed decisions.

“We introduce them to the fact that we study this stuff, that academics have been exploring these issues,” said Bruneau. “We provide them with resources from the academic literature that examine the issues they are faced with. This essentially helps them realize they aren’t alone in confronting these challenges. That can be very reassuring.”

Benjamin Bil, like Devkota, plans to bring back the ideas he’s discussing in the program to share with his colleagues:  “I will definitely share what I am learning here back in Southern Sudan, but I will also recommend more people come for this course and others offered here,” said Benjamin Bil. “It is good for them to learn about these things.”

The Executive Program in Defense Decision-Making is one of a number of seminars and workshops that CCMR sponsors here at NPS and abroad that focus on strengthening democratic civil-military relationships. 

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