From Parameters, Winter 2000, pp. 150-67.
Go to Winter issue Table of Contents.
Go to Book Review Index.
Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War. By Bob Greene. New York: William Morrow, 2000. 304 pages. $25.00. Reviewed by Jeffrey Record, Professor of International Security Studies, Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.
It is fitting that literature and film continue to pay homage to those Americans who endured the Great Depression and went on to win World War II. Theirs was a generation of quiet heroes who did their duty as they were expected to do their duty and who came home from the war to get on with the rest of their lives.
American entry into World War II was a strategic and moral imperative, and the children and grandchildren of 16,000,000 Americans who served in uniform owe their fathers and grandfathers a debt that can never be repaid. All wars since then seem puny and indecisive by comparison.
Chicago Tribune syndicated columnist Bob Greene has written of his dying father and of Paul Tibbets. His father served as an infantryman in the 91st Division in the grim campaign to push the Germans out of Italy. He was an ordinary kind of guy who was drafted into the Army as an enlisted man and ended the war as a major. He was very proud of what he had done in the Army. Tibbets, of course, was the pilot of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. He was also the 29-year-old commander of the 1,800-man-strong 509th Composite Group--the crack crews and aircraft assigned the atomic bombing of Japan.
Greene met the exceptionally able yet self-effacing Tibbets the day after his father died, and the two struck up an unlikely friendship that produced numerous conversations about the bomb, the Hiroshima mission, the war, and the men who fought it. Greene's father never met Tibbets, yet regarded him as both a hero and the man who saved the 91st from certain transfer to the Pacific after V-E Day.
Duty is a moving memoir of a son exploring his father's experiences as a World War II veteran both during and after the war. Greene had the good sense to tape his conversations with his Dad, whose verbatim reminiscences about the war are sprinkled throughout the book. Duty is even more a rich portrait of Tibbets, who shunned the limelight after World War II. Until he met Greene, Tibbets never talked much about the war for publication. In Duty he does--powerfully and insightfully--about the relationships between men, between parents and children, between generations, and, above all, between his generation and the war it fought.
Tibbets has no moral regrets about the Enola Gay's mission; there was a war on, and he was a warrior fighting for his country and doing what he was trained to do. "That wasn't my business, to be sorry. My business was to hit them." There is no doubt in his mind that the purpose of the bomb was to shorten the war; it may or may not have impressed the Russians, but it would have been dropped anyway. No hard feelings. (Tibbets drives a Toyota.)
Tibbets is a remarkably self-controlled man who writes with impeccable penmanship and who makes up his own hotel bed because "I don't like the idea of other people doing something that I can do myself." He does not suffer fools, period. He misses the camaraderie and pride of wartime service. "The war was the one time in a man's life that he got to be a man surrounded by men, all of them working for the same thing, no one better than the person next to him, regardless of rank." He tells Greene: "Please pay attention: The reason those years mean so much to so many of us is that it is the one time in your life that you are absolutely proud of what you are doing, and you are absolutely proud of your friends and what they are doing. It's a relationship of man to man."
As Greene listened to his father, and then to Tibbets, it dawned on him that "no generation has ever given its children a sturdier and more reliable safety net than the one our parents' generation gave to us. . . . And as I began to listen to Tibbets, I realized anew that so many of us only now, only at the very end, are beginning to truly know our fathers and mothers. It was as if constructing that safety net for their children was their full-time job, and that, finally, as they leave us, we are beginning to understand the forces that made them the way they were."
Certainly, no generation since has been called upon to endure such hardship and sacrifice. Indeed, in terms of civic virtue the United States today is a country that asks virtually nothing of its citizens, including military service. "Every man ought to pay the price to live in this country," says Tibbets. "And that means helping to defend it. Discipline comes along with having to do that--and if you are going to grow up with the benefits of being an American, you should have to pay for it. . . . The service might very well be better off with men who choose to enlist. But the country--the country is better off when the draft is in place."
Duty is a light and easy read. It is a successful attempt to understand a war that defined the life of a generation. It is also a glimpse through the eyes of a surviving veteran who was, in effect, in charge of eliminating the need for a bloody invasion of the Japanese home islands.
Flags of Our Fathers. By James Bradley, with Ron Powers. New York: Bantam Books, 2000. 376 pages. $24.95. Reviewed by Colonel Vince Goulding, USMC, Marine Corps Representative, US Army War College.
Stephen Ambrose calls it the "best battle book I ever read." Me too. Flags of Our Fathers, however, is much more than a "battle book." While its focal point is the 23 February 1945 flag-raising on Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi, the narrative far transcends the event. The author's father was one of six men, the only non-Marine, who participated in the flag-raising and who were subsequently immortalized by Joe Rosenthal's famous photograph. With "Doc" Bradley's death in 1994, son James set out to discover the part of his father he never knew. He never knew because former Hospital Corpsman John Bradley never talked about it. Only after going through his father's personal effects did James discover that not only had his father helped to raise the flag on Suribachi, but he also had won the Navy Cross during the course of the battle.
What happens to a young man from a small town in Wisconsin, or an Indian reservation in Arizona, that sustains him through the hell of 36 days of nonstop combat on an island you could drive the length of in five minutes, then causes him to return home to self-imposed obscurity? It is the answer to that question the author seeks to discover. James Bradley succeeds magnificently. In the process, he gives us an account of the battle which claimed over 24,000 US casualties (over 6,000 dead) that is the best and most moving I have ever read. Ultimately, what those casualties bought was an emergency landing site for over 2,200 crippled Army Air Corps B-29s returning from raids over the Japanese home islands. If you do the math, that's about 24,000 crewman who didn't have to crash land in the Pacific Ocean. Ironic.
At its heart, the book is a story of 1930s America and the Americans it produced. It is about the boyhood of six young men, their training, and the inculcation of an ethos that turned them into men who would endure the unimaginable because of loyalty to their buddies and to the institution that was now such an integral part of them. For the three who would survive Iwo Jima, the battle wasn't over when they returned home as the centerpiece of the country's seventh and most successful Bond Tour. Of the three, only "Doc" Bradley would go on to lead what we would call a normal life, yet even he was scarred far more than he would ever let on. He cried in his sleep for years. Silence and obscurity were his shields from the fame he never wanted and the horror he wanted only to forget.
