From Parameters, Winter 2001-02, pp. 153-72.
The Will to Win: The Life of General James A. Van Fleet. By Paul F. Braim. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2001. 417 pages. $42.50. Reviewed by Lieutenant General Richard G. Trefry, USA Ret., Inspector General of the Army, 1978-83, and Military Assistant to the President, 1989-92.
Dr. Paul Braim (Colonel, USA Ret.) struck gold with this story of the life of General James A. Van Fleet. General Van Fleet was an extraordinary leader who graduated from West Point with the famed class of 1915--"the class the stars fell on"--but whose reputation would not become well known until the autumn of 1944.
While most of the major combat leaders of World War II and Korea have had biographies written about them or authored their autobiographies, General Van Fleet has remained relatively unheralded. In view of his tremendous record in World War II; in Greece in the immediate postwar period; and in Korea, where he followed General Ridgway in command, he has remained a relatively modest soldier known to few in the general public. On the other hand, in the Army he has been revered as a respected and admired leader, particularly to those of us of World War II vintage. His story is a compelling study worth the telling, and Braim has made a significant contribution to the military literature of the 20th century with this biography.
The very title of the book, The Will to Win, describes General Van Fleet in a single phrase. His life epitomized the will to win. Unlike many of his classmates, General Van Fleet saw combat in World War I. He first experienced combat in the Vosges Mountains near Colmar, an area that became famous both in World Wars I and II. He was wounded in combat in World War I, another fact that distinguished him from many of his classmates and peers.
General Van Fleet's career between the wars is notable in that he did not attend either Leavenworth or any of the war colleges. General Van Fleet did however command an infantry battalion during this period. He also was assigned to ROTC duty at the University of Florida, where he served as one of their most successful football coaches as well as the professor of military science. He later attended the Infantry Officers Advanced Class at Fort Benning, and then served as the executive officer of the 1st District of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in Maine and New Hampshire. He also served a tour as the senior instructor to the organized reserves in San Diego and southern California. Such a career probably would not earn the title of warrior today, but it certainly helped to prepare Van Fleet for the future.
At the outbreak of World War II, Colonel Van Fleet was the commander of the 8th Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, stationed at Fort Benning. The die was already cast for the start of his phenomenal record in the Second World War. Colonel Van Fleet landed with his regiment on Utah Beach on D-Day. Dr. Braim's description of the D-Day landing is one of the better accounts of what it was like that morning. The 8th was the division that captured Cherbourg, making the port available for the use of Allied troops.
Upon promotion to brigadier general in August 1944, General Van Fleet was transferred to the 2d Infantry Division as the assistant division commander. The division was instrumental in conquering the Brittany Peninsula and seizing the city of Brest.
In early October, General Van Fleet was promoted to two stars and assumed command of the 90th Division. The 90th Division is a storybook organization that landed shortly after D-Day and went through a succession of commanders until General Ray McClain and then General Van Fleet took over. The 90th had as its operations officer Lieutenant Colonel Richard G. Stilwell, and one of its battalion commanders was Lieutenant Colonel William Depuy. There is little doubt that their later successes were in no small way attributable to the leadership and mentoring of General Van Fleet. The 90th Division was instrumental in the attack through the Saar and participated in the Battle of the Bulge as part of General Patton's attack on the southern flank. In February, General Van Fleet was reassigned to England to command the XXIII Corps, but in early March his orders were changed and he was given command of III Corps, which he led to the end of the war. Few Army officers achieved such a phenomenal record of demonstrated performance and professional competence during World War II.
But perhaps the most intriguing part of General Van Fleet's career came after the war in 1947 and involved the civil war in Greece. General Van Fleet was personally selected by General Marshall to head the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) in Greece. This was the first significant MAAG created following the war. Dr. Braim's description of General Van Fleet's efforts are a primer on how military assistance should be provided. It is a little-known fact that from the time the Greek MAAG was established in 1947 until 1963 the US government established 63 MAAGs throughout the world, with Greece serving as the model. Officers who participated in these assignments had the opportunity to experience joint and combined operations, in addition to making lasting friends for the United States. Dr. Braim's book is worth reading just for this portion alone. Unfortunately, too few people today are cognizant of the tremendous success achieved by this mission.
Following his assignment in Greece, General Van Fleet served as commander of Second Army. He was later selected by President Truman to succeed General Ridgway in Korea, who had been assigned to replace General MacArthur in Japan following the latter's relief. Again, Dr. Braim has cogently described the stalemate in Korea and the accompanying efforts to build the Army of the Republic of Korea. There are numerous lessons for professionals to learn in the study of the military and political history of Korea in the 1950s.
The remainder of the book describes General Van Fleet's life in retirement. He lived a full life and passed away shortly after his 100th birthday. Few officers in the US Army exemplified the professional soldier of the 20th century more than did General James A. Van Fleet. He personified the image of an American military professional. He withstood adversity and dedicated himself to becoming a master of his profession. His life and record stand as models that every professional soldier might well emulate.
Paul Braim has made a significant contribution to American military history with this volume. It is regrettable that he passed away shortly after his book was published and thus could not enjoy the plaudits he so richly deserves.
Retreat to the Reich: The German Defeat in France, 1944. By Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2000. 304 pages. $27.50. Reviewed by Colonel Len Fullenkamp, USA Ret., Professor of Military History, US Army War College.
Retreat to the Reich is an account of the Normandy Campaign from the German perspective. Professor Mitcham sketches the general outline of the story and critiques the important decisions and events of the spring and summer of 1944, such as the design and construction of the Atlantic Wall, the positioning of defensive forces, command and control structures, reactions to the Allied landings, and the eventual withdrawal of German forces to the Seine River. The topics given more than a little attention include the dispute between Erwin Rommel and Gerd von Rundstedt, nominal commander of the Western Front, on how best to defend the Atlantic Wall; the plot to assassinate Hitler, Rommel's association with it, and the effect it had on how the German army fought in Normandy; and the paralysis of command on the German Western Front brought about by Hitler's meddling in what should have been the theater commanders' purview. Although much of this will be familiar to those who have studied the campaign from the American and British perspectives, what sets this book apart and makes it deserving of the reader's time is the wealth of material and extraordinary detail on German forces, equipment, strategy, tactics, and--best of all--personalities and profiles of leaders great and small, generally not accessible to those who do not read German.
Professor Mitcham's engaging narrative style combines the best of that which we have come to expect from Stephen Ambrose and Carlo D'Este. Ambrose's books on Normandy (D-Day and Citizen Soldiers) tell the story of the invasion through the eyes of the participants, with vivid eyewitness accounts woven together to carry the general narrative. D'Este, on the other hand, in Decision In Normandy follows the action from the perspective of the key senior commanders, building the story around their actions in the major battles of the campaign. Mitcham moves easily between the two styles. The thoughts, actions, and reactions of senior leaders, field marshals, and commanders at the army, corps, and division levels carry the narrative, while the eyewitness accounts and impressions of officers, noncommissioned officers, and private soldiers give the reader a feel for the intensity of the fighting. Mitcham is most effective when he merges the two styles. For example, upon completion of Rommel's inspection of the vaunted Atlantic Wall, he proceeds to denounce it as "a farce--an enormous bluff," although not to Hitler's face. Similar expressions of personal sentiments by German senior officers attest to the loss of confidence in Hitler's leadership, yet as Mitcham shows in the chapter dealing with the assassination attempt on Hitler's life, the public expression of such sentiments could get one killed. Mitcham makes particularly effective use of data to convey impressions on morale and readiness. One can readily understand the decline in effectiveness of the Luftwaffe when informed that "the pilot training program . . . had been steadily reduced from 260 hours of flight time per student in 1940 to as little as 50 in 1944. . . . In May 1944 . . . the Luftwaffe lost 712 aircraft to hostile action and 656 in flying accidents."
