From Parameters, Autumn 1999, pp. 151-66.
To End a War. By Richard Holbrooke. New York: Random House, 1998. 408 pages. $27.95. Reviewed by Jeffrey Record, former professional staff member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and author of Hollow Victory: A Contrary View of the Gulf War; The Wrong War: Why We Lost in Vietnam; and Serbia and Vietnam: A Preliminary Comparison of U.S. Decisions to Use Force.
Richard Holbrooke's To End a War is a well-told diplomatic drama as riveting as any Hollywood screenwriter could conjure up. It is also a devastating indictment of the Vietnam syndrome's continuing infection of the Pentagon. In the Balkan trouble-shooter's herculean and ultimately successful efforts to bring peace to the savage war in Bosnia, Holbrooke encountered almost as much foot-dragging from the US military as he did from Slobodan Milosevic and the Bosnian Serbs.
Certainly the Army saw in Bosnia, as it did later in Kosovo, a Balkan Vietnam lying in wait. Still enjoying the afterglow of the Gulf War and preaching the use-of-force gospels according to Caspar Weinberger and Colin Powell, the Army wanted no part of any military solution to Serbia's bid for empire in the former Yugoslavia. But of course there was no instructive comparison between Indochina in the 1960s and Bosnia 30 years later. Indeed, as Holbrooke, who began his diplomatic career in 1962 as a young foreign service officer in Vietnam, pointedly notes, the comparison "was dangerously misleading: Bosnia was different and so were our objectives. While we had to learn from Vietnam, we could not be imprisoned by it. Bosnia was not Vietnam, the Bosnian Serbs were not the Vietcong, and Belgrade was not Hanoi." Among other things, the Bosnian Serbs were "poorly trained bullies and criminals" who "would not stand up to NATO air strikes the way the seasoned and indoctrinated Vietcong and North Vietnamese had."
Bitter civil-military disagreement over what to do about Bosnia and how to do it--specifically, whether to use force and in what manner--was rooted in the acrid quarrels over the use of force in Vietnam between the uniformed military and its twin nemeses, the Johnson White House and McNamara's Office of the Secretary of Defense. It is a disagreement that continues. The Pentagon was decidedly unenthusiastic about what many in the building termed "Madeleine's War" in Kosovo, and had little confidence--rightly as it turned out--that bombing alone could protect the Albanian Kosovars from Serbian ethnic cleansing. Holbrooke correctly identifies the nub of the dispute as the "classic dilemma in political-military relations, one we faced but never solved in Vietnam: the relationship between the use of force and diplomacy."
The Weinberger-Powell prescriptions, including the injunction that force be used only as a last resort, essentially withhold force altogether until diplomacy fails, thus denying credibly threatened uses of force as a means of making diplomacy work. This proved disastrous in dealing with the Serbs. "The refusal of the Bush Administration to commit American power early was our greatest mistake of the entire Yugoslav crisis," argues former US Ambassador to Belgrade Warren Zimmermann. "It made an unjust outcome inevitable and wasted the opportunity to save over a hundred thousand lives." (Would Weinberger and Powell have supported Neville Chamberlain at Munich in 1938? Great Britain had no vital interests in Czechoslovakia; there was strong public and parliamentary opposition to war with Germany over the fate of ethnic Germans in Czechoslovakia; and the British were in any event in no position to put significant force, much less overwhelming force, in Hitler's path.)
Holbrooke can--and does--take great credit for forging the 1995 Dayton Agreement, which stopped the fighting in Bosnia. But the agreement effectively partitioned Bosnia along ethnic lines that pretty much incorporated the success of both Croatian as well as Bosnian Serb ethnic cleansing. Bosnia today is a multi-ethnic state in name only. Yet those, including Holbrooke, who opposed partition could never explain why political self-determination was acceptable for the former Yugoslavia's constituent republics but not for persecuted ethnic minorities within those republics.
Indeed, in the case of Kosovo, NATO absurdly went to war on behalf of a people being ethnically cleansed but somehow unworthy of being granted the right of full political freedom. (This was a NATO, mind you, led by a United States that had self-declared its own independence and subsequently promoted self-determination for all oppressed peoples. Such is the continuing foreign policy curse of Woodrow Wilson.) Holbrooke, whose book was published months before the Kosovo crisis exploded into war in March 1999, rightly notes that by ending the war in Bosnia, "we had prevented Kosovo and Bosnia from becoming a single theater of war," but he concedes that the "long-feared crisis in Kosovo was postponed, not avoided." Why in fact wasn't the issue of restoring Kosovo's political autonomy addressed at Dayton, as many Albanians expected it to be? After all, Bosnia was Milosevic's third lost war on behalf of a Greater Serbia, and Kosovo was the obvious fourth.
To End a War should be required reading at all of the services' war colleges as well as for students of civil-military relations and the broader subject of American statecraft in the post-Cold War world. Would that all of our diplomats were as insightful, articulate, and forceful as Richard Holbrooke, whose nomination as America's Ambassador to the United Nations has been held up for months by a handful of prerogative-abusing senators congenitally incapable of placing country above party.
Imperial Decline: Russia's Changing Role in Asia. Edited by Stephen J. Blank and Alvin Z. Rubinstein. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1997. 296 pp. $16.95. Reviewed by Lieutenant General William E. Odom, USA Ret., Director of National Security Studies at the Hudson Institute.
Russia's role in Europe receives great attention in the West, but its role in Asia is largely ignored. So, too, Western leaders accord Russia greater influence in Europe than its power justifies while virtually excluding it from the Far East. How is one to explain this paradoxical treatment? Two reasons come to mind. First, the multilateral character of NATO forces us to think of Europe as a strategic whole. US bilateral security ties to Japan and South Korea discourage us from thinking about Northeast Asia as a strategic region. Second, compared to Europe, our ignorance of Northeast Asia's geography and history makes the area easy to neglect. The essays in this volume, therefore, are important both for their quality and because there is so little literature treating the region as a strategic whole.
