The Hoover Institution has published Cage Fight: Civilian and Democratic Pressures on Military Conflicts and Foreign Policy, edited by Bruce S. Thornton, research fellow at the Hoover Institution, author, and emeritus professor of classics and humanities at California State University–Fresno.

The volume encompasses a dilemma that has existed since the birth of democracy: political institutions that protect the freedom and rights of citizens—regular elections and the right to speak freely and express dissent—have been potentially dangerous in times of war and conflict by complicating and interfering with the policies and decisions that require swift execution, decisiveness, and persistence. In the United States, the military establishment is subordinate to civilian institutions and offices that are accountable to the citizens, leading to often contentious relations.

Cage Fight is a product of the Hoover Institution’s Working Group on the Role of Military History in Contemporary Conflict, chaired by Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow Victor Davis Hanson. Thornton and the essays’ authors are regular active participants of this interdisciplinary cohort of scholars, including historians, classicists, military and foreign policy specialists, and experts in other fields.

Through a diverse set of historical case studies, the five essays in this volume examine these complex civilian–military relations. Paul Rahe describes a famous example of the excesses of direct democracy in ancient Athens; Ralph Peters analyzes the Civil War from the perspective of dissent, resistance, and riot; Peter Mansoor provides a history of military disagreement with the commander in chief in peacetime; Williamson Murray covers the concerns of American isolationism during the Cold War and the Korean War; and Bing West offers a study of dissent within the military around failing strategies.

In his epilogue, Victor Davis Hanson outlines President Trump’s stormy relationships with his military cabinet members, illustrating many of the tensions and dangers that have characterized the principle of civilian control of the military.

“All these essays are exemplary models of the purpose of the Hoover Institution’s Role of Military History in Contemporary Conflict Working Group: keeping alive the importance of military history and its invaluable contribution to understanding our own times and challenges,” Thornton writes in the introduction.

Cage Fight is available in hardcover and e-book formats. Click here to purchase.

About the Editor

Bruce S. Thornton is an emeritus professor of classics and humanities at California State University–Fresno and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.


Peter R. Mansoor, Williamson Murray, Ralph Peters, Paul A. Rahe, Bing West

For coverage opportunities, contact Jeffrey Marschner, 202-760-3187,

overlay image