Book Reviews

From Parameters, Summer 2002, pp. 124-41.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. By John J. Mearsheimer. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2001. 555 pages. $27.95. Reviewed by Andrew J. Bacevich, professor of international relations, Boston University.

This is a book of considerable wisdom, larded with considerable nonsense. Most of the wisdom derives from the work of others. The author’s own contribution—a theory of “offensive realism”—is unpersuasive. Worse, its conclusions—attempting to shed light on the challenges facing the only truly great power left standing after the cataclysms of the 20th century—rest on a breathtakingly inaccurate understanding of what makes America tick.

At its best, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics offers a useful primer on realism, a concept that explains the behavior of states in terms of power and self-interest. As the author, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, rightly points out, instinctively liberal Americans have never been entirely comfortable with the language and logic of realism. They bridle at its dour view of human nature. They resist its pessimism regarding the feasibility of world peace. Yet that discomfort by no means prevented American policymakers as far back as 1776 from adhering to realist principles. As John Mearsheimer writes, “the United States speaks one way and acts another.”

Yet Mearsheimer aims to do more than puncture illusions, perhaps still harbored by a remnant of innocent undergraduates, that the United States, uniquely among nations, acts in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount. His larger purpose is to offer “offensive realism” as an explanation of all great power politics, useful not merely in understanding the past but also in predicting the future.

His theory reduces to a handful of propositions. Like any good realist, Mearsheimer believes that international politics is at root about power: “The overriding goal of each state is to maximize its share of world power.” Given this imperative, “there are no status quo powers in the international system”—none, that is, except the state that achieves hegemony. But few reach this ultimate goal. Indeed, in all of modern history, only one has done so, namely the United States, which since 1900 has enjoyed hegemony throughout (but not beyond) the Western Hemisphere. (Mearsheimer dismisses global hegemony as a practical impossibility.)

Since all “great powers are primed for offense,” they invariably seek to improve their relative standing by acting aggressively toward one another. Indeed, “survival mandates aggressive behavior.” Furthermore, aggression pays: more often than not the attacker wins. As one great power, resorting to blackmail or outright war, makes its play for hegemony, other great powers face a choice of either “balancing” (assuming the burden of checking the aggressor) or buck-passing (passing that burden onto others).

In determining the outcome of this competition, the role of land power is dominant. Only armies decide. “Wars are won by big battalions,” Mearsheimer asserts, “not by armadas in the air or on the sea. The strongest power is the state with the strongest army.”

These iron laws describe the way that all great powers behave (or at least “should behave.”) The result qualifies as “genuinely tragic,” according to Mearsheimer, because statesmen (and, presumably, mere luckless citizens) have no real choice in the matter—


offensive realism compels them “to pursue power and to seek to dominate the other states in the system.” The imperatives of offensive realism trump human agency and ideology: “It does not matter for the theory whether Germany in 1905 was led by Bismarck, Kaiser Wilhelm, or Adolf Hitler, or whether Germany was democratic or autocratic.” Germany would have behaved as it did regardless of who ruled according to what values. By extension, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union, and Roosevelt’s United States. Great powers are as interchangeable as billiard balls.

To substantiate his theory, Mearsheimer hauls the usual suspects into the dock. As proof that offensive realism corresponds with the actual behavior of great powers, he points to the expansionism of Germany and Japan through 1945 and of the Soviet Union throughout its existence, along with the balancing and buck-passing that each induced from their adversaries.

Mearsheimer’s larger challenge is to incorporate into his theory those two apparent exceptions to the rule, Great Britain and the United States, to show that these less-obviously aggressive great powers also adhered to the precepts of offensive realism. With that in mind, he devises an ingenious corollary to his axiom about the supremacy of land power, to wit, “the stopping power of water.” According to this corollary, “Armies that have to traverse a large body of water to attack a well-armed opponent invariably have little offensive capability.” Insular powers such as Great Britain and the United States “are unlikely to initiate wars of conquest against other great powers” not because they are more virtuous but “because they would have to traverse a large body of water to reach their target.” Offensive realism mandates that insular powers confine themselves to the playing the role of “offshore balancer,” intervening only as necessary to block another power’s quest for dominance.