The book's truly big news is that "Russia's Changing Role in Asia" has been precipitous. As Alvin Rubinstein observes, "The demise of the Soviet Union transformed Russia's strategic environment in Northeast Asia to one markedly different from that known to any previous Russian leader during the past three centuries." Today, Russia is a mere shadow of the regional power it was a decade earlier. Not only Russia, but also China, Japan, the two Koreas, and the United States must adapt to this new reality. Accordingly, the book's nine contributing authors examine how Russia is adjusting to it--although some of them express occasional opinions on how US policy should be changed.
The structure of the book is sensible. Two opening chapters survey the public record of Russian thinking about policymaking toward Asia as a whole and toward Central Asia in particular. Subsequent chapters deal with Russia's view of China, Japan, the two Koreas, and the United States (in the Asian context). The editors achieve a degree of focus and coherence unusual for a collection of essays, but they also allow some unevenness in quality and overlap in coverage. Their own chapters, however, set a high standard, and their concluding chapter provides a first-rate synthesis of the book's many themes. Let me comment critically on a few of them in a way that I hope will provoke readers to look at the book themselves.
First, every chapter incessantly tells us that Russia no longer counts as a power in Asia. This is indeed true, and it deserves repetition because the full extent of Russia's declining influence is difficult to grasp. Consider just four of its dimensions. Military power was the Soviet Union's only real card in the Asian game, but perestroika required that it be abandoned, which Gorbachev did. That frightened North Korean leaders, who depended on Soviet power and economic largess, portended early reunification of the peninsula in the minds of South Korean leaders, kindled Japanese hopes for regaining the lost Northern Territories, and relieved China of its dependency on the United States to help contain Soviet "hegemonism" in Asia. Second, political infighting between "Westernizers" and "Eurasianists" in Russia since 1992 has prevented Moscow from developing and executing a coherent strategy in Asia. Every country in the region, including the United States, exploits this weakness, walling out Russia except when it fits their perceived interests. Third, Russian military industrialists sell the Chinese virtually any weaponry and military technology they seek while some Moscow officials know this imperils Russian security. Yet they cannot prevent it. The consequence, as Stephen Blank warns, is that Russia's China policy is mortgaged to these military industrialists, or "privatized" in their hands, as a Russian analyst describes it. Finally, Russia has sought to turn Japan into a diplomatic and trading partner but has failed because it is hamstrung by domestic opposition to concessions on the Northern Territories and because it lacks adequate market reform to trade effectively with Asia's most advanced economy. Indeed, Russia's marginalization is manifold.
Second, as the chapters by Oles Smolansky, Bruce Elleman, and Blank emphasize, some Russian leaders remain convinced that a Russo-Chinese alliance against the West is both possible and in Russia's interest. It may be possible, the contributors generally agree, but it is not in Russia's interest. Nor can it be sustained if Russia is unwilling to be the vastly weaker partner. Even then, all the alliance could achieve would be Russia's isolation from the West. Moreover, persisting border disputes, conflicting interests in Central Asia and Mongolia, and the growing vulnerability of the Russian Far East to Chinese economic influence and immigration ensure that such an alliance would be unstable and probably short-lived.
Third, Blank sees a sophisticated Chinese strategy in Central Asia, designed to evade confrontation with Russia, to block the spread of radical Islam into western China, and to exert superior influence through economic relations. By contrast, Russia blatantly seeks but fails to impose reintegration of the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. This is a convincing assessment, although it may attribute more sophistication to Beijing than it deserves. Blank is a bit off the mark, however, when he reasons that Russia is serving Uzbek interests by its military involvement in Tajikistan. Perhaps, but Uzbek officials see it as a gambit to exploit their own large Tajik minority as Russian leverage over the Uzbek regime.
Fourth, is the old triangular Russia-China-United States relationship still of major strategic importance? The one Russian contributor, Henry Trofimenko, asserts that it is. Harry Gelman, a retired analyst from the RAND Corporation, seems to agree. In light of most other analysis in this book, however, one has to doubt it. At the same time, some Russian leaders persist in believing that it is. And close observers of Chinese foreign policy see a similar illusion in Beijing. Both of these groups attribute far more power to Russia than it has. Russia today is simply too weak to hold up its end of the strategic triangle.
Fifth, advice for US policy is sprinkled lightly throughout the book, almost too lightly to attract attention, but when it does the messages are puzzling. Consider these examples: "The United States should not draw `a line in the sand' against Russia's influence in Central Asia because it might hurt Russian nascent democracy." (Is not the contrary true? Only Russia's imperialists want to reassert influence in Central Asia, not Russian liberals.) In the very heart of Asia, "the United States . . . will need to act as Mongolia's primary protector." (But at what cost? Is the payoff all that great?) As for Japan, "The existing US-Japanese security treaty, a product of the Cold War, requires a new rationale." (Why? One of its original rationales was making Japanese businessmen welcome in the rest of Asia and thereby facilitating East Asian economic prosperity, a role it still must play. Another was balancing China, a challenge that is hardly over.) "US policy toward Russia in Northeast Asia is one of `indifferent neglect.'" (The implication is, of course, that Washington should not neglect Russia there. This is good advice. A weak Russia might help the United States, especially in dealing with North Korea and eventually China.) "For the United States, the most dangerous contingency . . . would be Russia's movement . . . to restore the close Moscow-Beijing relationship of the 1950s." (True, but the prospect is too remote to deserve serious attention.) In the overall context of a lot of excellent analysis, however, these sometimes questionable and sometimes incompatible bits of policy advice are mere trivial detractions.
Finally, a great value of the book is the many questions it provokes but necessarily leaves unanswered. Looking at Northeast Asia through Russian eyes prompts the reader to wonder how the region looks through Japanese, Chinese, and Korean eyes. Obviously, partial answers are implicit in the authors' treatment of the Russian view, but the crying need becomes apparent for additional volumes like this one from the vantage points of Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul, and Pyongyang.
This book is essential reading for anyone concerned with US strategy in Asia.