Because of the command problems on the Western Front, derivative of Hitler's meddling, corps and division commanders often found themselves saddled with hopelessly impossible tasks. From their vantage points at the front they could see the folly of holding ground at all costs, yet ordering a withdrawal could not only lead to a removal from command, but, in the poisoned atmosphere following the 20 July attempt on Hitler's life, prove deadly. When reported from the defender's perspective, the Allied efforts to break out of the Normandy beachhead are both grim and fascinating. Lieutenant General Fritz Bayerlein provides a vivid account of what it was like to endure carpet-bombing. As the history unfolds, unit commanders, for example Panzergeneral Kurt Meyer or Oberfuerher Sepp Detricht, are introduced with a brief summary of their careers to date, followed by an overview of their actions. The narrative moves along briskly. Units are swept away despite extraordinary acts of heroism. Atrocities on all sides are mentioned almost in passing as part of the texture of combat in Normandy. Meyer, for example, survives capture and near death at the hands of French partisans. Excellent endnotes provide post-capture and postwar details on Meyer and others. The carnage of the Falaise Pocket is recounted in riveting detail. Having read the Allied perspective on this battle many times, it was particularly interesting to read what it was like to be in the cauldron from the perspectives of those who ran the gauntlet and survived to fight another day.
German reactions to Operation Market Garden, the attempt by Allied airborne units to capture a bridge across the lower Rhine, and their efforts to halt Allied forces along the German frontier conclude Mitcham's campaign narrative. In an effort to include as much detail as possible, Mitcham devotes several pages in the final chapter to the fate of many of the individuals named earlier in the story. For example, the list of names of senior officers lost (killed, wounded, captured, or those who took their own lives) runs for two and a half pages. Maps showing unit locations, order of battle charts reflecting shifting command lines throughout the campaign, and photographs of many of the officers and men mentioned in the narrative complement the text.
The 1944 Normandy Campaign is familiar ground for Professor Mitcham. Several of his earlier books have chronicled it, along with German campaigns from North Africa to Russia, on land and in the air. In Triumphant Fox: Erwin Rommel and the Rise of the Afrika Korps and Rommel's Greatest Victory: The Desert Fox and the Fall of Tobruk, he covered the exploits of the great German field marshal and his forces in the fight for North Africa. Along with Frederich van Stauffenberg, he produced The Battle of Sicily, a superb study of the German and Italian defense of Sicily against the joint and combined Allied invasion. His 1993 book, Rommel's Last Campaign, was a study in generalship, examining as it did Rommel's ill-fated effort to defend the Atlantic Wall. Indeed, it is not an overstatement to say that Professor Mitcham's knowledge of the German armed forces is encyclopedic, given that included among his many books are Hitler's Legions: The German Army Order of Battle, World War II; Men of the Luftwaffe; and Hitler's Field Marshals and Their Battles.
In summary, Return to the Reich provides those interested in World War II with a meticulously researched and highly detailed account of German forces fighting in western France in the summer of 1944 from the perspective of those who were fated to stand against the greatest armada in the history of warfare.
Afghan Buzkashi: Power Games and Gamesmen. By Sreedhar and Mahendra Ved. Delhi: Wordsmiths, 2000. Vol. 1, 286 pages, Vol. 2, 271 pages. $60.00. Reviewed by Ali A. Jalali, former Afghan colonel and author of several books on Afghan military history, including The Other Side of the Mountain, coauthored with Lester Grau. Mr. Jalali is Chief of the Farsi (Persian) Service at the Voice of America, Washington, D.C.
(Editor's Note: This review was written before September 2001.)
The hallmark of the drawn-out civil war in Afghanistan is the fierce competition for power among foreign-backed factions. The competing interests of the domestic players and their foreign supporters have turned the conflict into a zero-sum game blocking a peaceful settlement. Many observers call it a new "Great Game," reminiscent of the British and Russian struggle in the 19th century for influence in Central Asia.
This book views the conflict as a grand Buzkashi game--a strenuous equestrian sport played in Afghanistan and Central Asia. In its traditional form, Buzkashi involves 20 or 30 individual horsemen (chapandaz) who jostle against each other to seize the carcass of a beheaded calf and then force it into the winner's circle while fighting through all the opposing horsemen. The game reflects the individuality, boldness, and fierce competitive spirit of the players who battle for a one-man victory.
Focusing on the external dynamics of the Afghan conflict, Afghan Buzkashi examines the regional implications of the battle for power by outside players in a contest where Afghanistan is the torn Buzkashi calf. Political domination and economic influence are the potential prizes for the winning chapandaz. The authors see themselves as referees on the sideline (although they are hardly impartial). Their book describes the game as a villain/victim showdown and a good guy/bad guy dichotomy. Pakistan is the aggressive chapandaz whose pact with the extremist Taliban movement threatens the interests of the other players. Remarkably, the political ambitions of the other chapandaz, including Iran, Russia, Tajikistan, and India, are downplayed.
Drawing heavily on selective media reports, the book feeds the fears that the Afghan crisis is the source of increasing instability and political complications in the region. It particularly emphasizes the threats of religious extremism, transnational terrorist activities, and the illicit drug trade fostered by the Pakistan-backed orthodox Muslim Taliban movement, which controls more than 90 percent of Afghanistan. Discussing at length the negative implications of the Afghan situation for Central Asia, Russia, Iran, China, and India, the book calls for multinational security arrangements to counter the threat.
One can hardly disagree with the authors that Pakistan is trying to use its patronage of the Taliban movement and its intimate ties with the Taliban militia to advance its political and geostrategic agenda. However, one cannot ignore the damaging effects of interference by other foreign actors that fuel the internal strife in Afghanistan. Similarly, it is easy to bash the Taliban movement, whose extremist policies have caused a lot of pain to the people inside Afghanistan and created security threats to its neighbors. But attributing the problems of Afghanistan solely to the Taliban and their Pakistani supporters risks neglecting other equally important factors that contribute to the continuation of the Afghan imbroglio. Ignoring the internal aspects of the conflict and their social and political dynamism has allowed the authors to draw misleading conclusions.