James Bradley has done a great deal more than write a "battle book" for another reason, probably without even realizing it. Flags of Our Fathers is far more than a story about the America that went to war for the most noble of reasons and came home to a world that would never again be the same. James Bradley has written a book about guts, guts at all levels of military decisionmaking. As I read the book I found myself constantly asking the rhetorical question of whether or not we would be willing to fight another Iwo Jima, or Normandy, today. Would we fly another Ploesti or Schweinfurt? And just who is "we"? There is no question that today's hospital corpsman or medic will shield his wounded Marine or soldier buddy from devastating fire as he administers first aid, just as John Bradley did over 50 years ago. But as a nation and defense establishment, are we willing to make the hard decisions and invest the blood of young Americans in the attainment of national objectives? In late '44 and early '45, neither the Joint Chiefs nor senior Marine commanders harbored any illusions about what was going to happen once the decision was made to seize Iwo Jima, without which there could be no effective strategic bombing campaign of Japan. Yes, then was then and now is now. Moral courage, however, is a timeless concept. A chance Associated Press photograph of six young men raising a flag on a heretofore unknown volcanic island late in a costly war galvanized Americans from Pennsylvania Avenue to Elm Street to press on and win with all the means at our disposal. Today, the picture of a dead American soldier too often serves to intimidate rather than infuriate. The cold, hard fact is that the purpose and scope of military operations will never return to February and March of 1945, but the stakes are no less high, and the decisions no less difficult.
Flags of Our Fathers reminds us that the clash of arms is the most human of human endeavors and that success often comes at a price. Whether US servicemen are asked to fight a major theater war or conduct a peace enforcement mission, there are national objectives in the balance and risk to young Americans involved. The more senior you become, the more you owe it to those you lead to keep in mind the Duke of Wellington's admonition that a "great country can have no small war." If America's leaders fail to do that, they jeopardize what "Doc" Bradley, his five Marine buddies, and millions of others of that Greatest Generation paid for between 1941 and 1945. That would be a damn shame.
The Kinder, Gentler Military: Can America's Gender-Neutral Fighting Force Still Win Wars? By Stephanie Gutmann. New York: Scribners, 2000. 299 pp. $24.95. Reviewed by Earl H. Tilford, Jr., Director of Research, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College.
Thirty years ago I served my Southeast Asia tour with my wife, who was an Air Force lieutenant. Just before we deployed to from Colorado to Thailand, then Colonel Jeanne Holm, the commander of the Women's Air Force (WAF), visited my wife's WAF squadron with advice for female officers headed to Southeast Asia. "You are a woman in a man's world," was the gist of the message; "put up with language, ignore the pinups on the walls, and be ready to make the coffee." How far we have come in 30 years.
Indeed, we have traveled a ways down the road to achieving gender integration, and one day the armed services may "look like America" with a near 50-50 balance between the sexes. In The Kinder, Gentler Military, Stephanie Gutmann asks if that is what the armed services should be about. What about fighting effectively to prevail decisively over enemies who, in addition to being insensitive to your self-esteem, are trying to kill you? Gutmann argues that while gender integration has made the Army and Navy kinder and gentler by making soldiers and sailors more sensitive, it also has degraded the combat capabilities and potential effectiveness of our fighting forces.
Critics will note that Gutmann's arguments are anecdotal and cite her flippant style as betraying an anti-feminist bias. I do not agree. Gutmann makes her case convincingly through interviews with soldiers and sailors at training camps, on ships, and in operational units. As one follows Gutmann through this most readable book one can only conclude, along with the Army's highest-ranking female officer, Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, "This is not your father's Army." And therein may lie the tragedy.
Gutmann also faults senior military leaders for acquiescing in the feminization of their services. They have done so for a variety of reasons. First, they want to diminish the impact of scandals like the infamous 1991 Tailhook Convention, the Aberdeen episodes of 1996, and accusations of harassment leveled at senior officers. Second, too many generals and admirals seem to believe that demonstrating "zero tolerance" for any hint of sexual misconduct will compel a political and intellectual elite to refrain from further budget-cutting to the added diminishment of the roles and missions of their particular services. Third, all the services, except the Marine Corps (which has managed to remain focused on its mission), are facing recruiting crises, and warm bodies, regardless of sex, are simply needed. A related problem, which the leadership does not seem to grasp, is that the personnel hemorrhage in the mid-level officer and noncommissioned officer ranks is in no small part due to frustrations over politically correct agendas foisted on them and their units to the detriment of tactical and operational effectiveness.
On the other hand, one can argue that war in the future will be a high-tech affair. In push-button warfare, high-tech skills will matter more than physical strength, and combat skills may not be as important in the digitized Army After Next or in a Navy where cruise missiles obliterate targets from long ranges. Gutmann doubts this very much. If a future enemy knows that America's armed forces have neglected to prepare their soldiers and sailors for the harsh brutality of combat, expect them to exploit that vulnerability with all the savagery they can muster.
Gutmann cites the lowering of standards in training as particularly dangerous. She maintains that in order to assure self-esteem for all recruits, regardless of gender, and to reduce boot camp attrition, standards have been reduced to accommodate the least physically capable men and women. But are the soldiers and sailors produced by kinder, gentler basic training prepared for combat with the brutality that has always accompanied battle? Gutmann concludes that they are not.
This book will draw the ire of many feminists and others whose agenda includes "norming" the armed services into the American mainstream. It will also find few military professionals willing to concede openly that Gutmann does, indeed, raise some very important issues. The greatest of these is not whether the Army and Navy can put enough people in uniform to fill their ranks. Rather, it is the purpose for which we field military forces. Do we want them to fight and win our nation's wars or to act as a test-bed for social experimentation? Napoleon once stated, "He who is full of courage and sangfroid before an enemy battery sometimes trembles before a skirt." The pervasive "PC" climate that now grips our military services is quite likely to stifle the kind of honest and balanced dialogue that the issues raised by Gutmann should elicit. And that is a shame with potentially catastrophic consequences for our soldiers and sailors.