1. The paucity of such treatment is surprising. Robert Dujarric, Korea: Security Pivot (Indianapolis: Hudson Institute, 1998), is the only other recent book of this type that comes to mind. Gilbert Rozman of Princeton University also takes a regional view of Northeast Asia, and his recent articles on the region are excellent. See his "Backdoor Japan: The Search for a Way Out Via Regionalism and Decentralization," Journal of Japanese Studies, 25 (No. 1, 1999), 3-31; "Flawed Regionalism: Reconceptualizing Northeast Asia in the 1990s," The Pacific Review, 11 (No. 1, 1998), 1-27; "Sino-Soviet Relations in the 1990s: A Balance Sheet," Post-Soviet Affairs, 14 (No. 2, 1998), 93-113; and "China's Quest for Great Power Identity," Orbis, 43 (Summer 1999), 383-404.
2. Rozman, "China's Quest for Great Power Identity," is especially interesting on this point; both Moscow and Beijing are irritated that neither will nor can play the old Cold War triangular game effectively any longer. The new realities of international economic power undercut their common paradigm of traditional balance-of-power politics.
Preventive Defense: A New Security Strategy for America. By Ashton B. Carter and William J. Perry. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 1999. 243 pages. $24.95. Reviewed by Colonel Joseph R. Cerami, Chairman, Department of National Security and Strategy, US Army War College.
William J. Perry, as Secretary of Defense, and Ashton B. Carter, as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy, guided the Department of Defense from 1993 through 1997. In Preventive Defense they tell the story of their firsthand experiences in searching for new strategic concepts to guide US defense policy and programs during the first Clinton Administration--a time of great turbulence in the global strategic environment some have compared to the 1945-1950 period. Since the early 1990s, strategists have often referred back to the post-World War II period to gain insights into how to deal with the uncertainties of the post-Cold War era. For many, the strategy of containment as written in NSC 68, the first national security strategy, has become a benchmark. The subtitle of the book promises that this concept represents a "new national security strategy for America." The claim that Ashton and Perry's book provides the structure for a new security strategy, equivalent to the standard set by NSC 68, is only partly true.
The book introduces a model of emerging dangers, or what the authors call the A, B, and C lists of threats. The A-list includes survival threats (vital interests at stake), the B-list includes regional threats (important interests), and the C-list includes contingencies, such as the "Kosovos, Bosnias, Somalias, Rwandas, and Haitis" (peripheral or humanitarian interests). The authors treat the subject of preventive defense mainly in the context of A-list threats. The book's first five chapters focus on each of the key danger areas that Carter and Perry wrestled with during their tenure. These include preventing the emergence of a Weimar Russia, controlling loose nukes, engaging China, countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, stopping catastrophic terrorism, and maintaining a strong US military. These chapters recount their efforts and offer suggestions for seizing the "unprecedented opportunity to base American and international security in the 21st century on our ability to keep trouble from starting."
The development of the concept of preventive defense can be traced to a Perry speech in January 1996 titled, "Ten Things I Never Imagined Doing Five Years Ago." Number 10 is worth recounting: "I never imagined that I would cut off the ear of a pig in Kazakhstan or listen to an Uzbeki colonel sing a Frank Sinatra song or eat rendered Manchurian toad fat in China." The message to his audience is that there were significant changes in how the Department of Defense was protecting American national security interests in the post-Cold War era. The other nine items included progress on democratization and disarmament, and expanded military-to-military contacts--especially with Russia and Eastern Europe.
Perry gave his most important speech on preventive defense on 13 May 1996 at Harvard University. In "Fulfilling the Role of Preventive Defense," he held out the example of former Secretary of State George C. Marshall's 1947 plan for Europe's economic, political, and security recovery. Implied was that what the Marshall Plan did for Europe, America would now do for the rest of the world. Preventive defense would be one of three core concepts--prevent, deter, defeat--for guiding national security strategy. Thus a strong military would still be required to deter and, when necessary, defeat its opponents. Perry continued the argument for a strategy of prevent-deter-defeat, in cooperation with friends and allies, in a Foreign Affairs article in November-December 1996, "Defense in an Age of Hope." A 26 May 1996 speech, "Preventive Defense in the Asia-Pacific Region," extended the concept to that part of the world and included four pillars--strong alliances, regional confidence-building measures, comprehensive engagement with China, and counterproliferation. But for some reason the notion of preventive defense as but one of the three core concepts for national security strategy, alongside deter and defeat, is downplayed in this book. Instead, Carter and Perry elevate preventive defense, commending it as the "most important mission of today's national security leaders and defense establishment." Conflict prevention is important, but not a complete strategic concept for guiding a great power's national security strategy.
Throughout the tenure of the Clinton Administration, defense intellectuals and critics of the Administration have complained early and often about the lack of a national security strategy or structure to update the Cold War containment paradigm. Zbigniew Brzezinski, for instance, criticizes the US government for its failure to develop a high-level organization prepared to engage in long-term strategic planning. James Schlesinger argues that the Clinton Administration consciously refused to develop an overarching strategic concept, relying instead on a lawyerly case-by-case approach. Eliot Cohen wrote a critique, titled "Calling Mr. X," outlining the need for a new George Kennan to provide the blueprint for an updated, overarching national security strategy.
In examining the evolution of the concept of preventive defense, Perry and Carter identify the pieces required for a coherent and overarching national security strategy. Recent events in Kosovo and North Korea, as well as continuing difficulties in sustaining positive relations with Russia and China, should remind strategists that preventing conflict is a worthy goal but won't suffice by itself. While their framework is probably clearer in hindsight than it was at the time of execution, it is fair to say that they were on to something in 1996. If only Perry and Carter had been able to continue to work on a national security strategy and all of its core elements for defense policy and programs--including fighting wars as well as deterring and preventing conflict--they just might have won the Kennan sweepstakes and become the architects of the post-Cold War national security strategy paradigm. Readers of Preventive Defense will find there all the bricks needed to continue construction.
