Combining the disciplines of military affairs and law

Published: November 1st, 2010

Category: Spotlights

Diane Mazur

Diane Mazur

Professor
Levin College of Law

After a five-year stint in the U.S. Air Force, Diane Mazur was left with that pesky question we all have to answer from time to time: “What now?”

For Mazur, the answer was law school. Within two years of leaving the military, she was working toward a law degree at the University of Texas at Austin and laying the foundation for a career as a legal expert on military issues. She didn’t put the two fields together at the time, but when she did, something clicked.

“There was something about the connection to my military experience – that when you mixed law with it – it was such a fascinating issue,” Mazur said.

Over the years, Mazur used her military background and legal education to explore issues where the two worlds intersect, becoming an expert on civil-military relations and constitutional law. She joined the University of Florida Levin College of Law faculty in 1994 and has devoted much of her scholarship and publication efforts to exploring some of the big legal questions surrounding the military.

“How do we manage the military in this country? What’s the proper relationship between the military and the president or Congress? What relationship should the military have to the Constitution?” Mazur asked.

Asking those questions also has put Mazur in position as a leading expert on the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward gays and lesbians in the armed services.

She is the legal co-director of the University of California, Santa Barbara-based Palm Center, the premier academic and research organization for the study of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and has published several reports that have been important in the debate over the policy. In the wake of a federal judge’s ruling in mid-October that banned the military from enforcing the policy, she lent her expertise to a number of media outlets, including Newsweek magazine, The Washington Post and the Associated Press.

“The three branches of government are all trying to carry out their constitutional responsibilities and they are finding that really difficult to do,” Mazur said of the ongoing struggle to resolve the issue.

Mazur also talks passionately about the growing distance between civil and military worlds in the U.S., which she addresses in her new book, “A More Perfect Military: How the Constitution Can Make Our Military Stronger.”

“The disconnect has happened over the past 30 years or so,” Mazur said. “It’s a post-Vietnam and post-draft phenomenon.”

Mazur hopes to help close that divide by pointing out that it is OK to engage with the military and ask questions about military policies and approaches.

“We live in a system of civilian control of the military and that means civilians get to have an opinion,” Mazur said. “We shouldn’t apologize for that.”

Photo credit: University Photography

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