The authors, an Indian defense analyst and a correspondent for the Times of India, look at the situation strictly from an Indian national perspective. Their view appears strongly influenced by the long-standing Indo-Pakistani hostility over Kashmir. Citing the incursion of Pakistan-backed religious militants into Kashmir (Kargil) in 1999, the authors portray the Taliban as "a main threat to Indian security." The options for India, they say, might require efforts to "break this nexus between mercenaries in the guise of Mujahedin and Pakistani regular armed forces." The authors claim that they have gone entirely by "facts" to indulge in what some critics of their manuscript have called "Paki-bashing" and making the "Taliban synonymous with Pakistan." Clearly, instead of an objective, scholarly quest for credible evidence, the authors have picked the "facts" selectively to support a particular political agenda. They rely heavily on an odd assortment of secondary sources, including statements by Indian diplomats, unchecked one-sided assertions from the Afghan conflict, and a significant amount of pure speculation. In certain cases, the line between established facts and the authors' conjecture is very fuzzy.
The authors' lopsided product asserts that the Taliban is not a genuine Afghan movement but a covert Pakistani intelligence operation. They even go further to deny the actual Afghan resistance against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. They claim that it was the Pakistani army that fought the Soviet army in Afghanistan and forced it out of the country, while the Afghan Mujahedin are merely the by-product of the war! In stark contrast with historical facts and reputable studies, the authors claim that the Afghan refugees were forced by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States to fight the Soviet invasion. The authors claim that Pakistan invented the Mujahedin title and provided them with their "ideological framework."
The authors' reinterpretation of the region's history is replete with factual errors and problematic interpretations. They assert that Afghanistan as a political entity was separated from India in 1739 by a treaty between the Mughal Emperor and Nadir shah of Iran. The assessment ignores nearly two centuries of political and military interaction between Afghanistan and India--first under the Afghan Durrani Empire in the 18th century, and then during the British rule in India in the 19th and early 20th centuries that spawned three Anglo-Afghan wars.
The second volume of the book is an elaborate collection of official documents, media reports, background information, and op-ed pieces selectively collated and edited. It offers a ready reference on current Afghan and Afghan-related developments. Despite the trappings of scholarship, the text is not free of errors. The chapter on the Afghan military structure is probably the most disappointing part. What the authors present as the "Armed Forces Organization of Afghanistan" is an incomplete list of Pashto terms identifying the size of military units. The outline of the "Armed Forces Command Structure" is also a distorted roster of ranks in the Afghan army.
In many other sections the authors are also off the mark. For example, they state that Tajikistan's natural gas reserves are five times larger than those of Turkmenistan and that former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Taliban-controlled areas in Afghanistan in 1997. They also state that "Sofism is an amalgam of Buddhist and Shaman Christian beliefs," and that "the 200-odd Peace Corps workers located in Kyrgyzstan" in 1998 were working for US intelligence. With no source given, the book claims that 90 percent of Afghan drug money is taken by Pakistan intelligence.
Finally, in response to security threats emanating from Afghanistan, the authors call for the development of a coordinated policy among India, Iran, Russia, and China to counter the adverse fallout from Afghanistan. One can agree that some sort of international effort is needed to stabilize the situation around Afghanistan. However, the key to long-term stability in the region is restoration of peace in Afghanistan itself. Creating a cordon-sanitaire around the troubled country would not end the threat to the region's instability, particularly when the neighboring nations pursue diverging security policies.
Writing at the beginning of the last century, renowned Urdu poet of the Indian subcontinent Eqbal Lahori hailed Afghanistan for its historical drive and vitality. He called it the "heart of Asia" and said the continent will suffer when the heart is in trouble. Asia is different today, but still the "trouble" caused by instability in Afghanistan is being felt far beyond the Afghan borders. Peace and stability in the region, for many reasons, hinge on restoration of peace and normalcy in Afghanistan. Restoration of that peace and normalcy should begin with understanding. Unfortunately, this book does little to contribute to that understanding, preferring to deal in diatribe and bias. Clearly, the authors see their India as part of the Buzkashi game--tearing at the Afghan calf.
Ambiguous Order: Military Forces in African States. By Herbert M. Howe. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 2001. 316 pages. $55.00. Reviewed by Dr. Dan Henk (COL, USA Ret.), associate professor in the Department of Leadership and Ethics, US Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.
Popular images of African armed forces are distinctly negative. Western audiences catch occasional media glimpses of the predatory, homicidal forces of the various actors in the ongoing conflict in the Congo. Sudanese military pilots provoke the outrage of humanitarian and religious groups by lobbing home-made nail bombs onto terrified villagers in southern Sudan. Hapless African soldiers are butchered or imprisoned by rebels while serving on UN peacekeeping duty in Sierra Leone. The very inability of African governments to protect the lives, livelihoods, and property of their citizenry poses the recurring prospect of external military intervention to avert--or attenuate--humanitarian catastrophe. Those who concern themselves with African issues frequently wonder why Africans cannot seem to construct military establishments that contribute to the security of the continent. More cynically, some question whether African leaders really are interested in doing so.
In his valuable (but misleadingly titled) book, Professor Herb Howe speaks to these issues. The book is not an analysis of African armies. Instead, it endeavors to answer a more interesting question: How have Africans leaders attempted to cope with the conundrum of deep, pervasive, internal and external insecurity on one hand, with the weak capacities of the African state on the other?
Howe explores the roots and manifestations of insecurity in contemporary Africa and briefly traces the "rise and fall of Western humanitarian interventionism" in the wake of the Cold War. He argues that professional, capable military establishments could strengthen African states (and lessen national and regional insecurity), but that such establishments are relatively rare on the continent for a variety of reasons cited in his text. The heart of the book is a consideration, in some detail, of three approaches employed by African governments to promote internal and regional security: the establishment of regional intervention forces, the employment of private security companies, and the solicitation (or acceptance) of aid by Western nations in efforts to professionalize national military forces. In each instance, Howe offers an illustrative example of the genre. And in each case, he deems the approach generally a failure.
There is no other study quite like this one. It captures in one volume a unique perspective on African efforts to address regional insecurity. A substantial strength of Howe's book is his extensive personal communications with soldiers, practitioners, and policymakers (African and non-African) possessing firsthand experience on the issues of interest. The range of his personal contacts is remarkable, including many of the most perceptive analysts of military issues in Africa. Howe is able to take advantage of their experience, providing depth of insight and objectivity.
The study has a number of drawbacks, though these are matters of opinion more than issues of substance. With some 53 separate countries, the African continent simply is too large and diverse to warrant egregious generalization--a danger Howe acknowledges but cannot entirely avoid. There also is more variation in African response to regional insecurity than is evident in this treatment. Too, African thinkers have been prominent in the recent debates over the definitions of security, and tend to favor a much broader definition than Howe is willing to accept. This reader is bothered by the negative tone of the study, reflected in conclusions that seem to hold little hope for the professionalization of African military establishments, or attenuation of causes of conflict, in the intermediate range. While there is ample basis for pessimism, organizations such as the US Africa Center for Strategic Studies (mentioned by Howe in the book) have found policymakers in many African countries increasingly interested in security sector reform, and military professionals deeply committed to democratization. The personalization of power now so evident in African countries may be a passing phase in an ongoing process of social and psychological decolonization. There is room for cautious optimism.
The prospective reader should be warned: this book is not an easy read. Professor Howe's qualities as a researcher and analyst are evident, but a Hemingway he is not. The prose is tedious, the detail at times almost overwhelming. Nor was the author well-served by the publisher's editing; there are a surprisingly large number of errors in typography and syntax for a work from a major publisher. However, these are peripheral impediments and should be overlooked in view of the study's substantial contribution.