Perry and Carter have written an important book that should be read by policymakers and students of national security strategy. It is especially important for military officers and those outside the Washington beltway for its insights into how strategic concepts are formulated and how high-ranking civilian defense officials construct defense policies and programs. Remarkably, the book is free of any discussion of the President or the "politics" of defense or foreign policy and decisionmaking. In the case of Preventive Defense it is fair to say that half a book is better than none. One hopes that Perry and Carter's ongoing work on the Stanford-Harvard Preventive Defense Project will allow them the time to complete the second half of their story--on decisionmaking during the Clinton's first term--as well as to develop a more complete foundation for a new national security strategy for the 21st century.
The Stuff of Heroes: The Eight Universal Laws of Leadership. By William A. Cohen. Marietta, Ga.: Longstreet, 1998. $24.00. Reviewed by Dr. John H. Woodyard (Lieutenant Colonel, USA Ret.), a consulting psychologist to corporate management on personnel for 18 years and author of a book tentatively titled The Insightful Manager.
Professor Cohen deserves the Bronze Star with V. He boldly goes, not where no man has gone before, but where all of you have been before--once more into the breach of leadership inquiry. Using massive research and many interviews, he has distilled eight universal laws of leadership. They are: Maintain Absolute Integrity, Know Your Stuff, Declare Your Expectations, Show Uncommon Commitment, Expect Positive Results, Take Care of Your People, Put Duty Before Self, and Get Out in Front. Field Manual 22-100, Army Leadership (July 1990), lists 11 principles of leadership, six of which Professor Cohen adopts. His other two principles are discussed in the FM under the Four Elements of Professional Army Ethics.
A chapter is devoted to each law and its implementation. Each chapter is overloaded with examples purporting to support the validity of the law of leadership addressed. In the chapter titled "Show Uncommon Commitment," he cites 19 supporting examples using the actions of Gideon, Napoleon, Grant, and Ray Kroc (of McDonald's fame) to name a few. Though the examples are interesting, they become so repetitious that this reviewer began to skim and then to skip many altogether. For the military reader the anecdotes reinforce the obvious. You may find them interesting, but if you find them enlightening, I would ask, "Where have you been for 20 years?"
Professor Cohen's chapter titled "Maintain Absolute Integrity" fails to address adequately the gray areas where your only choice is between two evils. He also fails to present a pragmatic argument for integrity. In order to make good decisions, a commander or a business manager must have good data. Therefore his people should be truthful. Even an immoral manager may demand the truth, not because it is the right thing to do, but because it is the profitable thing to do. To his credit, Professor Cohen is no moral absolutist. He recognizes the utility of occasional white lies. His chapter "Declare Your Expectations" does not go far enough. Obviously it is critical to delineate goals, but establishing clear, high standards of performance to accomplish the goals is easy. Enforcing high standards for many is not.
Oddly enough the author neither defines leadership nor relates it to management--a critical relationship. Management is exercising influence over people, processes, and things to accomplish the goal. Leadership is exercising influence over people to accomplish the goal. He also ignores a pet peeve of this reviewer: that good leadership alone cannot ensure success. Leadership is not magic. Nor is a "can do" attitude by itself. Business managers and commanders must provide subordinates the assets with which to accomplish the mission. To declare loftily to some new company commander that he can succeed if he is a good leader even though he has only one other lieutenant and is desperately short of NCOs is folly. Commanders in such cases cannot be blind to reality and absolve themselves of culpability. Even good leaders will fail if they are not given the assets to do the job.
The Principles of Leadership were first established at the Command and General Staff College in 1948. It is interesting and reassuring that 51 years later Cohen's more formal reexamination of leadership provides little that is new. But it may be time to reorganize and consolidate. This reviewer agrees with Professor Cohen that the injunction "Maintain Absolute Integrity" should be a principle of leadership as well as a cornerstone of professional ethics. It is to be hoped that the forthcoming version of FM 22-100 will simplify the present confusing aggregation of categories associated with leadership--Eleven Principles of Leadership, Four Elements of Professional Army Ethics, Nine Leadership Competencies, and values. Once one eliminates the baggage of the supporting anecdotes, The Stuff of Heroes is far easier to understand than the current rendition of FM 22-100.
This book is a worthwhile read, but of little value to the military reader (I hope). Business managers are bombarded with an incredibly confusing array of books, pamphlets, and in-house publications espousing the most trendy leadership thoughts of the day. For them The Stuff of Heroes ought to be required reading because it focuses on the timeless, not the ephemeral.
Agent of Destiny: The Life and Times of General Winfield Scott. By John S. D. Eisenhower. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999. 496 pages. $17.95. Reviewed by Colonel Len Fullenkamp, USA Ret., coeditor of Guide to the Vicksburg Campaign and Guide to the Battle of Shiloh in the US Army War College Guides to Civil War Battles series.
Surprisingly few students of military history know much about Winfield Scott. Those with an interest in the American Civil War may recall that Scott was general-in-chief of the Union Army on the eve of the war and is most often remembered as the architect of the "Anaconda Plan," a cumbersome scheme to defeat the South in a deliberate campaign. Both the plan and Scott were soon discarded by Abraham Lincoln, who sought a younger, more energetic general to lead the war effort against the South. Scott retreated to West Point, New York, where he lived in relative obscurity until his death in 1866, his reputation overshadowed by the accomplishments of the central figures in the Civil War, Grant, Lee, and Sherman.
For Scott the Civil War was a postscript to what must be considered one of the most remarkable military careers in the history of the nation. Born in 1786 and appointed to the Army by Thomas Jefferson in 1808, Scott became a general officer and national hero in the War of 1812. He served as a general officer under 13 Presidents over the next 40 years. He was, along with Zachary Taylor, one of the two principal field commanders in the War with Mexico. His poor relationship with President Polk denied him the recognition and honors his service in war warranted. Unlike Taylor, he was unable to convert his success on the battlefield into a victory in a presidential campaign. As the Whig nominee for President in 1852, he was overwhelmingly defeated by Franklin Pierce.