But does water rob armies of offensive capability? Do insular powers invariably refrain from initiating wars of conquest against other great powers? Is it true, as Mearsheimer contends, that the United States as the present system’s sole status quo power “will shy away from making a continental commitment” except when necessary to balance a would-be hegemon?

Mearsheimer knows that unless he can answer all three questions in the affirmative, the explanatory power of offensive realism collapses. But only the most tendentious arguments and the most selective use of evidence get him to yes.

To substantiate the ostensible stopping power of water, for example, Mearsheimer declares that “there is no case in which a great power launched an amphibious assault against territory that was well-defended by another great power.” Normandy, it turns out, was not well-defended: the Allies had achieved air superiority before D-Day, placing the Germans at a severe disadvantage. Nor were the various Pacific islands that the United States captured at such great cost during World War II well-defended: once its navy had been broken at Midway, Japan no longer qualified as a genuine great power. (So much for wars being won by the big battalions.)

Then there is the problem of imperial Japan—its position as an insular nation analogous to that of Britain and the United States, but its chosen role from the 1890s onward not exactly that of an “offshore balancer.” Didn’t Japan in 1904 and again in 1941 initiate a war of conquest against another great power? No, explains Mearsheimer, because Japan never aimed to conquer Russia or the United States itself, just vast tracts of Asia.

Finally, and most troubling of all, there is the problem of US policy since the end of the Cold War. With no one left to balance in Europe and Northeast Asia, offensive real-


ism requires the Americans to pull up stakes and go home. That they have not is irksome indeed. The author treats with contempt suggestions that a continued US presence abroad has any strategic rationale, contributing to stability from which the United States itself benefits: “Peace in these two wealthy regions is not a vital American interest.” Indeed, he argues that instability might actually pay. Alas, evidence that the United States plans to withdraw its troops anytime soon is nonexistent, leaving Mearsheimer to mutter that “too little time has passed since the end of the Cold War” to divine American intentions.

“The United States is an offshore balancer,” insists Mearsheimer, “not the world’s sheriff.” Perhaps—consistent with the dictates of offensive realism—the United States ought to play the role of offshore balancer. But the demands of theory notwithstanding, authentic realism counsels against confusing ought with is.

Authentic realism calls for recognizing the fact that the United States did not prevail in two world wars and the Cold War just so it could enjoy unquestioned primacy over Canada and Latin America. The United States cares less about lording it over the likes of Uruguay and Ecuador than about wielding clout in Europe, East Asia, the Persian Gulf, and now, Central and South Asia. Hence, the alacrity with which the United States commits US forces to such places, despite the supposed “stopping power” of water.

For guidance in how to formulate American statecraft, policymakers look less to political science than to the imperatives, real or imagined, of democratic capitalism. The grand strategy that the United States pursues does not content itself with merely seeking assurance against the rise of another regional hegemon. Ideology matters. “National security” as Americans have come to define the term incorporates requirements for continuous economic expansionism and recognition of their own values as universal values.

Truth to tell, the United States today is anything but a status quo power. It does not accept the impossibility of exercising hegemony beyond the cozy confines of the Western Hemisphere. Indeed, it is bent on transforming the international system in ways intended to perpetuate and extend its existing global preeminence. As the events of 11 September suggest, this project does not command unanimous assent abroad. But as the events since 11 September demonstrate, mere resistance is not going to persuade the United States to abandon the attempt.

If there is an element of tragedy about great power politics, it stems not from the fact that God is an offensive realist who designed creation accordingly and thus condemned humankind to a perpetual struggle over which it exercises no influence. Fortunately, God is not a political scientist, and creation is far more interesting on that account.

The world is one of good and evil, vaulting ambition and petty vanity, great heroism and abject cowardice, qualities that don’t figure in the antiseptic world of theory. From time to time in that real world some nation emerges out of the pack fired by the conviction that its destiny is to direct history to its intended final destination. The result is sometimes great achievement, often great sacrifice and slaughter, typically leading to overextension and exhaustion, culminating in decline or outright defeat.