A Great Civil War: A Military and Political History, 1861-1865. By Russell F. Weigley. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 624 pages. $35.00. Reviewed by Colonel Len Fullenkamp, USA Ret., Professor of Military History, US Army War College.
When you stop to think about just how much Professor Russell Weigley knows about the American way of war, the United States Army, and military history in general, you have to wonder why it took him so long to get around to writing a book about the American Civil War. (Early in his career he did write a biography of Montgomery C. Meigs, the quartermaster general for the Union Army, but the focus of that book was more narrowly drawn.) In A Great Civil War, a beautifully written and highly engaging history of the war, Professor Weigley shares with the reader both his encyclopedic knowledge of the Army (his History of the United States Army remains the best book on the subject) and his depth of understanding about how American military leaders and their political masters think about war. On this latter subject he is well qualified to comment. His 1973 book The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Strategy and Policy is still used in the strategy course at the Army War College and other senior service institutions where policy and strategy are taught.
It is in the subtitle to this book, A Military and Political History, 1861-1865, that one finds the distinction that sets Professor Weigley's book apart from the many others written about the Civil War. As one would expect given his knowledge of the subject, his accounts and analyses of military operations are critical, fair, and complete. For every major engagement and many minor ones, in all theaters of the war including at sea, beginning with Fort Sumter and ending with Appomattox, the reader finds a brief synopsis, the commanders and key participants named and critiqued, and the outcome, both in terms of the number of losses and the operational and strategic significance. And all of this is crisply presented. Those reading about the war with but a limited knowledge of its general history will have no difficulty following the story and indeed will find a continuity to the narrative that masks the incredible complexity of the issues that Professor Weigley is making deceptively easy to understand. That is not to say that he is oversimplifying the military and political issues--quite the opposite. Those familiar with the war in all its complexity will admire Professor Weigley's extraordinary talent for writing history.
In some respects this book is similar to several other excellent one-volume histories of the American Civil War. It belongs in the category with the classic political/military history of the war, The Civil War and Reconstruction by James G. Randall and David Donald, and the more recent award-winning history of the war by James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom. The attributes that set Weigley's book apart from these and other histories of the war are the author's unique perspective on policy and strategy and his insights into the intricacies of the profession of arms, particularly military operations. Many fine historians can write battle narratives, but it takes someone with Weigley's grasp of the complexities of the operational art to critique campaigns and their relative utility at achieving strategic ends.
A central theme in this book, that the South lacked the political will and resolve to see the war through to the bitter end, is in some respects similar to ideas put forward by others in recent years. The author offers a distinctly different critique of Southern war policy, however, with his assertion that the Confederacy was insufficiently committed to rebellion to be successful and that the South ultimately went down to defeat because "the commitment of the Southern soldiers and the Southern people to their cause was less profound than wartime rhetoric, even the rhetoric of personal letters, made it seem." This he believes serves to explain the collapse of support for the Southern cause later in the war. Thus, "Though the Confederate soldiers fought stubbornly, often heroically, in the end they did not fight hard enough to save the Confederacy." This insight goes a long way to explain why the war ended as it did, with a whimper rather than a bang. It would explain why, for example, Lee chose to surrender the army at Appomattox rather than to follow the suggestion of his subordinates who recommended a continuation of the struggle through guerrilla warfare. In the end, Southern armies and Southern states surrendered because "Confederate nationalism . . . was never true nationalism, [and] the fatal split in the Confederate psyche prevented the national spirit from ever flowering fully enough to nourish the resolve that would have preserved the contest after the romance was gone." Those intrigued by Weigley's arguments may want to consider an opposing view offered by Gary Gallagher in The Confederate War (Harvard Univ. Press, 1997) in which he argues that the South suffered defeat only after it had completely exhausted itself, with not only its will broken but its manpower and resources fully consumed by the war effort.
Professor Weigley is alternately both complimentary and critical of Northern and Southern generalship. Clearly, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant are shown to be the most competent generals produced by the war. His assessment of Lee is balanced. He criticizes the Confederate general for his relentless quest to find victory in a Napoleonic-style decisive battle that technology had long since rendered unattainable. By spending the lives of his soldiers as he did in what Weigley believes to have been a series of futile offensive battles, Lee foreclosed other strategic options for prolonging the war and exhausting the North. Conversely, Grant, ever learning from experience, is judged to have been slow to appreciate the power and synergy to be found in mastery of the operational art. Indeed it is on this latter subject Weigley seeks to educate his reader. The operational level of war, that nexus between tactics and strategy, takes on form and becomes a characteristic of the American way of war during the Civil War, although not until late in the war when Grant at last masters the art of synchronizing distributed military operations toward the securing of strategic ends.
The war presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, are at the center of the political discussions. Lincoln's handling of Congress and the strong personalities in his Cabinet, his aggressive use of war powers, his efforts to resource the war across the spectrum from finances to manpower, and of course his use of slavery as both a political and a diplomatic instrument of policy, are reviewed and critiqued. It is on the subjects of Lincoln's handling of slavery, the Emancipation Proclamation, employment of freed slaves as soldiers, and the efforts that led to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution where Professor Weigley demonstrates his superb skills at organization and synthesis. Jefferson Davis and his record as a war president are given less extensive but equally insightful analysis and critique. When it came to the instruments of national power--military forces, diplomacy, economics, and politics--Davis not only had less to work with but failed to use it as effectively as Lincoln.
As one would expect from the dean of American military historians, Weigley provides the reader with over a hundred pages of endnotes that prove to be simply too informative and interesting to be overlooked. Give in to the impulse to refer to these notes and prepare to be delighted by what you will find there. As for the narrative itself, it strikes just the right balance between pace, moving the reader briskly along through the story, and providing the kind of detail the serious student expects to find in a first-rate history of the war.