Scott's larger-than-life stature--he stood six feet, five inches tall--perfectly suited his accomplishments in life. In the title to this biography, author John Eisenhower refers to the general as the agent of destiny, and indeed he was. In 1814 against the British, Scott's heroic efforts at Lundy's Lane, where he was badly wounded, made him an international hero. By 1841 he was commanding general of the Army, a position he was to hold for the next 20 years, during which time the nation pushed its boundaries westward. Scott supervised the exploration of the west, the war against Mexico, and the settlement of California. A Virginian by birth, he proved to be a credible moderator in the boiling factional disputes between northerners and southerners in the decades before the Civil War. The same could be said of his role in defusing border disputes with Canada.
With all of these accomplishments to his credit, why has Scott been so little recognized in biography and history? Perhaps the explanation is to be found in his most prominent nickname, "Old Fuss and Feathers." Scott had a penchant for gaudy uniforms and pretentious mannerisms. Worse still, he had a prickly personality that led him to bicker or feud with nearly everyone with whom he worked. Included in those numbers were Presidents and cabinet members, prominent politicians, newspaper editors, capitalists, and the like. President Polk sought to have him brought up on charges for mismanagement of funds during the Mexican War, a scurrilous charge to be sure and probably an outgrowth of Polk's enmity toward Scott stemming from their dispute over the proper direction of the war. During the Pierce Administration, Scott, as commanding general of the Army, became so embroiled in a bitter dispute with Secretary of War Jefferson Davis over mundane matters that he physically removed the headquarters of the Army from Washington to New York to get away from what he considered meddling in his affairs.
When the Civil War came, Scott was an old man, his days of glory only a distant memory. Lincoln sought and then rejected his advice on military strategy as being inappropriate to the task at hand. Not so gently pushed into retirement, Scott soon was forgotten as the great generals of the Civil War emerged. Yet history proved Scott's genius for war. In the end, the final strategy adopted by the Union strongly resembled what Scott had recommended in 1861 as the much-derided Anaconda Plan. In 1865, the victorious General Grant traveled to West Point to pay his respects to General Scott. Scott presented Grant with a copy of his just-published memoirs inscribed, "To America's greatest general from America's oldest general," suggesting that Old Fuss and Feathers' ego wasn't as large as his critics would have us believe and that Scott could pay homage to true greatness when he saw it.
John Eisenhower, an accomplished military historian, has given us a much-needed reappraisal of Scott's life. This biography restores Winfield Scott to his rightful place among the pantheon of America's greatest military leaders.
Civil War Generals in Defeat. Edited by Stephen E. Woodworth. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1999. 240 pages. $29.95. Reviewed by Dr. J. Boone Bartholomees, Jr. (Colonel, USA Ret.), Professor of Military History, US Army War College, and author of Buff Facings and Gilt Buttons: Staff and Headquarters Operations in the Army of Northern Virginia, 1861-1865.
This collection of seven essays examines why Civil War generals with good qualifications and high prewar reputations failed to achieve battlefield victories. Besides editing the collection, Stephen Woodworth offers the lead essay on a general who was the archetype of the well-qualified, high-reputation failure--Albert Sidney Johnston. Woodworth acknowledges both the difficulty of the problem Johnston faced and the inadequate resources he commanded, but finally decides it was Johnston's command style that produced defeat. Sidney Johnston was old army and did not learn quickly enough that the old conditions no longer applied. Thus, he expected subordinates to obey orders and failed to follow up or personally supervise implementation--an example being the failure to fortify the bank opposite Fort Henry during the action of February 1862 when the fort fell to Ulysses Grant's superior numbers. Additionally, Johnston overtrusted subordinates (first Polk and then Beauregard) and suffered from their inadequacies.
Alan Downs looks at the other Johnston--Joseph E. Johnston. Downs explains Johnston's strategic reasoning during his Virginia campaigns and argues it was militarily sound. Johnston's problem was that he was psychologically hamstrung by both his father's exploits in the Revolution and his inability to accept risk. Mark Grimsley wrote an important recent study of the evolution of Union policy toward Southern civilians from one of conciliation to one of draconian severity (The Hard Hand of War, Cambridge University Press, 1995). Ethan S. Rafuse and Stephen D. Engle show the influence of Grimsley in their respective interpretations of George B. McClellan and Don Carlos Buell. They blame McClellan's and Buell's failures on their inability to accept or adapt to the political demands of the hard-war policy. Thus McClellan's conciliatory politics led him to seek only a limited number of battles that he could carefully control to ensure decisive Union victory; Buell's belief in conciliation prevented him from extensive foraging, thus causing the excruciatingly slow rebuilding of railroads that prevented his capture of Chattanooga. Neither was able to win before their country, growing tired of conciliation, began to demand generals who would aggressively take the war to the enemy.
Stephen Sears titled his essay "In Defense of Fighting Joe Hooker." The title is appropriate. The essay continues the overdue resurrection of Hooker's reputation that Sears began in Chancellorsville (Houghton Mifflin, 1996). We find no examination of psychology or policy flexibility here--Sears says Hooker lost at Chancellorsville because he was severely concussed by the splintered pillar of the Chancellor house that flattened him at the critical point of the action. If anybody was to blame for losing the battle, it was Hooker's staff or Darius Couch (the next senior general) for failing to relieve an obviously injured commander. Other than this one mishap and an assortment of personality foibles, Sears asserts, Hooker was a good commander (perhaps then straining his argument by indicating that Hooker was the best the Army of the Potomac ever had).
John C. Pemberton, the Confederate commander at Vicksburg, is something of an enigma in this collection. He definitely lost, but one would be hard pressed to find anybody other than Jefferson Davis who had much faith in him. Michael B. Ballard argues that Pemberton was basically competent and a good administrator, but that he was the wrong man for responsible, independent combat command. Ballard asserts that Pemberton's northern birth gave him little understanding of or sympathy for the South. To compound the problem, he was noncombative by nature and unwilling to deal openly with politicians. Combined with an administrative staff background, Pemberton's personality made him ill-suited for the position he was given--and the result was almost inevitable.