In many respects, the United States is like every other great power in history. In other respects, it differs, profoundly so. Whether those differences will enable us to avoid the fate of prior great powers remains to be seen. But this much is certain: it’s now our turn to see just how far up the greasy pole of world power we can climb and how long we can retain our perch. The question is not whether we can make it to the top, but the price to be exacted by the attempt. Based on the experience of others, the cost is likely to be dearer than we anticipate. Therein may lie the real tragedy.


gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)A Grand Delusion: America’s Descent into Vietnam. By Robert Mann. New York: Basic Books, 2001. 821 pages. $35.00. Reviewed by Richard Halloran, formerly with The New York Times as a foreign correspondent in Asia and military correspondent in Washington, D.C.

When an 821-page book on the war in Vietnam thuds onto one’s desk, a question leaps to mind: “Does the nation really need another book about Vietnam?” It would seem that everything that could be said about the Vietnam experience has been said and every angle, pro and con, examined. Early this year, the Amazon booksellers listed more than 1,600 serious books about the 25-year struggle surrounding Vietnam, of which 964 were histories, 393 were nonfictional analyses, and 257 were memoirs. The literature on Vietnam, beginning in 1982 with the late Colonel Harry Summers’ seminal work, On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War, is so extensive that the need for yet another volume, especially one so long, is questionable.

Moreover, the author, Robert Mann, is a victim of bad timing through no fault of his own. His book appeared just before the terrorist assaults of 11 September 2001, which traumatized most Americans and riveted everyone’s attention on President Bush’s campaign against terror. It would seem that interest in Vietnam, like the old soldier in the Army ditty, has not died but just faded away.

Even so, the book by Mann, a longtime Senate aide, may have a place on the bookshelves of die-hard students of the Vietnam era, as the author focuses on the responsibility of the Congress for letting America get dragged into that quagmire. He claims that this is “the first comprehensive single-volume account of the Vietnam War that places the roles of leading members of Congress in their proper perspective.” The author concludes: “From almost the beginning of the war to its end, the story of Congress is one of tragic abdication of power and responsibility.”

Throughout the book, Mann expands on the theme of congressional irresponsibility. During the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the author contends that “leading members of Congress were either quiescent or ignorant about US policy toward Indochina.” President Kennedy’s policy was set, Mann asserts, “with little more than minor grumbling from compliant members of Congress who were still blissfully ignorant and uninformed about the stakes in Southeast Asia.”

President Johnson comes in for especially bitter criticism for his stance on Vietnam, as does the Congress during that period. “The vast majority of members of Congress—despite having been deceived about the Gulf of Tonkin incidents—enthusiastically gave Johnson carte blanche to fight the war on his terms.” Congress during President Nixon’s tenure fares not so badly, as the author’s guns are trained mostly on the President himself. “Like a gunslinger in a Western movie,” Mann writes, “Nixon shot his way out.”

Even with his hammering at the Congress, Mann does not excuse the Presidents from Truman though Nixon. “Vietnam,” he contends, “did awaken millions of Americans to the fact that their Presidents had routinely lied to them—about the American military role in Southeast Asia, about Watergate, and about a host of other issues.”

Mann sometimes overstates his position. For example, “Vietnam unleashed a level and a variety of public dissent never before seen in American politics.” That overlooks the Declaration of Independence, with its long list of particulars in dissenting against the rule of King George III. That established an honorable tradition of dissent in


American politics that continued through the Revolution, the Mexican War of 1846, the Civil War on both sides, World War I, and before World War II until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. It resumed during the Korean War and, to a lesser extent, reappeared during the Gulf War. Even with the overwhelming public support for President Bush’s campaign against terror, dissenting voices are heard.

The author is also a bit shaky on the history of Vietnam itself, asserting that the “French finally fled Indochina after the debacle at Dien Bien Phu” in 1954. Not so. There were plenty of French troops around Saigon in 1955—Germans in the Foreign Legion, North African suppletifs, and a French high command that sought to undermine the early American effort there. Also, the author says the Cao Dai religious sect was formed after World War II, when it dates to 1919.