Falcon Brigade: Combat and Command in Somalia and Haiti. By Lawrence E. Casper. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 2001. 257 pages. $35.00. Reviewed by Colonel George F. Oliver, Director of the US Army Peacekeeping Institute.
If you liked the book Black Hawk Down, about the incident surrounding the Special Operations raid in Mogadishu, Somalia, in October 1993, then you will find Larry Casper's Falcon Brigade equally compelling. In a unique two-year command tour of the aviation brigade in the US Army's 10th Mountain Division, Colonel Casper played an instrumental role in two historic operations. Assuming command of the brigade a short time before the failed special operations raid to capture Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aideed, Colonel Casper personally directed the rescue of the trapped rangers. After returning briefly to Fort Drum, New York, home of the 10th Mountain Division, Colonel Casper was still in command during one of the most heralded planning changes in the history of the US Army. In September 1994, the Army made a dramatic switch in plans related to the insertion of forces into Haiti. This change required complementary, detailed actions by two separate units. Colonel Casper was instrumental in crafting the final plan.
Almost everyone will agree that the commander should have the most thorough information related to any operation, but Colonel Casper's account of what happened in both Somalia and Haiti is particularly enlightening--from the decisions by key leaders to the actions of soldiers on the ground. The author succinctly details the challenges of command in these two distinctly different operations. The book gets right to the heart of the issues surrounding these conflicts, and passionately tells the story of the heroics of many fine soldiers. Larry Casper's aviation brigade performed a pivotal role in both operations, and as the commander, he was in a position to relate the account of what happened in an insightful and comprehensive work. This book should be on the professional development reading list for every young officer and noncommissioned officer, regardless of branch or specialty.
The Army's actions in Somalia are told in a limited number of books and articles. There is no official record (at least no unclassified record) of what led to the nightmare that occurred on 3 October 1993. It is a chapter in history that many want to forget, but one that needs to be told. Only a few of those involved in the operation have taken the time to chronicle the events, and Larry Casper's account is one of the best. Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden was an inspiring portrayal of the heroic actions of the ranger and special operations forces involved in this mission. But little is said about the heroic soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division who supported the operation. Colonel Casper's account tells the rest of the story. As commander of the quick reaction force, Larry Casper was in a unique position to see the bigger picture of what happened during the rescue. His description of what the 10th Mountain Division soldiers did is as vivid as any of Mark Bowden's accounts of the actions of special operations soldiers. This is a book you cannot put down, as each page brings the reader deeper into the fray of battle. It is only through books like Black Hawk Down and Falcon Brigade that we will ever gain a full appreciation of what happened during this failed mission in Somalia.
Less than two years after the operations in Somalia, Colonel Casper found himself again involved in a unique mission. In September 1994, General Cedras, the self-proclaimed President of Haiti, succumbed to the pressure of former President Jimmy Carter (and other emissaries) and made room for the return of the democratically elected President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. This unexpected capitulation permitted President Clinton to make a last-minute change--from the planned forced airborne insertion of the 82d Airborne Division to a more benign permissive helicopter insertion by elements of the 10th Mountain Division. From the deck of the aircraft carrier Eisenhower, and high above in a helicopter, Colonel Casper directed the insertion of almost 2,000 soldiers.
The mission in Haiti required innovation, detailed planning, and courage. Colonel Casper's staff, aviators, and soldiers executed this mission with great professionalism. Casper's account of the planning, the rehearsals, and the frustration of getting his crews "deck landing qualified" makes for vivid and exciting reading. Covering the initial insertions and follow-on operations, he describes each challenge and success in moving detail. Other than official after-action reports on the Army's participation in the Haiti operation, there is no better account of the military's role. For those who want to understand the challenges facing today's Army in the post-Cold War era, works like this are a must.
Seeking New World Vistas: The Militarization of Space. By Roger Handberg. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2000. 304 pages. $62.50. Reviewed by Colonel Richard K. Jones, USAF, Director, Aerospace Concepts and Doctrine, Department of Military Strategy, Planning, and Operations, US Army War College.
My first clue that Roger Handberg's new book, Seeking New World Vistas: The Militarization of Space, might be difficult to read was the fact that I looked up "vista" in the dictionary before I even opened up the book (according to Webster's, vista means "a distant view through or along an avenue or opening"). The second clue was the first sentence in his book, "Space is first of all a place or location but it also represents a unique state of mind."
I expected this book, based on its title, to be futuristic and to address the question, "What kind of military space capabilities might we need in the 21st century?" Vistas did not meet those expectations. The author states two primary purposes: "First, generally to describe how US policy regarding the military's presence in space has evolved over the years. . . . The second purpose . . . is to describe the current state of US policy regarding military space activities as we proceed through this proverbial transition period."
In essence, Vistas looks forward by focusing on the past. Handberg presents a historical view of space, from the Eisenhower years to the Clinton Administration. This historical presentation is the best feature of the book, and many of the addressed issues, such as weapons in space, are back on the table today. The author focuses primarily on political aspects of military space policy, including individuals and organizations. He devotes a significant portion of the book to the military use of space in Desert Storm and to ballistic missile defense.
Unfortunately, in many cases the author's views appear to be superficial and one-sided. As an example, Handberg asserts, "From an American military perspective . . . the space shuttle always had a limited role as evidenced by the National Reconnaissance Office's (NRO) continued resistance to the presidentially ordered phaseout of the expendable launch vehicle (ELV) fleet. . . . [T]he NRO pushed hard for a commercial ELV fleet as an alternative to the troubled shuttle." The author implies this resistance is due to the NRO (and the armed services) being leery of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and dates back to the creation of NASA in the 1960s: "Those early decisions are not always consciously remembered as the original participants have long ago left office, but their organizational choices have endured." Yet, there were many valid reasons for continued use of ELVs. What Handberg does not address are those other considerations, such as increased acquisition costs, extended acquisition timelines, and lack of assuredness for launch availability by relying on the space shuttle. (To "fly" a satellite on the space shuttle, that satellite has to be "man-rated," meaning designed, tested, and certified to not jeopardize the safety of the astronauts.)
Additionally, Handberg consistently presents the armed services in a dim light, attributing their activities to parochialism. "Each service wishes to keep its hand in the game so that [its] interests do not get submerged or sacrificed for Air Force fantasies. . . . The other traditional services, the Army and the Navy, are less affected because their space role is largely that of informed, and, from the Air Force's perspective, bitchy consumers." While parochialism may have been a factor at times for the services' actions, especially during the earliest space days, it wasn't the only factor. The reality is that there are no obvious, simple solutions for the best way to organize, train, equip, and employ space forces.
So, what's the bottom line to Vistas? The author emphasizes the critical importance of policy decisions driving military space capabilities, but he is pessimistic that the US political leadership will address policy issues that are needed to develop military space capabilities for the 21st century.