Brooks Simpson's "`If Properly Led': Command Relationships at Gettysburg," the concluding essay, breaks ranks with its predecessors by examining the command efficiency of both sides in a single battle rather than the career of an individual. His chapter is particularly satisfying because Simpson acknowledges that successful (or unsuccessful) command is not solely the product of individual effort but results from the combined performance of the commander, his subordinates, and their staffs. He concludes that Meade's command system, despite numerous warts, outperformed Lee's at Gettysburg--Union mistakes were not big enough for the Confederates to exploit them as they had in previous campaigns.
So is there anything here for the professional military reader? I believe there is. Studying defeated generals, provided they were basically competent, can be as productive as studying victors. Woodworth has selected generals we might expect (and contemporaries did expect) to win. The essays are uniformly strong, well-researched, and well-written. The authors generally avoid the temptation to shift blame from their subjects. They try to isolate the most important reasons for failure. In doing so, they may oversimplify complex relationships or pick factors the reader might question (for example, while it's certainly a contributing factor, I find policy inflexibility unsatisfying as a single cause of failure). Nevertheless, the analyses are solid. If the essays, other than Simpson's, suffer a fault, it is that by concentrating on causes within the individual they inevitably underemphasize the competitive nature of combat. George Pickett is reputed to have said that he thought the Yankees had something to do with the Confederate loss at Gettysburg. In judging Civil War generals, it is useful to remember that their opponents had something to do with their defeats.
Women Warriors: A History. By David E. Jones. Washington: Brassey's, 1997. 280 pages. $24.95. Reviewed by Lieutenant Colonel Barbara M. Macknick, author of Military Women: Their Future Roles in Combat.
Who says women can't fight? Not Dr. David E. Jones, a cultural anthropologist and professor at the University of Central Florida. In his comprehensively researched history of women as warriors, Jones documents women's accomplishments in combat situations from ancient days to the present. Additionally, he articulates concepts and characteristics inherent in the art and science of warfare--ideas and traits independent of gender.
Jones's history surveys 11 regions of the world, drawing upon examples dating from the biblical age to the current day. He cites specific events to demonstrate women's performance in all major military arenas--ground, air, and sea, to include amphibious operations. Women have served as foot soldiers and sailors, commanders and fleet leaders, guerrillas and terrorists, spies and strategists, pirates and negotiators. They were gladiators, archers, and lancers. They participated in medieval tournaments and exhibited their skills in one-on-one contests.
A characteristic image of women warriors is that of the lone female fighting beside her fellows in the guise of a man. American illustrations of the type include Deborah Sampson, who fought in the War of Independence, and Mary Walker, the remarkable Civil War physician who eventually received the Medal of Honor. Jones provides numerous examples of female combatants disguised as men in the United States and abroad throughout the history of war. Undoubtedly, many more served similarly, but their disguises went undetected. However, Jones also identifies many women who openly served without concealing their gender: "Wild Rose" Greenhow was a notorious civilian spy for the Confederate Army; Harriet Tubman, the noted underground railroad engineer, served as a soldier in the Union Army and commanded three Union gunboats in actions critical to rescuing hundreds of slaves.
Records from earlier centuries reveal that European tribes fielded armies that were almost equally male and female. More recently, Sandinista forces in the 1970s were 30 percent female. Twenty percent of the Israeli Palmach of 1948 were women; five women commanded combat units.
In previous eras, women were simply expected to step in and fight when the necessity arose. In the early days of Islam, noble women had the same rights as their husbands; these rights included waging war, raiding, and fighting enemies. During Europe's Middle Ages, women performed "the familiar function . . . as defender of the castle." Women were required to understand, implement, and invent techniques to protect their home and land.
Using detailed, often gory descriptions, Jones shows that "everything men have ever done in warfare, women have also done, and, in many instances, they have done it better." While women are shown to be as adept and inventive as men in the techniques of war, they are also shown to be equally capable of committing atrocities. A case in point is that of Queen Olga of Kiev, who, in the 10th century, sought vengeance on the Drevlians (a Slavic tribe) for murdering her husband. One group of Drevlian messengers was buried alive; another group was boiled in their baths; a third group was chopped into pieces. Finally, she torched the town where they huddled and ordered the slaughter of those escaping the flames. Still not satisfied, she long continued exacting tribute and taking lands from the survivors.
Women warriors typically wear the uniform of their male counterparts, but Jones points out notable exceptions. For instance, in Africa the Dahomean women warriors of the 19th century wore blue and white tunics, short trousers, and caps emblazoned with regimental devices. The elite Siamese female guard wore knee-length, gold-embroidered white tunics. Members of the first all-woman Russian battalion of the First World War fought in blue smocks/skirts.
If the practice of fielding women warriors existed in so many places at so many times in history, why has the policy changed almost universally? Jones offers only a brief and incomplete rationale for the decline in acceptance of women in combat. In Medieval Europe, convents were often the training grounds for women warriors. However, the Council of Trent (1545-1564) proclaimed men superior to women and curtailed the power (and economic strength) of the religious orders. Earlier, Arab women's warrior role had declined with the growth of male-ascendant Islam and a professional military class. In Africa, English colonization spread the British convention of restricting combat to men. These terse and partial explanations leave the reader eager for fuller information.
Women Warriors is a good read, full of detailed information clearly presented. Some accounts are surprising and delightful. Others are shocking and horrific. What makes them all credible is Jones's reliance on verifiable sources. He sought out valid historical documents and records. The theme running throughout his text is succinctly stated in the last chapter: "They have fought for what men have fought for, what humans fight for--defense of home and country, protection of family, righting of wrongs, adventure, and lust for power. Women can share equally with men in the title of `warrior.'"
Myth, Manifesto, Meltdown: Communist Strategy, 1848-1991. By Edward M. Collins. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 1998. 245 pages. $59.95. Reviewed by Major Michael A. Boden, history instructor, US Military Academy.