But he is right on one critical point, that Vietnam continues to be a political issue in America. “Those candidates who avoided service must, decades after the fact, defend impetuous—and sometimes calculating—decisions made in their teens,” Mann says. Presidents Clinton and Bush were confronted with that question and congressional candidates in the fall of 2002 should also be ready to explain their lack of military service during the Vietnam era.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)Michael Walzer on War and Justice. By Brian Orend. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000. 234 pages. $24.95. Reviewed by Shannon E. French, Ph.D., ethics professor in the Department of Leadership, Ethics, and Law at the US Naval Academy, where she teaches a course on “The Code of the Warrior.”

Issues of war and justice are on everyone’s mind since the horrific events of 11 September. President Bush and the members of his Administration have toiled admirably to assemble a strong, international coalition for the “New War on Terrorism.” Nearly all nation-states (excluding those targeted as terrorist supporters) have joined in a cross-cultural, interfaith denunciation of the attacks on the Pentagon and New York’s World Trade Center. Various levels and forms of assistance have been pledged in support of the US-led anti-terrorism campaign, from aid in freezing the terrorists’ finances, to intelligence sharing, airspace and military base access, and the actual commitment of troops and equipment. The United States was able to unite its allies so successfully in part because it could appeal persuasively to the justice of the cause. America’s leaders and spokespeople have made an effort to stress that, in retaliating against the terrorists and those who harbor them, the United States is striking not from mere rage, but from moral necessity. This “new war,” we have assured the world and ourselves, is a just war.

Philosophers, statesmen, and theologians have long struggled with the question of how to determine when—if ever—it is morally justifiable to take a nation to war. The list of scholars who have made key contributions to the just war tradition, either by addressing the subject directly or through broader work in the field of ethics, includes Augustine, Aquinas, Grotius, Kant, Hegel, and Mill, among many others. Since the 1977 publication of his magnum opus, Just and Unjust Wars, the first name in present-day just war scholarship has been Michael Walzer. In Just and Unjust Wars and subsequent related works, Walzer uses classical discussions of jus ad bellum (on the rules for taking a nation to war) and jus in bello (on the rules for conducting a war) as a launching pad to create an updated theory that has been labeled the legalist paradigm.


Classical just war theory demands that certain criteria be met before a war is regarded as “just.” These include: (1) the war must be declared by a legitimate authority; (2) the war must be fought in a just cause (e.g. to avenge wrongs or restore unjustly seized land or property); (3) the war must be fought with good intentions (e.g. to restore peace); (4) going to war must be the last resort (peaceful alternatives having been exhausted); (5) there must be a reasonable probability of success; and (6) the benefits of going to war must outweigh the predictable costs (macro-proportionality). Classical just war theory is still sound in many respects, but it also has many weaknesses open to exploitation. For instance, classical just war theory has been used to try to justify wars to reclaim “unjustly seized” territory when that territory has been integrated into a new nation for many years and to condemn revolutions against tyrannous sovereigns. Walzer presents a more complex, modern interpretation of the appropriate justifications for war. The legalist paradigm draws connections between the rights and responsibilities of individuals and those of nations. It demands that the sovereignty of existing states be respected, that aggressive nations be punished (in some cases with preemptive strikes), and that actions be taken to prevent crimes against humanity—even, under certain conditions, if it means getting involved in civil conflicts.

Brian Orend’s recent work, Michael Walzer on War and Justice, carefully examines Walzer’s version of just war theory and how it coheres with the theory of distributive justice elucidated elsewhere in Walzer’s writing, such as in Walzer’s 1983 treatise, Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality. Orend, a professor of philosophy at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, writes much more gracefully than do most philosophers. Thankfully, he also does not overuse the field-specific jargon that so often limits the potential audience for contemporary scholarship. Orend’s style, which includes brief summaries at the end of each chapter and a comprehensive conclusion at the close of the book, should make his analysis of Walzer accessible to all interested parties.