Don't you hate it when you've worked hard on a project, and ten minutes after you've completed it, something happens that renders your project "overcome by events"? Well, that appears to have happened to Vistas. As Handberg's book was rolling off the printing presses, the Congress, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000, established The Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization. This commission, referred to as the Space Commission, was chaired by Donald Rumsfeld, who withdrew from the commission when he was selected to be the current Secretary of Defense. The Space Commission released its final report 11 January 2001. This report is well written, comprehensive, and addresses the entire spectrum of space from a national security point of view.
Would I recommend reading Roger Handberg's Seeking New World Vistas: The Militarization of Space? No. Instead, I recommend reading the final report of the Space Commission. It seeks "new world vistas for the militarization of space." It exceeds all expectations. And, it's free.
Flawed by Design: The Evolution of the CIA, JCS, and NSC. By Amy B. Zegart. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2000. 336 pages. $19.95. Reviewed by Lieutenant Colonel Michael J. Barron, assigned to the Joint Advanced Warfighting Program, the Joint Staff, Washington, D.C.
Flawed by Design studies the organizational development of the principal agencies created by the National Security Act of 1947. Surveying more than a half-century of bureaucratic policies, Amy Zegart posits a new, institutionalist, "national security agency model," to explain a pattern of administrative creation and survival.
Flawed by Design is an institutional analysis of the principal agencies for making US national security policy: the National Security Council (NSC), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) within a newly created Department of Defense. All of these Cold War agencies were the offspring of what is arguably the most important legislative statute in international affairs, the National Security Act of 1947. Zegart's claim that "we know more about mobile nuclear missile silos than we do about the original set up of the National Security Council system, the Central Intelligence Agency, or the Joint Chiefs of Staff" is certainly overstated. On the other hand, there is a strong argument for the case that institutional analyses have been given short shrift in comparison to the history of international diplomacy. Flawed by Design follows the grand tradition of analyzing the interrelationship of the trinitarian elements of public administration: "bureaucracy, politics, and public policy with reference to American national security."
Zegart has written an ambitious book that argues for a "new institutionalist approach to the national security agencies to provide a model that can explain a specific agency's `developmental trajectory.'" Specifically, national security agencies are driven by executive branch political considerations and function in an environment of only sporadic congressional oversight and weak interest-group politics. Domestic regulatory agencies, by contrast, are a legislative domain with regular congressional oversight and high interest-group involvement. In sum, "national security agencies arise and evolve in fundamentally different ways than their domestic policy counterparts." Overall, the iron triangle paradigm of administrative agency interactions needs to be differentiated between domestic and national security agencies.
Zegart devotes two chapters to each of the three principal national security agencies. She properly places the NSC within the broader context of the rancorous struggle between the Army, on one side, and the Navy and Air Force, on the other, over the creation of a unified Department of Defense. What was originally proposed in the Eberstadt Report as an interdepartmental coordinating body to preclude a completely integrated armed forces became, instead, a presidential advisory system. Moreover, "The system that emerged was one in which the President's own appointed NSC staff--led by the special assistant for national security affairs--managed the policy process, analyzed policy options, and offered policy advice with only the President's interest in mind."
Similarly, the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had its origins in the debate over military unification. "And it too, was crafted by conflict between the War and Navy Departments, while Congress sat on the sidelines." The JCS that existed from 1947 to 1986 reflected a compromise between presidential demands for a unified command and the interests of the separate services in maintaining their institutional autonomy. The coordination provided by the JCS for two decades was, in President Harry Truman's words, "better than no coordination at all, but hardly a unified command." It was not until the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986, arguably the most significant legislation on military matters since 1947, that the goals of unity of command were realized, with a dominant JCS Chairman who would be the President's principal military adviser and rank at the top of the chain of command.
According to Zegart, "Just like the NSC system and the JCS, the CIA was created without much input from interest groups or members of Congress. . . . The CIA that emerged from the National Security Act of 1947 satisfied the War and Navy departments. It was weak by design." The author argues that the transcendent goals of the military services, as well as the departments of State and Justice, were to protect their hard-won intelligence services from outside interference. "The ideal CIA was a weak CIA," that is, an agency without strong central control or coordination. On the other hand, the same bureaucratic actors did not oppose the evolution of the CIA into a presidential instrument for clandestine operations. "Strengthening the CIA's clandestine service kept the agency busy and out of the coordination business. And so long as the CIA stayed out of the coordination business, each intelligence service could continue setting it own priorities and conducting its own activities."
Flawed by Design surveys a broad swath of administrative politics over a half-century of US foreign policymaking. Undoubtedly, Zegart has had to compress a great deal of general information and particular nuances in a fashion that will cause institutional specialists to cavil with some of her observations. For example, in her discussion of the evolution of the NSC, it would almost appear that Presidents are passive creatures who adapt to a process of bureaucratic determinism. The author also has a tendency to overstate the newness of certain propositions in order to buttress her neoinstitutional theory. For example, she frequently asserts the uniqueness of her emphasis on an agency's original design as an explanatory variable; however, this has long been recognized in earlier works by Samuel Huntington, Morton Halperin, and others. However, these are minor points. Overall, Flawed by Design is engaging, well written, nicely argued, and informative. It is a highly useful primer on the administrative history of national security agencies and would be an excellent supplement for anyone studying the Presidency, US foreign policy, or public administration.
The Price of Dominance: The New Weapons of Mass Destruction and Their Challenge to American Leadership. By Jan Lodal. Washington: Council on Foreign Relations, 2001. 160 pages. $19.95 (paper). Reviewed by Major Keith W. Mines, USAR, Political-Military Affairs Officer, US Embassy, Budapest.
For ten years we have tried to associate the demise of our greatest nuclear adversary with a reduction of the nuclear threat. It was folly, really, since the weapons were never strictly confined geographically except to the extent our opponent allowed; the Cold War, if anything, brought a level of control and discipline to the nuclear question that may never be replicated. The nuclear threat is back with a vengeance, but in response we have offered up an effort so compartmentalized that insurgents and terrorists could probably improve their craft by watching us--nonproliferators in one corner, arms controllers in another, nuclear strategists somewhere else, with the missile defense cabal now taking center stage. Jan Lodal believes this is a mistake, that if the world is to be safe from the new threats it will need a comprehensive strategy with strong American leadership.
If you read one book on weapons of mass destruction (WMD), Lodal's The Price of Dominance would be a good candidate. What sets Lodal's book apart from the other current books on WMD is simple comprehensiveness--he is not writing about a certain set of scenarios, or about one WMD experience, or about policy prescriptions for a single region or issue. Rather, he is outlining a new paradigm, that weapons of mass destruction must be given a place of prominence in our security policy, and that there must be a comprehensive approach to managing them. We are suffering, Lodal says, from "the lack of a sustainable national policy for dealing with WMD" because there is "no national consensus on how to proceed." He offers a way to proceed in clear, concise detail.
Lodal assumes up front the primacy of WMD to US national security policy by painting a brief picture of how we moved from a relatively safe and promising post-Cold War world to the current world full of emerging threats. From the premise that WMD are the greatest threat America faces, Lodal outlines three competing strategic visions, all of which are active in our policies today. The first--more arms control--would call for modernizing but maintaining the Cold War-era arms control regime with Russia and updating the multilateral nonproliferation conventions. The second--reliance on an undefeatable active defense--would abandon the current strategy of deterrence and adopt a robust national antiballistic missile defense. Third--nuclear abolition--would move America to a posture of "minimum deterrence" supported by no more than a few hundred nuclear weapons.
