Taiwan’s Changing Military Covenant and the Armed Forces’ Institutional Autonomy

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Eyal Ben-Ari


Every country possessing an armed force has a military covenant: a set of shared, often implicit, expectations between the military and society. Derived from the social contract, the military covenant focuses on the willingness of soldiers to make sacrifices and forgo certain rights enjoyed by civilians in return for recognition of their important social role, fair treatment of them, and commensurate terms and conditions of service. This article uses the case of Taiwan to show how the military covenant in a new democracy emerges out of social, political, and economic forces and to specify some of the special difficulties of formulating a democratic covenant. It explains that the covenant is a form of relational (as opposed to transactional) contract marked by trust and a long-term future orientation. The article then extends the study of covenants to issues of motivation, readiness, and risk taking and offers insights for further research on military covenants.

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