Much of Orend’s book is dedicated to his attempt to reconcile the universal theory of international justice found in Walzer’s earlier just war writing with the assertion found in Walzer’s later works that distributive justice depends on the recognition that the value of goods, far from being universal, is in fact culturally relative. Whether Walzer is consistent across the corpus of his publications may not be of great concern to non-philosophers. However, in the course of presenting a well-reasoned case that Walzer’s general theory of justice can provide grounds for his seemingly contradictory theories of just war and distributive justice, Orend simultaneously does an excellent job of explicating the most interesting aspects of Walzer’s views. Nor is Orend’s look at Walzer limited to mere exegesis. In an evenhanded manner, Orend alternately praises and criticizes Walzer. Some of the best segments of the book come when Orend identifies a gap in one of Walzer’s theories, such as Walzer’s far-too-limited mention of the issues of jus post bellum (justice after war), and proceeds to offer his own original suggestions on how the hole could be filled by building on Walzer’s foundations.

The topics Orend covers in his expertly routed tour of Walzer’s theories include: (1) the tension between “thin morality” (the basic moral commitments shared, according to Walzer, by nearly all humans, encompassing prohibitions against murder, torture, and extreme cruelty and an insistence on certain fundamental human rights, such as the rights to life and liberty) and “thick morality,” which is Walzer’s term for the more specific morality that guides our daily lives and which is, “thick, robust, resonant, culturally particular, close to home”; (2) the value of democratic socialism (a subject on which Orend is rightly critical of Walzer, given Walzer’s completely counterintuitive assumption that his socialist vision


is in harmony with existing American values); (3) responses to realist and pacifist challenges to just war theory; (4) Walzer’s perspectives (or those inspired by Walzer) on jus ad bellum, jus in bello, and jus post bellum; and (5) the complexities of international justice.

Even those readers who do not much care whether or how Walzer’s approach to these diverse topics can be integrated into a single, general theory of justice stand to enjoy a great deal of intellectual stimulation from engaging with Orend on subjects that could not be more timely. The brutal assaults on our nation placed a sudden, tragic weight on our understanding of war and justice. For all who suffered the emotional impact of an autumn that saw the moral and political landscape worldwide change in a day, there may be some unexpected solace in Orend’s painstaking, academic precision.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)The Lessons and Non-lessons of the Air and Missile Campaign in Kosovo. By Anthony H. Cordesman. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2001. 416 pages. $70. Reviewed by Colonel Richard M. Meinhart, USAF, Director, Strategic Management Systems, and holder of the General Brehon Burke Somervell Chair of Management, US Army War College.

If one truly wants to gain an understanding and appreciation of the political and military complexities of the 78-day air and missile campaign over Kosovo and Serbia, then wading through this detailed book is definitely worth the effort. Anthony Cordesman has great credibility in the defense intellectual community based upon his prolific and well-received works over the past 20 years. His expertise spans the many facets of modern warfare and incorporates his experience as a senior defense, international, and political leader. This book will add to his stature, for it is a thoughtful, thorough analysis of the lessons and, perhaps more important, the non-lessons associated with the air and missile campaign over Kosovo and Serbia.

The author first whets the reader’s appetite with a succinct discussion of why we need to know both the lessons and non-lessons of this war. The historical background of the NATO campaign is then fully addressed before the grand strategy, force planning, military effectiveness, and targeting implications are introduced. The author presents an excellent balance between military and political issues, so the reader gains a holistic perspective of the complex challenges of the campaign before examining the substantive lessons learned and not learned.

As the book progresses, the author provides short analytical insights to clarify and focus the reader’s attention and to gain closure on specific issues before moving on. As war is a series of actions and reactions, Cordesman identifies many of the possible “what ifs” associated with the Kosovo conflict. He clearly highlights that the political constraints associated with the conduct of this particular operation should be viewed with a sense of caution about generalizing and applying the lessons learned from Kosovo to other operations or force capability decisions. He uses this cautionary approach to provide an intellectual framework for later discussions. The author states, “Not only was airpower not decisive in Kosovo, trade-offs that weaken land and sea power put a steadily heavier burden on air and missile power, and create added pressures to use it in missions where air and missile power alone may not be able to do the job.” Cordesman also raises a serious question, revisited later in the book, “as to whether the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have the professional integrity to be entrusted with such damage assessments and lesson reports, or whether they should be turned over to an inde-


pendent commission with direct oversight by Congress.” This question clearly establishes Cordesman’s view as an independent perspective for much of the subsequent analysis.