All of these strategies, says Lodal, are flawed. Arms control is gridlocked and has lost much of its core constituency; active defense might be politically popular but is technically unlikely; and abolition simply won't work. Our current policy, Lodal postulates, reflects the natural desire to keep the best of each of these strategies, despite the resulting inconsistencies. What is needed is a "new strategic vision that is internally consistent, protects America against the limited residual threat of nuclear war with Russia and China, and can deal with the new WMD threats stemming from terrorists and rogue states."
The greatest strength of Lodal's book is the simple recognition that everything in our nuclear policy is related to everything else. Howard Baker and Lloyd Cutler's recent testimony and report on nonproliferation programs with Russia was a sobering reminder of the residual threat from the large Cold War stockpiles of nuclear weapons. But while they suggest a number of solid recommendations on reducing this threat, it would be pure folly to think that we can be successful in nonproliferation programs in Russia independent of the larger environment that includes force postures and active defenses as well. Everything we do affects everything else.
The book does, however, suffer from a questionable assumption. Lodal's key premise, from which the book derives its title, is that nations are developing weapons of mass destruction primarily to counter the absolute dominance of the United States. This is overly simplistic, and ignores the regional rivalries and simple drive to superpower status that have led to the recent acquisition of weapons. A proper understanding of the geopolitical landscape within which these new nuclear powers are emerging would be a helpful anchor to new policies, although I am not sure it would substantially change the outcome of Lodal's plan.
A second criticism is that while The Price of Dominance is one of the most comprehensive of recent books in its policy prescriptions, even Lodal might not go far enough. In a recent article, Ivan Eland suggests that "The Best Defense is to Give No Offense," arguing that one way to avert the nuclear threat is to not to provoke other nations in the first place. Similarly, Paul Bracken's Fire In the East: The Rise of Asian Military Power and the Second Nuclear Age and Robert Chandler's The New Face of War: Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Revitalization of America's Transoceanic Military Strategy state that overseas bases present an Achilles' heel to our adversaries, and we should focus instead on developing a strictly American-based long-range force. There is also a large question mark surrounding our ability to exert forcible control over weapons of mass destruction in a crisis. This is a current mission for select members of our armed forces, but should it not be the primary mission given its importance? These kinds of peripheral, supporting issues deserve some treatment as we develop a comprehensive strategy.
Overall the book presents a good read and is essential to understanding where the nuclear question might be headed. One hopes the book will ignite a debate on the core question of comprehensiveness and the primacy of weapons of mass destruction in America's national security strategy.
Allies and Adversaries: The Joint Chiefs of Staff, The Grand Alliance, and U.S. Strategy in World War II. By Mark A. Stoler. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 2000. 333 pages. $37.50. Reviewed by Colonel Paul F. Braim, USA Ret.
This book is a prodigious work of research and analysis on US foreign and military policy, and on strategic planning for World War II. It is a gold mine of information on the national-level staff assessments, prejudices, suspicions, and agreements which undergirded America's commitments to war. The author shows that US military leaders came to dominate the national planning process, with the State Department on the periphery of influence in setting and conducting foreign policy. Stoler proves what many authors in this arena have earlier asserted: For much of the war, President Franklin Roosevelt kept his own counsel about US foreign policy and strategy; he often ignored or rejected the advice of the ad hoc Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) when it deviated from his "Europe First" policy. The author disproves the oft-stated opinion that the Joint Chiefs were unconcerned or naive about political goals and foreign policy.
Stoler's description of the gradual development of consensus among planners and decisionmakers is worthy of special note: Early in the war, planners of the military services held diverse opinions on the focus of US strategy; gradually the service representatives on the JCS achieved relative harmony in their conclusions and recommendations. American planners disagreed with British priorities throughout the war, believing that the British were as interested in preserving their empire as they were in victory. For most of the war, there was general agreement among Allied planners and decisionmakers that the Soviet Union's fight against the Germans was of critical importance to survival of the Alliance, and that a "Second Front" against the Axis partners had to be launched early, in order to assist the Russians in their struggle. President Roosevelt persisted in his determination to cooperate with the British until late in the war; the JCS were able to modify, in practice, Roosevelt's Europe-First strategy to permit the commitment of major human and material resources to the war against Japan. As Allied forces assumed the strategic offensive worldwide, President Roosevelt came to rely on the advice of members of the JCS, with whom he was in close association. The announced policy of "unconditional surrender" simplified planning but further reduced the role of the State Department in policymaking. Support for the Russians by the President and JCS slowly turned to suspicion of Russian motives, which colored US planning for victory and the postwar period. Wartime consensus was strained within and between American and British agencies as victory turned to Cold War. The effectiveness of planning agencies in managing the war led to their continuance in postwar organizations and relationships.
This scholarly book suffers from its very depth of presentation. It is heavy reading, as Stoler includes an assortment of comments and cabals from US staff planners, which are interesting in themselves but are often of minor consequence to final decisions on strategy. Further slowing the reading is the use of agency abbreviations written entirely in lower case; the author does include a table of definitions, wherein the abbreviations are in capital letters. Also, the lengthy title of the book is somewhat misleading, as there is little analysis of strategy and not much on the planning of the Allies.
This book will be of great interest to historians and others interested in US strategy for World War II. It provides new details on the decisionmaking that ultimately produced American and Allied victory.
Crucible of War: The Seven Years War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766. By Fred Anderson. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000. 862 pages. $40.00. Reviewed by Major Robert Bateman, Department of History, US Military Academy, West Point, New York.
If the true benefit that we gain from the reading of history is not the "lessons learned" but rather the wisdom of age, then Fred Anderson has handed us a windfall. Crucible of War is all about wisdom, and contains the echoes of empire on nearly every page. Hubris, arrogance, cultural disdain, and pseudo-professionalism were the hallmarks of the Seven Years War, known as the French and Indian War to the English colonists in North America, and Anderson brings all of this forward with wonderful clarity. This is a great work of synthetic history, bringing together a variety of mainly secondary sources, and weaving them into what should now be considered the basic work on the Seven Years War in the Americas. I recommend it strongly to all professionals with an interest in the strategic ebb and flow of war.
In 1984 Anderson published a small work, A People's Army, in which he described the nature of some of the conflicts between the British army, in particular its officer corps, and the colonial soldiers who volunteered for service in the Seven Years War in Massachusetts. The book was limited in scope but demonstrated both Anderson's command of the relevant primary sources and his ability to convey complex ideas simply. In Crucible of War he takes on a project entirely too large to use primary sources exclusively, but he has retained his skill in communicating convoluted concepts simply and with style.
Before Anderson's work, the literature on the Seven Years War focused either on the behavior of individuals (most commonly on Generals Montcalm and Wolfe) or on the military events of the war. Anderson moves beyond that, and at the same time places the American Revolution in a new context. Anderson accomplishes his first goal by taking in all the multifaceted social and cultural factors underlying the colonial prosecution of the war. He meets the second aim through the sheer weight of evidence he presents. In Crucible of War Anderson convincingly demonstrates that the period 1764-1775 should not be examined as the "Pre-Revolutionary Era" as is common today, but should be looked at as the contemporaries saw it, a postwar period of unsettled contention and continental upheaval.