With A Great Civil War, Russell Weigley has given us a superb study in presidential leadership and military generalship. Students of the Civil War and those with an interest in military history in general will want to add this book to their personal libraries.
Modern Strategy. By Colin S. Gray. Oxford, Eng.: Oxford University Press, 1999. 412 pages. $29.95. Reviewed by Colonel Glen C. Collins, Director, Force Development and Integration Center, US Army Space and Missile Defense Command, Arlington, Va.
Colin S. Gray's Modern Strategy is hardly "modern." More correctly it represents a classical study of strategy past and present in the same sense that Thucydides wrote his history of the Peloponnesian Wars "not as an essay, which is to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time." Professor Gray has captured his 30 years of experience as a practicing strategist and scholar in the United States and his native Britain, resulting in a solid "manual for doing strategy" of equal value to new students of strategy as well as to mature professionals.
The central theme, reinforced throughout, is that there is "a unity to all strategic experience: nothing essential changes in the nature and function (or purpose) in sharp contrast to the character of strategy and war." That is, with the evolution of technology and the relationship of war to society, wars may appear to be very different. However, strategy (the ways societies use military force for political purpose) changes not at all. Gray provides just enough historical context to provide depth to his themes, and then lays out in both theoretical and practical discussions these themes with the purpose of "simply to help readers better to understand modern strategy."
Gray agrees with those who believe Clausewitz provides the best theoretical basis for discussions of strategy and war. His definition of strategy is derived from Clausewitz: "Strategy is the bridge that relates military power to political purpose; it is neither military power per se nor political purpose. By strategy I mean the `use that is made of force and the threat of force for the ends of policy.'"
In approaching what is almost universally agreed as a difficult problem, Gray uses six organizing questions to unite this study:
Gray discusses 17 dimensions of strategy. These observations at times seem textbook in nature, but offer what may be a unifying doctrine to enhance efficient strategic discussions between the National Security Council and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gray's 17 dimensions of strategy could be used in a mechanical fashion, as could the other organizing frameworks used in Modern Strategy, but a Clausewitzian approach to thinking about theory, strategy, and war would be a more appropriate usage.
Gray stresses the complexity of strategy when he discusses the constant interplay between opponents and the effect this has on strategic judgment: "In strategy nothing fails like success, not only because enemies adapt to your methods, but also because you become unduly persuaded of your genius or the favour of the gods." Mechanical approaches to strategy will not work.
In what is important reading material for those searching for an understanding of strategy, and the role of the military in formulating that strategy, Gray offers that the "the policymaker wages war, while the military commander fights battles or conducts campaigns" and that in between lies the "bridging zone of strategy." He then expands on the problem of why strategy is so difficult: quite simply it lives in a "no-man's land" between politics and the military. Few politicians in modern democracies have steeped themselves in the art and science of war. Their interests and backgrounds understandably and correctly are elsewhere. And the military officer has been schooled, at least in the United States, to "stay in his lane," advising only on the use of military force and leaving strategy to the political leaders. Further, Gray argues, even in the academic world there is only a small community of strategic thinkers.
Unfortunately, Gray describes the problem but offers no help in finding the solution. According to Gray, strategy is an art and not a science, but he remains "genuinely undecided as to how best a polity can educate people in strategy." There seem to be few options in solving this problem. One solution requires political leaders to spend most of their lives preparing themselves to be strategists in the manner followed by Frederick the Great of Prussia, a solution unlikely in a modern democracy. Another solution might be for senior military leaders to expand their thinking and educational preparations to provide advice that is broader than just "military advice."
For the student of strategic case studies, Gray offers a framework of 13 organizing strategic principles that could provide analytical structure. This framework could be used by the "freshman" as well as the "graduate student" to approach and refine their studies. Eventually this framework could become the basis for strategic doctrine, permeating our discussions and documents with commonly understood terms and concepts, as has "ends, ways, and means."
Strategic art is an exceptionally difficult subject, and when "done badly, humans can die in large numbers." According to Gray, we have too many US strategic authors who are "trained in economics, mathematics, . . . using a rational-choice approach to political science." The timelessness of human nature and its involvement in war argues for more strategists "trained in anthropology and history." Thucydides, Sun Tzu, and Clausewitz remain as important today as they were to generations of past strategists. To understand strategy requires deep contemplation and endless study. Colin Gray's 30 years of work as a student of strategy has resulted in a "must read" for today's defense community.
Intervention: The Use of American Military Force in the Post-Cold War World. By Richard N. Haass. Revised edition. Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 1999. 298 pages. $18.95 (paper). Reviewed by Dr. John Garofano, a Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
As the Cold War wound down, it appeared to many that the use of military force by the United States would become a rare event, limited to vital areas such as the Persian Gulf and the Korean peninsula. Just a decade later it is clear that we will continue to face a wide array of situations in which air, naval, or ground forces may be used to uphold vital, important, and humanitarian interests. If anything, the decisions will become increasingly complex as we struggle to deal with ethnic strife, the proliferation of weapons of mass and more focused destruction, and dictators with stamina. When and how the United States should decide to use force are the subjects of this excellent aid to decisionmakers.
The book begins with a brief treatment of the historical roots of the current debate on intervention. Haass summarizes the just war writings of Aquinas and St. Augustine, the international law and political theorists of later centuries, military strategists since Napoleon, and recent theorists of limited war in the nuclear age. This is a useful background to the subsequent discussion of the "intervention debate" from Weinberger and Shultz through to the Clinton Administration and its critics. An excellent series of appendices contain the text of some of the more important speeches described in this section.
Chapter Two provides brief descriptions of US interventions from the Iran hostage mission to Haiti. The author then introduces in Chapter Three the "vocabulary of intervention" that he will use for the remainder of the book. This includes the concepts of deterrence, preventive attacks, compellence, punitive attacks, peacekeeping, warfighting, peace-making, nation-building, interdiction, humanitarian assistance, rescue, and various indirect uses of force including the provision of arms, training, and intelligence.