The central portion of the book provides a detailed and roughly chronological review of the effectiveness of the war’s air and missile operations on various targets. Cordesman primarily uses reports provided by the Pentagon and NATO, but he also considers, and then critically dismisses, many Serbian reports in an attempt to provide a balanced perspective. He effectively assesses the bombing’s impact on strategic targets such as fuel, industry, and infrastructure nodes. Next, he provides critical insight into the more controversial effect (or non-effect) of air and missile operations on tactical land targets and their resultant impact on the Kosovo Liberation Army operations. In a section titled, “The Pentagon Lies to Congress and the American People,” Cordesman most seriously challenges the credibility of US reports in a documented, factual manner.

The last major section of the book (about 100 pages) is particularly valuable for military planners. Cordesman organizes the detailed lessons and issues of the air and missile operations from Kosovo along 34 main subjects. These are presented as weapon-system specific (e.g., A-10, AH-64, bombers), capability specific (e.g., refueling, precision strike, cruise missiles), and general categories (e.g., forces, European versus NATO defense initiatives, management). This unique categorization provides an excellent reference source for military planners. The supporting charts, the extensive notes, and the many pages of quoted speeches and reports further solidify the book’s excellent utility as a reference.

Cordesman’s final chapter on the complex regional issues “beyond air and missile power” offers an excellent summary of the stability challenges that NATO and the regional players will face in the future. It includes a sobering conclusion that the difficult work of peaceful conflict resolution faces us in the years ahead.

The book’s detailed description of events—with its extensive reliance on US and NATO leaders’ speeches, testimony, and reports—is both a strength and weakness. Usually, Cordesman’s details provide enough balanced information for the reader to either agree or disagree with his analysis of a particular event or military issue. For example, his section on NATO’s reporting of the effectiveness of the air and missile campaign exemplifies the author’s expert integration of charts, quoted material, and analysis. Occasionally, though, the author presents excessive detail, bludgeoning the issue—and the reader—with too much quoted materiel. A prime example: almost 14 pages of his 16-page discussion of the inadvertent Chinese Embassy bombing consisted of Defense, NATO, State, and CIA quotes. That material could have been synthesized and more efficiently presented.

The audiences that would benefit from reading this analytical work include strategic and operational military planners, US and foreign national security officials involved in policy development and approval, and academics who write and teach in the defense policy field. This book is not for the casual reader of military history or the general public, however. Its somewhat dry, analytical style requires great patience from the reader. For those who do persevere, the journey is worth the effort.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)Why Peacekeeping Fails. By Dennis C. Jett. New York: Palgrave, 2001. 195 pages. $18.95. Reviewed by Colonel George F. Oliver, Director, US Army Peacekeeping Institute.

It seems another analyst of United Nations peacekeeping has determined that the glass is half empty rather than half full. Dennis Jett, a distinguished retired Foreign


Service officer, focuses on many of the challenges associated with modern-day peacekeeping in Why Peacekeeping Fails. The author observes that these are not easy missions, and there are many reasons for failure. Jett unfortunately focuses on the negative more than the positive. Yet his analytical approach is sound, and he points out many lessons learned from this type of operation, lessons that practitioners need to know and understand.

Success or failure is in the eye of the beholder. Would you consider the UN missions in Eastern Slavonia or Cambodia a success or failure? Most who know these missions would consider them a success. What about Haiti? When it ended, it was considered a success, but today with an ineffective parliament and refugees once again fleeing across the sea, success is not quite so clear. What about the UN mission in Cyprus? It has been ongoing for over two decades, yet there remains no war between two of our NATO allies. Failure has the same connotation; it is in the eye of the beholder. Jett defines success by quoting an article in International Peacekeeping in which D. Bratt says success in peacekeeping is defined by four distinct criteria: completion of the mandate, facilitation of conflict resolution, containment of the conflict, and limitation of casualties. Bratt, like Jett, looks at a peacekeeping mission with 20/20 hindsight.

