The mechanisms and methods through which political control can be exerted varies in different forms of governments. They can be broadly classified under two heads- Samuel Huntington (1957) described them as ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’; while Eric Nordlinger (1977) used the terms ‘Liberal’ and ‘Penetration’.
In a Liberal or objective model of Civil-military relations, there is a clear division between political and military roles and responsibilities, where the military is kept out of politics. The overall control of military affairs in Liberal democracies lies in the hands of civilian politicians. Military is formally subordinate to civilian leaders, who are accountable to the Assembly and the people. Secondly, policy-making including defence policy is the responsibility of civilian politician’s. Military merely offers advice and take the charge of implementation and army remain loyal regardless to the party or government in power, due to its political neutrality. In US and in India, the president is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and in UK, the armed forces are ultimately responsible to the Crown which in practice means the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. In Liberal democracies, governments remain accountable to the people for military’s actions and the military like bureaucracy functions under the cloak of Ministerial responsibility.
In a dictatorial and one party states the military is controlled by ‘subjective’ or penetration model. In this model, the civilian authority imbibes the military with its values and ideals. This has been achieved in various ways and with differing degrees of success. Hitler attempted to turn German army into ‘political soldiers’ and he declared himself Head of the Armed Forces. In Communist states, the military becomes a part and parcel of the political ideals of the civilian leadership. The military in this type of regimes defend the state from foreign aggression and the armed forces also become defenders of Communist Party in power. USSR under Stalin provided an example of the ‘penetrative model’ which was followed throughout the communist world. The institutional penetration of the armed forces has been developed in its highest form in China. The Communist Party operates in and through the Red Army in China.