This approach is helpful for two reasons. First, it demonstrates the wide range of situations and decisions confronting a great power today. Loose talk about "peace operations" or the use of force against facilities for producing weapons of mass destruction, for example, can obscure the wide range of tools available to the policymaker. The author's discussion of each discrete instrument also points to the complexities of marrying military with diplomatic efforts to influence what are frequently non-rationally motivated actors. Second, the discussion of all these instruments--categorized as Operations Other than War (OOTW) by the US military--makes it clear that one should be cautious in generalizing about when and how to use force. Since we have relatively limited experience with any given type of the use of force (he discusses 12 cases in Chapter Two and 12 instruments in Chapter Three), conclusions must be tentative and attentive to the many factors that determine success or failure.
Haass remains aware of these constraints while also seeing the necessity to generalize if one is to offer guidelines to policymakers. Chapters Four and Five therefore offer suggestions and warnings regarding, respectively, when and how to intervene. He states that interests are "only a guide" in determining when to use force, and we may properly intervene on behalf of interests that are less than vital. Furthermore, military force may not be the best way to secure an extremely important interest; conversely, it may be a "cheap and easy" way to secure one that is only moderately important. Finally, military force is only one option. "If war is an extension of politics, it is also only one way of pursuing political ends, and needs to be weighed against the others."
This approach echoes that espoused by President Bush near the end of his term, when Haass, now director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, was a senior director on the National Security Council and an assistant to the President. Bush and Haass both believe that force should be considered for important as well as vital interests, when it can be effective, when the objectives are clear, when the benefits outweigh the costs, and where it can be limited. Haass further notes the need to anticipate the adversary's response, and illustrates how this was not done in several cases, to which we might now add Kosovo.
The author also argues for avoiding several potentially fatal missteps. One is the requirement for an exit date, which will embolden adversaries and, we should add, stultify domestic debate and hamstring presidential prerogative. Another is the desire to act only where public and congressional support is guaranteed; he believes success will breed support, and in any case skillful leaders will create support when necessary. He offers as a useful rule of thumb "that the need for advance, formal congressional support . . . increases in proportion to the scale of the proposed intervention." There are also warnings against allowing the media to determine when to intervene. Although it will probably affect how force is used, a good leader will effectively shape and limit the media's influence. Finally, he makes a convincing argument that it is difficult to use force to change dramatically the internal politics of many countries. He draws on successes and failures in Lebanon, Somalia, Bosnia, the Philippines, and Panama to make his point.
Haass also departs from the Weinberger approach when he describes how force should be used. First, like George Shultz he suggests that the early use of force is frequently better than its later use, when events have spun out of control and the use of force may be more costly or ineffective. Once a decision is made to intervene, Haass agrees with Colin Powell that policymakers should lean toward too much rather than too little force, and toward decisive force early on rather than gradual escalation. He adds that air power should not be considered a panacea, as illustrated by the difficulty with finding Saddam's mobile ballistic missiles and by the vulnerability of aircraft to common weapons available in Lebanon and Somalia.
The author revisits his major case studies in Chapter Six in order to illustrate how these general guidelines and warnings were or were not utilized in his 12 major cases. This is an excellent treatment of the policy options facing each administration and why their choices resulted in success or failure. He wisely avoids exaggerating lessons from the Gulf War, and the relatively lengthy section on Bosnia is particularly strong. Here he analyzes alternative policy options of the Bush and Clinton administrations, including the early insertion of a deterrent force, arming the Bosnian Muslims, compellence through air strikes, a more aggressive UNPROFOR II mandate, and making the "safe areas" truly safe. The potential pitfalls of each--frequently overlooked--are explained logically and convincingly.
This book, revised and expanded from its 1994 edition, serves important functions. Its suggestions and warnings are of direct relevance to policymakers, and taken together they offer a useful starting point for making decisions on when and how to use force in increasingly complex situations. Additionally, the reasoned tone of the analysis provides grist for a reasoned debate on the future of using force. And, finally, it offers a refreshingly eclectic perspective on the lessons of using force, adhering to neither the Weinberger nor the Shultzian side of a long-running debate. One hopes that a full-fledged doctrine, widely accepted, will eventually arise from this and other such studies.
The Taiwan Conundrum in US China Policy. By Martin L. Lasater. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1999. 344 pages. $69.00. Reviewed by Lieutenant Colonel Lonnie D. Henley, Senior Intelligence Officer for Asia/Pacific Regional Military Assessments, Defense Intelligence Agency.
This study surveys American policy toward Taiwan and China since 1979, with emphasis on the Clinton Administration. It should be required reading for anyone newly appointed to a position formulating or implementing Taiwan policy at the national or theater level. It will be less interesting to military personnel concerned with planning and force development at the operational or service staff level.
Lasater sees each successive US administration confronted with the same "conundrum" that lies at the heart of this issue. Communist China is much more important than Taiwan in terms of America's strategic interests--regional stability, economic development, and geopolitics--and engagement with China is essential. But democratic Taiwan embodies American values and beliefs about self-determination, human rights, and the virtues of a market democracy, and we have a long-standing moral commitment to the people of Taiwan and their security. Lasater's conclusion is that the constraints within which policymakers must face the issue, and the range of US interests and values at stake, leave little room for a major departure from the policies of Reagan, Bush, and Clinton--engagement with China, carefully constrained arms sales to Taiwan, and "tactical ambiguity" over whether the United States would defend Taiwan should it declare independence, combined with "strategic clarity" over our willingness to intervene in order to prevent Beijing from resolving the issue by force of arms.
Lasater's analysis takes a strictly rationalist approach. He outlines in some detail the bases of American interests regarding Taiwan, including moral and political values as well as geopolitical, economic, and security interests. From these interests, he traces the development of American policy as articulated in presidential statements, congressional actions, institutional reviews by the State and Defense departments, and international agreements and communiqués. He gives much less consideration to the messier aspects of real policymaking--partisan and bureaucratic politics, hidden agendas, ulterior motives, and personal or partisan ambition. He takes all policy statements at face value and does not question whether the objectives and considerations outlined in the statement are a complete or accurate summary of the underlying objectives. He pays little attention to the role of an individual decisionmaker or advocate, except as a spokesman for a decision or established policy. And despite starting the book with a survey of differing viewpoints and public perceptions, Lasater seldom explores the process by which a given decision came about, who argued pro and con and on what basis, or who actually made the final decision. If you want to know how national security sausage is made, this is not the book.