Three recurring themes appear in Crucible of War: the arrogance of the regular officers of both the British and the French professional armies; the critical role of logistics and infrastructure; and the importance of culture. In his presentation of all three Anderson hits his mark, and at the same time manages to tell a compelling tale. This is not a dry work of analysis that one feels duty-bound to plow through, but a riveting series of intertwined stories that lead the reader from scene to scene. Some of these scenes depict events at the tactical level of war, some at the operational, and several at that poorly defined boundary between the strategic and the political levels. In all of them, however, Anderson manages to bring life to the historical actors, large and small.
If there is a weakness at all in this work it is in Anderson's almost exclusive Anglo-American focus and use of sources. Although the book is about events in North America, not in Europe, and the title relates to the weakening of the foundations of the British empire, many of the events resulted from decisions made in Paris as well as in London. Although Anderson provides insights into the machinations of the inner circles of Parliament and the King's Privy Council, the reader does not get a correspondingly detailed look into the strategic and political decision process in Paris. This neglect reaches into his sources as well, where almost no French accounts or secondary sources appear. Although this would normally be a heavy indictment of a work intended to be comprehensive, Anderson generally manages to overcome this limitation by the sheer weight of his bibliography.
Hubris and cultural incomprehension were the hallmarks of the "professional" soldiers sent from Europe by both sides in this war. Although the French generally deserve higher marks in this respect, especially in their relationships with native Americans, this relationship may have also proven to be the proximate cause of their eventual downfall. The interactions of military leaders from both sides with their respective colonists and the native American cultures demonstrate these flaws again and again. If wisdom is to be gleaned from this work, then Americans of the 21st century might look in a mirror and determine if the image reflected resembles that of a Lord Loudoun or the Marquis de Montcalm.
A European Security Architecture After the Cold War: Questions of Legitimacy. By Gulnur Aybet. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000. 316 pages. $69.95. Reviewed by Colonel Alan Cate, US Southern Command.
Oscar Wilde instructed us that all bad poetry is sincere. It's difficult to escape that dictum while plowing through this dreadfully earnest and highly recondite study by a Turkish academic examining the transformation of what she labels the "western security community" during the period 1990-1995. Gulnur Aybet seeks to explain the persistence and continued legitimacy of various institutions partly or wholly concerned with security--EC/EU, CSCE/OSCE, WEU, and NATO--in the post-Cold War environment, and to document what she calls a "western security culture." Given the heavy methodological artillery--various theories of international relations, law, and sociology--she employs upon her subject, the following summary is doubtless akin to describing Moby Dick as a book about whales.
Essentially, she argues that following the Cold War's end, the aforementioned institutions passed, in rapid order, through three stages. Aybet's tortured prose reveals that in the first two stages, member states devised the notion of "interlocking institutions," centered around the CSCE (redubbed the OSCE in 1995), with the new, expanded, common purpose of collective security replacing collective defense. In stage three, however, the outbreak of the "wars of Yugoslav succession" demonstrated the inadequacies of this construct. In fact, Aybet repeatedly attacks what she calls "the myth that these interlocking institutions could somehow radiate stability to regions where it is scarce." One needn't be a global meliorist to contest her charge. The truth is that Europe's "security architecture," including the United States to be sure, has indeed brought a modicum of security and stability to the Balkans in the short run. And as John Maynard Keynes reminded us, in the long run, we're all dead anyway. Aybet holds that the ultimate UN-NATO interventions revealed "a new kind of legitimacy based upon NATO and collective defense"--although rather than being new, one might suggest that, if true, this constitutes sort of a "back to the future" situation. Not to give too much away and spoil the ending, but her conclusion is that "the western security community has indeed acquired legitimacy in terms of a Gramscian hegemony" wherein intervention in the name of western values becomes an accepted cultural practice.
It's a safe bet that this sort of profound analysis causes considerable learned chin-stroking and head-nodding in faculty common rooms at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, where Aybet penned this tome, and Ankara's Bilkent University, where she teaches, but for the rest of us it's all a bit cryptic. From this reviewer's perspective, a rule of thumb is that anytime an author threatens to introduce into her work certain names--among them, Derrida, Foucault, in this instance the abstruse Italian political theorist Antonio Gramsci--readers are best advised just to walk away.
This is not to deny that interesting theoretical questions surround the topic of European security: Why have traditional alliances persisted despite the disappearance of a real threat? Will diffuse notions of risk or instability acceptably substitute for a visible, menacing enemy? Can liberal ideas of democracy and free markets take root in eastern and southern Europe, and if they do, can they ensure respect for human rights and peace? Nor is this to suggest that institutional architecture is unworthy of study. Institutions--particularly in Europe--facilitate cooperation by furnishing procedures, providing information, and linking issues. It even seems likely that institutions can indeed create new cultures and norms as well as regulations; the burgeoning political and social, and perhaps now a foreign and security, construction of Europe, based upon some initially modest economic agreements supplies a good example. Unfortunately, Aybet's jargon-laden exercise avoids or obscures these issues while committing the worst features of much political science writing. She makes the obvious excruciatingly complicated, while simultaneously (a really neat trick) reducing the truly complex to an absurd simplicity. She combines this with an annoying, Henry James-like archness in which every other word seemingly appears in quotation marks--"regime," "culture," "state," "illegitimacy," "security," "institutions"--and nagging little factual errors, such as identifying former US Defense Secretary James Schlesinger as Secretary of State and her bewildering assertion that the French forces committed to Desert Storm--whose ground elements, for instance, acted under the tactical control of the XVIII Airborne Corps--operated independently of the Americans.
While failing as a theoretical study, the book also omits the kind of practical concerns that currently interest diplomats and military officers, such as the future of NATO, including questions of enlargement and out-of-area operations; ESDI; and the military capabilities gap between the United States and its allies. In sum, this is a volume that seems unlikely to appeal or satisfy beyond a very narrow audience.
Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace. By Robert A. Divine. College Station: Texas A&M Univ. Press, 2000. 128 pages. $14.95. Reviewed by Denis Kaufman, a senior intelligence analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency Armed Forces Medical Intelligence Center, Ft. Detrick, Maryland.
Robert Divine is a professor of history at the University of Texas, Austin. In 1998 he initiated a series of lectures addressing America's involvement in 20th-century wars. The lectures centered on three themes: entering wars, fighting wars, and ending wars. This book, organized in three corresponding chapters, is a compilation of those lectures, with an epilogue added to address the Kosovo adventure.
At the end of Chapter 1, Divine puts his finger on the signal peculiarity of America's encounter with the world--American exceptionalism:
A belief that the United States is exceptional--that it embodies virtues not found in other societies--finds expression in the concept of an American mission. It is America's role in the world to spread its values, such as respect for the individual and the right of self government, for the benefit of all mankind. When Americans take up arms, it must be on behalf of these noble ideals.