With this intriguing title, Edward Collins, a former Deputy Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, sets the stage for his thoughtful and well-researched evaluation of what made the Soviet leadership tick. Collins evaluates the motivations behind communist strategy by focusing on three phases of communist doctrinal development in the past century-and-a-half. In these three phases, communist leaders first proposed various rules, laws, and dictums concerning communism (the Myth); in the second phase they wrote speeches and letters (Manifestos) that sought to adjudicate existing challenges to the system. The failure of the system (the Meltdown) occurred when, in the third and final phase, the inconsistencies of the first two phases became apparent.
The grand Myth that Collins examines is actually the coalescing of various smaller myths in communist history, starting with the "central feature of the Communist `myth,' the theory of history as class struggle written about by Marx and Engels." Lenin was the largest contributor to this central myth. His additions include his dictate that all "reality" would be based on communist assumptions of historical progression (assumptions that include the nature of economic competition with free market systems) and that capitalist powers cannot long survive without their colonies. Collins has an obvious personal distaste for Lenin beyond the analysis of this work, but in fairness it cannot be said that this bias adversely affects either the quality of the book or the conclusions drawn.
Like the multifaceted Myth, the Manifesto is not solely the Communist Manifesto of Marx, but rather the successive Manifestos issued at the Party Congresses that loudly proclaim the standard line of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). The history of the CPSU, according to Collins, is highlighted not only by many different challenges to the basic tenets of communist political doctrine, but also to a lesser extent by the practitioners of Eurocommunism, the leaders of Yugoslavia, and others. A particular strength of Collins's book is the way in which he analyzes the conflict between the communist parties in the Soviet Union and China. The constant shifting of party rules and dictates affects the Myth, creating an amorphous, wordy platform that is difficult to reconcile with reality.
The failure to achieve reconciliation with reality is the focus of the final element of the book, the Meltdown. General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev was not the sole individual responsible for the final collapse of communist Russia, but he was the first leader who challenged Russia's communist gerontocracy to look at world reality through something other than Red-tinted glasses. Once this challenge was accepted, the people of the Soviet Union--not only those in the CPSU--saw that many of the myths that had held the government together for 75 years were invalid and false. The gradual shift of communist economics toward a quasi-free market system, the inability of the Soviet military to provide unfailing security, and finally the demonstration that the European capitalist powers were surviving quite well, even thriving, without their colonies, all worked together to wreck the intellectual foundations of the Soviet system. As Collins writes, from this point it "was but a step to widening recognition that the entire Marxist-Leninist world view was fatally flawed."
Although this is a strong work, there are some concerns for prospective readers. Do not be misled by the title--this is not a book about 150 years of communist strategy. If one is looking for information on the split in European Social Democracy in the late 19th century, for instance, or Spartacus Week in Germany in 1919, or Yugoslavian communist doctrine under Tito, then this is not the book to read. In addition, many of the key episodes of the 20th-century communist world, and their causes and effects, are given surprisingly short shrift. For instance, Hungary in 1956 and Prague in 1968 appear as mere sideshows, as do Castro and the Cuban missile crisis.
For those readers, however, who are interested in the upper-level decisionmaking of the Soviet Union, this is a worthwhile book. Collins's well-written account provides a coherent conception of conflict within the central planning cells of the CPSU. The author synthesizes the various periods of Soviet history admirably, while demonstrating the relevance of this discussion to the modern world.
The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth. By Gar Alperovitz. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995. 847 pages. $32.50.
The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb. By Dennis D. Wainstock. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 1996. 192 pages. $55.00.
Harry S. Truman and the Bomb: A Documentary History. Edited with commentary by Robert H. Ferrell. Worland, Wyo.: High Plains, 1996. 125 pages. $24.50.
Reviewed by D. M. Giangreco, an editor of Military Review at the US Army's Command and General Staff College and author of six books including the recently published Dear Harry: The Truman Administration through Correspondence with "Everyday Americans" (coauthored with Kathryn Moore).
Gar Alperovitz's landmark Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam, the Use of the Atomic Bomb, and American Confrontation with Soviet Power first appeared in 1965 and has remained in print ever since. In it, Alperovitz advanced the proposition that the Japanese in World War II were on the verge of surrender when the atom bombs were dropped, that President Harry S. Truman and his senior advisors were fully aware of this, and that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were sacrificed in 1945 in order to intimidate Joseph Stalin.
Timing is everything. Appearing in the mid-1960s, Atomic Diplomacy's seductive tales of conspiracy in high places found an eager readership among an intelligentsia skeptical of the growing US involvement in Vietnam. Truman historian Robert H. Ferrell later noted that "[Alperovitz's] argument had a certain attraction, for it explained the Cold War, [but] it fell to earth because of sheer lack of proof that any American statesman confronted a Russian with such a scheme." There were, however, enough historians impressed with the book's academic paraphernalia--as many as 200 footnotes in some chapters--that it became required reading in many classrooms.
In The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth, Alperovitz "recapitulates" Atomic Diplomacy and adds little new to the mix except redundancies, extraneous material, and a generous amount of smoke. The author's willingness to misrepresent or ignore documents that do not support his thesis is particularly troublesome. For example, one set of documents declassified after the publication of Atomic Diplomacy and referenced in the current work is a set of memorandums between President Truman and his senior advisors dealing with advice on ending the war that Truman had requested from former President Herbert Hoover. Alperovitz states that Truman conveyed Hoover's paper "Ending the Japanese War" to Acting Secretary of State Joseph C. Grew and Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson during their 28 May 1945 meeting, and maintains that the responses of Grew and Stimson support his contention that US insistence on removal of Emperor Hirohito was an obstacle to Japan's acceptance of surrender terms. True enough as stated, but Alperovitz gives the reader no clue that the exchange of memorandums also included Truman's manpower czar Fred M. Vinson, director of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion, as well as former Secretary of State Cordell Hull, who rejected the paper as Hoover's "appeasement proposal."