There is also little consideration of the tangible implications of American policy choices or the tradeoffs inherent in choosing between conflicting priorities. There is little discussion of the military balance across the strait, or of the likely course and outcome of a military conflict, with or without US involvement. The economic cost of American policies to China, and the pros and cons of Normal Trade Relations (formerly called Most Favored Nation status), get even less coverage. The author articulates the American interest in leading China toward a more democratic future, where reconciliation with Taiwan is a real possibility, but does not assess to what extent American policies do or do not foster such an outcome within China. In sum, the book spends a great deal of time looking at official American policy, and much less on the process by which the policy was derived or the effect the policy has had on China, Taiwan, or the region.
In the final dozen pages or so, Lasater turns to the question of what our policy should be, rather than what it is, and endorses the twofold approach that has prevailed through the last three administrations. We should seek to engage China and seek to increase areas of cooperation, but also be prepared to face a possible conflict with China. We should not sacrifice Taiwan for the sake of engagement with China, but neither should we sacrifice engagement with China for the sake of Taiwan. We should support continued dialog in search of a peaceful resolution, but demonstrate our willingness to fight if necessary to prevent Beijing from imposing a solution by force. We should not be tempted to make major concessions to Beijing in order to induce a more reasonable stance toward Taiwan, since China's own interests and values mean that no concession is likely to produce a substantive change in those Chinese policies which harm our long-term interests. This set of precepts does not constitute an imaginative new vision of American policy toward Taiwan. As Lasater has ably demonstrated, however, the interlocking and conflicting set of American values and interests on this subject leave little room for another approach, however eager a new administration might be for new departures in its China/Taiwan policy. In the end, this clear explanation of why our policy options remain so limited is this book's main contribution to the debate over US-China-Taiwan relations.
A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China: An Investigative History. By Patrick Tyler. New York: Public Affairs, 1999. 276 pp. $27.50. Reviewed by Dr. Andrew Scobell, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College.
Several years ago when a US Department of Defense consultant briefed a Pentagon audience about the current state of US ties with China, he encapsulated his message in the phrase, "It's Taiwan, stupid!" This same irreverent phrase captures the core constant in the stormy relationship between the United States and China over the last three decades of the 20th century. Patrick Tyler clearly concurs with this pithy assessment. It is not coincidental that the first chapter of A Great Wall begins with the 1995-96 Taiwan Strait crisis. Chapter two jumps back in time to the Sino-Soviet border clashes of 1969, and subsequent chapters chronologically recount US-China relations from that year up until 1999.
The book reads like a Washington insider account of US-China relations. This is all the more remarkable given that the author's most relevant professional experience was as the New York Times bureau chief in Beijing. Thanks to painstaking archival research, numerous participant interviews, a good eye for drama, and a flair for writing, the author makes the reader feel privy to the inner workings of six successive administrations (Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton) as each sought to manage relations with China.
Tyler evokes an atmosphere appropriate for the elite machinations and personal pettiness that characterized America's China policy in the 1970s and 1980s. The author provides nuanced pictures of pivotal figures like Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski (national security advisors to Presidents Nixon and Carter, respectively). He skillfully balances the geopolitical astuteness and keen political instincts of these two men with their surprising diplomatic naïveté in dealing with Beijing and nastiness in dealing with other Washington officials they viewed as rivals. On the former point, this reviewer continues to be amazed by the schoolboy excitement upon their first visits to China evident in the memoirs of Kissinger and Brzezinski, supposedly two battle-hardened cold warriors. And on the latter point, one cannot but wonder, while reading about the intensity of the personality conflicts and bureaucratic turf wars Tyler describes, whether at times senior officials lost sight of US national interests. A prime example is the running battle between Brzezinski and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke during a key 1978 visit to China.
Not so well explored is China's clear shift into the center of the maelstrom of US domestic politics and the battles between the legislative and executive branches in the 1990s over who runs China policy. But Tyler does make a strong case for the bilateral relationship suffering from inattentiveness by the Clinton Administration. This stands in dramatic contrast to the attention of earlier administrations, notably those of Nixon and Bush, with these presidents and their national security advisors finding it impossible to resist the temptation to micromanage China policy. The larger lesson for future administrations is that for the relationship to go forward, top leaders from both countries must be deeply committed to nurturing it. If not, the relationship will atrophy.
Tyler makes clear that the issue of Taiwan is now front and center in US-China relations and can no longer be shunted to the sidelines. The sobering tone of the prologue seems vindicated by the tough language in Beijing's White Paper on Taiwan issued in February 2000 and the menacing threats of Chinese leaders in the run-up to Taiwan's presidential election the next month. These moves suggest that the Strait will continue to be plagued by periodic crises--any of which have the real potential to escalate into hostilities that will involve the United States. And Tyler contends: "The risk of war in the Taiwan Strait will continue to increase in the first decade of the twenty-first century."
Tyler's history is without a doubt the most compelling account of late-20th-century US-China relations. But those who desire comprehensive coverage of the subject should also consult Jim Mann's About Face (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999). Two drier but still eminently readable scholarly accounts of the same period are extremely useful, too: Harry Harding's A Fragile Relationship (Brookings Institution, 1992), and Robert Ross's Negotiating Cooperation (Stanford Univ. Press, 1995).
The Chinese Armed Forces in the 21st Century. Edited by Larry M. Wortzel. Carlisle, Pa.: US Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, 1999. 344 pages. Reviewed by Colonel Susan M. Puska, US Army Attaché-designate to the People's Republic of China.