This is an important theme in America's encounter with the world, a theme Divine describes succinctly and well. He might have made the entire argument of Chapter 1 clearer had he started with it.
Rather, Divine opens his discussion with an assertion that Americans, particularly in the 19th century, "draw a line in the sand" as an excuse or ploy to justify the use of arms. He uses the Mexican War as his "best example" of this tendency. In 1846, President Polk wanted a war with Mexico. He sent troops into the contested region between the Rio Grande and Nueces rivers and waited for the Mexicans to respond. When they did, he asked Congress to declare war. It is, indeed, a classic example, but it may also be the only good clear example. Throughout the remainder of the chapter, Divine describes America drawing a line in the sand, even as he acknowledges that the model gets creakier and creakier.
Chapters 2 and 3 are far more challenging and stimulating. In Chapter 2, "Fighting Wars," Divine elaborates on the theme of exceptionalism and its importance to our way of war:
Seeking moral justification for resorting to arms, Americans feel war must serve higher purposes than narrow national self-interest. By insisting on a moral purpose, by transforming conflicts into crusades, they tend to let their emotion dictate their actions. Instead of fighting for limited, tangible, achievable goals, Americans strive for lofty, often unattainable objectives.
Because we define our conflicts as crusades, the things we crusade against must therefore be evil and must be rooted out. Hence, unconditional surrender in World War II. Hence, frustration and confusion over the ambiguities of our endgames in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq.
How we end wars is the subject of Chapter 3. Here Divine uses as an example the dispute between Winston Churchill and the American leadership over allowing the Soviet Union free run of eastern Europe. Churchill wanted to exclude the Soviets from eastern Europe as much as possible, pushing for an attack north from the Adriatic, and later for a concentrated thrust at Berlin from the west as means to block Soviet advances. General Marshall argued to Roosevelt, successfully, that such political considerations should not influence operational planning and execution.
To Churchill, war was a natural state, a continuation of politics. Therefore political decisions taken in wartime would affect political realities of the peace that followed. To Marshall and Roosevelt, war was an aberration to be dealt with so we could get back to the peace that was so rudely interrupted. Of course the result was 45 years of Soviet enslavement of Central Europe and 45 years of superpower confrontation.
Similarly, in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf, American governments rallied the nation to causes of containing communism and aggression and came to grief when, in the end, they were willing to settle for accommodations with the very forces they had condemned.
Divine doesn't denigrate America's efforts in these wars; he acknowledges the necessity of defeating Nazi Germany and resisting the Soviet threat. He does aptly illustrate a continuum--starting with exceptionalism, leading through wartime rhetoric of condemnation and demonization, directed toward unattainable goals--and asks why we should ever be surprised that peace is so elusive. And so we perpetually wage war seeking perpetual peace.
The weakness of Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace is more in its construction than its content. I didn't like the book at first and had to read it more than once to appreciate the value of Professor Divine's opinions. Dealing with the three themes separately may have worked in a lecture hall, when the students are relating the lecture to other materials recently read and can pursue arguments with questions and discussion. In a book--particularly a rather small book such as this--separating the themes dilutes the discussion and arguments and makes them harder to follow. Fortunately, because it is a rather quick read, spending the time it takes to appreciate it, even if that requires reading it more than once, is well worth the investment.
Minuteman: The Military Career of General Robert S. Beightler. By John Kennedy Ohl. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 2001. 291 pages. $59.95. Reviewed by Colonel Richard J. McCallum, ARNG, who served until recently as the Director of Outreach, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College.
Are you ready for the military history trivia question of the month? Who was Robert Sprague Beightler? You are correct if you answered a young man from Ohio who joined the Army National Guard in 1911, rose from the rank of private to Major General, fought in both world wars, was awarded the Silver Star for valor and the Distinguished Service Cross, and secured his place in history while commander of the Army's Luzon Area by accepting the surrender of General Yamashita, the commander of Japanese forces in the Philippines. But you will miss the rest and best of the story if you do not go beyond these basic facts and explore the wonderful historical panorama in this new book.
If you enjoy reading World War II annals through the lens of a biography, you truly will have a good time with Minuteman. The author, John Kennedy Ohl, examines the events of war through the eyes of a national guardsman who walks upon the world stage and serves as one of General MacArthur's trusted and enduring field commanders. Readers of this book, however, will encounter much more than a snapshot of a successful division commander serving in the Pacific theater of war.
As a young soldier, Beightler quickly experienced federal active duty. In the early summer of 1916, President Wilson incrementally activated the National Guard in response to the border tensions caused by Pershing's expedition against the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. With war clouds brewing, Beightler mobilized at Camp Willis, Ohio, and performed border duty in Texas. Less than a year later, after the United States entered World War I, a newly promoted First Lieutenant Beightler was again mobilized. This time he was part of the 400,000 guardsmen who served in Pershing's American Expeditionary Forces. In the trenches of France, Beightler adeptly demonstrated his combat mettle as a member of the 42d "Rainbow" Division.
In the years between the world wars, Beightler's civilian and military careers matured and prospered. Typically, he succeeded in handling the tensions and simultaneous demands of balancing the responsibilities of his family, his career as a civil engineer, and his military duties as a commissioned officer in the Ohio National Guard.
On the morning of 19 October 1940, and having reached the rank of Major General, Beightler boarded a train and left Columbus, Ohio, for Camp Shelby, Mississippi. As the new commander of the Army's heralded 37th Infantry Division, he immediately launched the prescribed McNair training program while also serving as the camp's commander.
From mobilization through his unit's December 1945 deactivation, General Beightler accumulated five-plus years of active duty as a division commander. This combat tenure was certainly exceptional among the select 197 men who commanded the 89 Army divisions fielded during the war. His service, moreover, was unique when compared to other National Guard commanders. Among the 18 National Guard divisions and 28 separate National Guard regiments incrementally federalized between September 1940 and October 1941, Beightler was the only division commander permitted to stay with his unit during the entire war.
World War II is the primary backdrop for this chronicle. The author's revealing battlefield narratives, anecdotes, and supporting maps will intellectually enrich students of warfighting. As Ohl suggests, General Beightler was one of many Army generals in the Pacific who have been relatively overlooked because of history's focus on the overpowering fame of Douglas MacArthur.
There is, moreover, another undercurrent in this text that will appeal to senior civilian and military leaders seeking to improve the integration of active and reserve policies and procedures. Ohl provides penetrating insights into past acrimony between the regular Army and the National Guard. From the 1918 race into Sedan, France, through the 1945 Luzon campaign, incidents such as MacArthur's great Manila Derby are examined. While the story is told through the eyes of General Beightler, the author conveys a much broader fabric of relevant facts and challenges each reader to assess this evidence in order to better understand the roots of long-established organizational tension.
Finally, Dr. Ohl's book is a delight for the reader who peruses endnotes, bibliographies, and archive notes. It is a terrific masterpiece of detailed research. Ohl used a variety of published and unpublished primary sources to substantiate his presentation of facts.
Minuteman clearly makes a valuable contribution to historical literature. Its subject matter, without question, will garner broad reader appeal within the defense intellectual community.
Reviewed 20 November 2001. Please send comments or corrections to email@example.com