Alperovitz also takes liberties in his swipes at other authors. In an effort to knock down the portion of David McCullough's best-selling book Truman that outlined the President's fear that an invasion of Japan might cost a half million American lives (one of Hoover's main points and a consistent figure in Army planning documents), Alperovitz printed a War Department analysis, prepared for Stimson, of an earlier Hoover paper that was never shown to Truman, which stated that the estimate was considered to be "entirely too high." What he failed to inform readers is that this was not the document that went to Truman in response to their meeting on 28 May. This War Department analysis also contained a pointed qualification carrying a typed underline for emphasis: "under the present plan of campaign." This turned out to be a perceptive addition since, as Edward Drea points out in MacArthur's Ultra: Codebreaking and the War Against Japan, it soon became apparent that the Japanese were engaged in a massive--and completely unforeseen--buildup in the invasion area.
Alperovitz makes much of Emperor Hirohito's request that the Soviets accept Prince Fumimaro Konoye as a special envoy to discuss ways in which the war might be "quickly terminated." But far from a plea to the Soviets to help negotiate a surrender, the communication was hopelessly vague and viewed by both Washington and Moscow as little more than a stalling tactic to prevent Soviet military intervention, an intervention that Tokyo had known was coming ever since the Soviets' recent cancellation of their Neutrality Pact. The subsequent exchange of diplomatic communications between Japan's foreign minister and its ambassador to the Soviet Union is also examined in detail since Alperovitz believes it is proof that Japan was on the brink of calling it quits. American officials reading the intercepted messages, however, could not help noticing that the defeatist ideas of the ambassador received nothing more than a stinging rebuke from Tokyo. Moreover, it was the fanatical Japanese militarists who were fully in control of the decisionmaking process until the combined shock of the of the atom bombs in August 1945 and Soviet entry into the war stampeded Japan's leaders into an early surrender.
In general, Alperovitz supplies very little of the context in which decisions had to be made. There is no discussion at all of the fighting and losses on Okinawa (the key element in understanding how Truman viewed what US forces were likely to face in Japan), while Iwo Jima receives precisely one unfootnoted mention in 847 pages. While this may seem an odd omission, it makes perfect sense to Alperovitz, who contends that military considerations were not truly a factor in why the atom bombs were used, but his lack of attention to the decisionmaking process within Japan's hierarchy is inexplicable since the entire work is structured around the certitude that modification of US surrender terms would have produced specific Japanese government reactions. For a thorough examination of the Japanese side of the coin, readers may wish to consult Sadao Asada's "The Shock of the Atomic Bomb and Japan's Decision to Surrender: A Reconsideration" in the Fall 1998 issue of Pacific Historical Review and "Japan's Delayed Surrender: A Reinterpretation" by Herbert Bix in the Spring 1995 issue of Diplomatic History.
Dennis D. Wainstock gives considerably more attention to Japan during the war's final months in his book The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb, a title uncomfortably similar to that of Alperovitz's. Readers will be indebted to Wainstock for his use of US Strategic Bombing Survey interrogations of Japanese leaders as well as material from the Kido Family Documents at the National Diet Library in Tokyo. Unfortunately, Wainstock's work has a rough, uneven quality to it. It is also puzzling that he poses questions in his preface that he never answers or even discusses in any substantial way. Example: "Why did Truman rely more on the advice of General George C. Marshall and not on Admiral William D. Leahy, the top presidential military advisor?" Good question, and it deserves a comprehensive treatment. But when Wainstock traveled from his office in West Virginia's Salem-Teikyo University to the archives in Washington, he appears to have neglected to take the short detour to the George C. Marshall Library at the Virginia Military Institute.
Yet, unlike Alperovitz, Wainstock makes an honest effort to examine all sides of the subject, and his work is somewhat more accessible to general readers since, at 180 pages, it is only a fifth the size of Alperovitz's conspiracy-obsessed tome. The occasional factual errors that pop up in Wainstock's text appear to originate from lack of familiarity with the military dimensions of the conflict. His bibliography reveals that important secondary works like Leon Sigal's Fighting to a Finish and the previously mentioned book of Edward Drea--let alone the works of Al Coox and John Dower--are not on his radar screen, and he consequently swerves down a revisionist path. The end result is a product that, if one strips away the material centering on the Japanese, is nearly a Cliff Notes version of Alperovitz's thesis minus the dark insinuations. This is certainly not the author's intent, but was probably inevitable since his source material on military history is so sparse.
Robert H. Ferrell has produced a very different work than those of either Alperovitz or Wainstock in his Harry S. Truman and the Bomb: A Documentary History. The book is a collection of documents surrounding the use of the atom bomb, and the first impression one gets upon picking it up is that, at 125 pages, it is awfully thin. It is also proof that first impressions can be quite wrong. In fact, Ferrell, no stranger to the 500-plus-page megawork, has put together a slim, useful, Internet-friendly compilation of key documents that, thanks to his extremely well-crafted headnotes and the brevity of the total package, will be of great value as a classroom tool.
Over the past 20 years, Ferrell has authored, coauthored, or edited innumerable books and articles on Truman, his contemporaries, and the times in which they lived. R. R. Bowker lists fully 24 of his titles still in print. Some, particularly revisionists, might bristle over his documentary selections, but Ferrell is almost uniformly regarded among historians as the premier Truman scholar. His depth in the subject has allowed him to choose 21 brief groupings of documents that let Truman and his contemporaries speak for themselves. Readers will find an unusually diverse selection of material, including the President's diary entries, certain press releases, and the 1945 Potsdam Declaration, as well as memorandums bearing the names Henry Stimson, Carl Compton, James (Jimmy) Byrnes, and Generals Leslie Groves and Carl Spaatz. Of special interest are the copies of US leaflets dropped on Japanese cities and, from Dr. Luis W. Alvarez, notes and drawings of the expanding nuclear cloud from the first atomic detonation at Alamogordo, New Mexico. In all, Ferrell provides an excellent cross section from the men who "sought single-mindedly to save the lives of US soldiers and sailors during the crucial days and weeks in the summer of 1945."