Red and blue ships face off against each other near the eastern shore of China and Taiwan on the cover of The Chinese Armed Forces in the 21st Century. In case you miss the point, crossed missiles adorned with the American and Chinese flags rise above the ships. The cover is a teaser, however, for this collection of nine papers, based on those presented at the eighth People's Liberation Army (PLA) Conference held at the Wye Plantation in Maryland in 1998. This is not simply a "China threat" argument. Rather, these papers reflect a diversity of perspectives among recognized experts on China's military modernization and national security. Like previous PLA conference publications, this book provides some important pieces to the China puzzle for US policymakers.
In "Geographic Ruminations," Michael McDevitt reminds the reader that China's strategic geography gives it "continental predominance" in Asia. Astride the heart of the Asian landmass and lacking any serious regional military threat, China "command[s] internal lines of communication throughout the continent." McDevitt is careful to separate China's strategic position from its strategic intentions within the region. He argues, however, that China faces a strategic dilemma--how to enhance its position (including power projection) without unduly alarming regional powers, who could withdraw support for China's economic development.
Eric A. McVadon's chapter, "The Chinese Military and the Peripheral States in the 21st Century: A Security Tour d'Horizon," follows up McDevitt's discussion of strategic geography with a comprehensive overview of China's bilateral and multilateral relations throughout Asia. He argues that although the "partially modernized PLA" already is a "formidable regional military force," China will continue to view the "pre-eminence of national economic development" throughout the region as the fulcrum on which it pursues national objectives.
Michael Pillsbury's chapter, "PLA Capabilities in the 21st Century: How Does China Assess Its Future Security Needs?," argues for enhanced analytical vigilance that is based on a more thorough and thoughtful exploitation of Chinese sources. He points out that analytical errors, such as static, force-on-force comparisons, mirror-imaging, or limiting the "geographic scope" of future scenarios, could lead to an underestimation of China's national security capabilities and objectives.
The following chapter, "Advancing Military Technology and the PLA: Priorities and Capabilities in the 21st Century," by Bernard D. Cole and Paul H. B. Godwin, methodically examines China's military production capabilities. This analysis concentrates on military production of key capabilities listed in the Military Critical Technologies List Part 1: Weapons Systems Technologies (MCTL), which was released by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisitions and Technology) in 1996. The authors conclude that China is woefully inferior in critical areas that will inhibit its strategic ambitions. Consequently, China will remain overly dependent on foreign suppliers, such as Russia and Israel, for advanced military technology for the foreseeable future.
Larry M. Wortzel, the editor of this book, provides a cautionary view of China's strategic ambitions in "U.S.-China Military Relations in the 21st Century." He assesses that the PLA is "methodically developing . . . into a force that can project itself internally and regionally [and is] experimenting with ways to respond militarily to US forces." Wortzel argues the United States and China will naturally compete in the future over each country's respective place in the region.
In addition to discussing the PLA, this volume also examines an area often overlooked, Taiwan's military reform and modernization, in "Taiwan's Military in the 21st Century: Redefinition and Reorganization," by Arthur Shu-fan Ding and Alexander Chieh-cheng Huang, and in "Taiwan's Military: A View from Afar," by June Teufel Dryer.
Ellis Joffe's "Concluding Comment: The Political Angle--New Phenomena in Party-Army Relations," argues that the PLA has, contrary to prevailing analysis, actually enhanced its political potential, even if for the moment it appears to have lost some of its policymaking influence under President Jiang Zemin's leadership.
Collectively, these papers may not definitively answer whether China will become a friend or foe of the United States in the future. They do, however, reinforce certain conclusions: China is now the dominant power on the Asian continent. China stresses economic development over military modernization and seeks to avoid alarming regional powers about its intentions or capabilities. Further, China is ambivalent about the presence of the United States in East Asia. While it recognizes the utility of American forces to provide a measure of stability within the region, it does not accept the legitimacy of American military presence in Asia over the long term. Finally, although China's military modernization has been seriously inhibited by myriad problems, it nonetheless seeks to develop a modern military force with power-projection assets capable of protecting and promoting its national interests and sovereignty claims within the region, including Taiwan and the Spratly Islands.
The Battle of Kursk. By David M. Glantz and Jonathan M. House. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1999. 476 pages. $34.95. Reviewed by Dr. Samuel Newland (LTC, ARNG Ret.), Professor, Department of Distance Education, US Army War College.
For the last several decades military historians and history buffs alike have been fascinated by the Battle of Kursk, considered the greatest tank battle in the Second World War. The sheer number of fighting vehicles and crack German and Russian divisions engaging in combat there provides grist for any reader of military history, casual or professional. The fascination with Kursk, initially fed by the postwar writings and oral histories of German general officers, will be sparked again by this new book. The battle of Kursk--or, as the Germans termed it, Operation Citadel--is in fact worthy of additional scholarship. Together with Stalingrad and Khar'kov, it was the last in a triad of engagements, all within an eight-month period, which proved to be the beginning of the end for the mighty Wehrmacht. Kursk is also significant because it raises questions and sheds light on Hitler as a military leader.
David Glantz and Jonathan House offer the experienced reader considerable new material and new interpretations regarding Kursk. Since materials on this Eastern Front offensive first became available to Western audiences, the main filter through which Westerners viewed Kursk was German sources. That has given the engagement what Glantz and House refer to as a one-dimensional interpretation. Through most of the postwar period, however, Soviet records simply were not available to researchers. Thus, German sources, primarily from key German officers--including Field Marshal Erich Von Manstein, General F. W. Mellenthin, and General Heinz Guderian--have been the main sources for details and the interpretation of this battle.
The traditional version of the battle is that following Von Manstein's masterstroke at Khar'kov in early 1943, the German army sought to maintain the initiative and launch a fresh offensive. This had to be done before the Soviets could strike, and the German army was determined to undertake at least a limited offensive by the late spring. Since German resources were in part depleted from the near-disaster at the gates of Moscow in December 1941 and the Stalingrad debacle in 1942-43, the goals of the offensive would have to be limited. The logical location for a successful offensive was the salient that jutted into the German lines between the cities of Orel and Khar'kov. Hitler's key military leaders wanted to stage this offensive in May 1943, but bickering and interference by Hitler delayed it until 5 July.
After several months of obvious preparation in full view of the Soviet army, the German attack had absolutely no chance of surprise. Thus the Germans failed to "pinch off" the Kursk salient and in the process took significant casualties that they could not afford. The traditional German postmortem concludes that had the attack occurred in May, as scheduled, it would have given the German army yet another solid victory and again thrown the Soviet army off balance.
Using both German and Soviet records, Glantz and House reject this traditional, German-inspired interpretation. They note that while the German army of 1943 was extremely capable, the Germans in late spring made some faulty assumptions. Based on the two previous years, the Germans assumed that a well-prepared offensive would be able to penetrate and exploit any Soviet defense and that superior German tactics, staff work, and weaponry could compensate for greater Soviet numbers. Furthermore, they thought that adverse weather would hamper any Soviet offensive, and that if such an offensive occurred, the mobile German counterattack could halt it. With such assumptions, and given the status of German forces, the aims of Operation Citadel were unattainable. The Kursk salient contained Soviet forces that were not spent, not beyond their culminating point. Instead, it contained robust elements that would have been difficult to encircle and erase even under the best of circumstances. Glantz and House correctly note the tendency of the German officer corps to blame Hitler and his increasingly progressive involvement in daily military operations for failures such as Kursk. In the authors' view Operation Citadel, for the German army of 1943, was simply too ambitious to succeed.
Although this book will not convince all readers that the offensive also would have failed in May, it should make one point clear to students of the Soviet army then and to those who study the Russians now: the Soviet military did learn. Perhaps the key German error that emerged at that time and decidedly affected Kursk was the failure to recognize that the Soviet army of mid-1943 was a far cry from the Soviet army of 1941. The Soviets had learned well from their mistakes of 1941-42. Indeed, they seemed to understand their adversary better and to have learned the costly lessons of war far better than the Germans.
Students of military history will find The Battle of Kursk to be a good read. It is well-researched, and it logically and systematically looks at the traditional approach to Kursk and provides another well-founded interpretation of the battle. As is true with all books associated with David Glantz, it is well documented, has an excellent bibliography, and contains extremely useful appendices relating to order of battle and key documents. For the student of military history, this book is highly recommended.
Morals Under the Gun: The Cardinal Virtues, Military Ethics, and American Society. By James H. Toner. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2000. 215 pages. $29.95. Reviewed by Major John A. Nagl, Assistant Professor of International Relations at the US Military Academy and coauthor of Army Professionalism, the Military Ethic, and Officership in the 21st Century.
I have the great good fortune of teaching at an institution where some of the world's best thinkers about morality and military ethics reside. Some are featured in the footnotes of James H. Toner's Morals Under the Gun: The Cardinal Virtues, Military Ethics, and American Society and exemplify Toner's thesis: "There is a bridge between moral philosophy and the profession of arms . . . . The true values at the core--at the heart--of the profession of arms are the hinge virtues--the classical virtues, the cardinal virtues--of wisdom, justice, courage, and temperance."
Fortunately, many of us who serve in the military do have fellow professionals around and in front of us who live lives regulated by the cardinal virtues. Sadly, few are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interact daily with men like those on the faculty at West Point who not only live lives of exemplary moral character but feel no qualms in openly discussing the moral basis of their lives. Those who have not been given the opportunity to discuss these matters on a regular basis have been given a rare and important opportunity to begin such discussion with the publication of Toner's book.
After an introduction on "The Necessary Immorality of the Military Profession" that will have most readers ready to do physical violence to Dr. Toner (my copy has marginal notes such as "NO! NO! NO!" and "We let this guy teach ethics??!!??"), the book dramatically begins anew. It is organized around discussions of the four cardinal virtues previously listed--wisdom, justice, courage, and temperance. Toner acknowledges his debt to Plato, to Saint Thomas Aquinas, and to Solomon for the derivation of his virtues; one of his more interesting arguments is that those who believe in moral virtue but not in established religion are drawing upon the moral capital of the ages. Toner's thesis that these virtues are universally true--as opposed to the moral relativism prevalent today which argues that each individual can select his or her own values, as from a cafeteria, and that no set of values is superior to any other--will not be received well in every quarter.
However, few in the profession of arms would argue that possession of wisdom, justice, courage, and temperance is anything but essential to those who would lead soldiers. There are those who would debate Toner's argument that these characteristics are in shorter supply in our society than they used to be, but Toner's case is persuasive. His conclusion is daunting in its call to action for all who wear the uniform: "To the extent that the ladies and gentlemen of the profession of arms model these virtues for the rest of us, they can and should serve as moral exemplars. Their creed, their profession, learned well and lived nobly, can and should be a source of moral inspiration for a society too often beset by moral bewilderment."
Morals Under the Gun is not a perfect book--far from it. Sometimes repetitive and sometimes sanctimonious, it has all the failings of most sermons. It also could be accused of exacerbating the growing tension between American civilian and military leadership by promoting the idea that the military is somehow morally superior to the rest of American society.
But it has the advantages of most sermons as well, and in good measure. Although imperfect, Morals Under the Gun is an important book, a book that should become part of the core curriculum at all service academies, staff colleges, and war colleges as part of a comprehensive instructional and developmental program in military ethics. The final chapter should be reprinted in whole in publications of all four of the military services--and then, perhaps, it will be echoed by businesses and governmental institutions as well. Its recommendations for "improving the character and consciences of those joining the military" are worth recounting:
Widespread use of Toner's Morals Under the Gun will vastly increase the likelihood that when our current generation of moral exemplars moves on to its just reward, there will be others ready and able to take their places. Soldiering--and service--are ultimately based in the heart and the soul. If society teaches our youth to value nothing but material rewards and immediate gratification, where will our guardians come from?
Do your part. Buy this book. Pass it around. Make your junior officers read it. Keep the flame alive.
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Reviewed 17 November 2000. Please send comments or corrections to email@example.com