It is easy to look back at any UN peacekeeping mission, pick it apart, and find its faults. It is much harder to be an active participant, look forward, and determine how best to succeed. This reviewer’s concern with Jett’s book, besides his taking an after-the-fact view, is that he focused almost exclusively on peacekeeping missions in Africa, including in-depth analyses of Angola and Mozambique. African missions are some of the most difficult ever encountered by the United Nations. All who understand UN peacekeeping would agree that the mission in Angola was a failure. I was fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on your point of view) to sit in the Security Council chambers and watch UN Secretary General Kofi Annan tell the members of the Security Council that the mission in Angola had failed. After nine years of work by the UN and the international community, it was obvious that Jonas Savimbi’s rebel group, UNITA, would continue to prosecute the war. Peacekeepers would only get in the middle of this civil war, and the UN learned not to do this from their experiences in Yugoslavia. So it was time to pull the plug. That was hard personally for Kofi Annan.

As for Mozambique, Jett’s analysis says that the mission was only a marginal success. However, many in the international community see Mozambique as a model for other missions to follow. Again, success is in the eye of the beholder. Any major operation of this magnitude will have its ups and downs. Lessons can be gathered whether they result from success or failure, and this is the real value of Jett’s work. He does the analysis. From it, the leader is able to discern guidelines for future missions.

Jett provides a service for those studying and analyzing UN peacekeeping. I only wish he had expanded his analysis to more missions and taken a more positive approach. UN peacekeeping has come a long way in the last decade. Certainly, like all multinational, multidisciplinary, and multidimensional operations there will be problems. Jett remains skeptical about the international community’s ability to overcome these challenges. This reviewer is more optimistic.

Jett’s analysis of these operations and the resulting lessons learned provide the practitioner with additional tools to meet the challenges associated with today’s peacekeeping missions. For this reason, I highly recommend that those interested in analyzing and studying peacekeeping read this book.


gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War. By Charles B. Dew. A Nation Divided: New Studies in Civil War History series. Ed. James I. Robertson. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2001. 124 pages. $22.95. Reviewed by Dr. J. Boone Bartholomees, Jr., Professor of Military History, US Army War College.

In this volume, Charles Dew, a history professor at Williams College whose previous Civil War work includes a biography of Joseph R. Anderson of the Tredegar Iron Works, decided to wade into the still lively debate about the causes of the Civil War. He examines the question from the Southern point of view during the secession crisis in the late fall and early winter of 1860-61.

Lincoln’s election caused the states of the deep South, led by South Carolina, to secede. Secession led almost immediately to the dispatch of commissioners from the seceded states to other Southern states that were still debating the issue. The commissioners were official representatives who were supposed to explain why their state had seceded and encourage similar action from their audiences. The commissioners almost universally had some connection to the state to which they were accredited. Some had national reputations, but most were locally prominent businessmen or politicians. They addressed governors and/or secession conventions, so they were dealing with influential people; their activities were high-profile events. The commissioners sometimes presented the coordinated, formal official positions of their states; in all cases they had at least general instructions from either their state legislature or secession convention. Of course, the commissioners made speeches, wrote letters, and even published pamphlets. The newspapers reported their activities in detail. The commissioners’ explanation of secession could be expected to be both politically correct for the time and as persuasive as possible for a contemporary Southern political audience. That was the whole purpose of their missions—they were apostles of disunion.

Surprisingly, although the existence of this primary material has long been known, modern scholars have largely overlooked it as they debate the causes of the Civil War. Professor Dew concluded that as official contemporary statements by Southerners to Southerners, the commissioners’ accounts probably provide as honest and as useful an explanation of secession as one is likely to find.

Because of his Southern heritage, Dew says he was surprised by what he discovered. His analysis led to the inescapable conclusion that three themes ran strongest through the extant sources. The first was that Republicanism, equated in the South to abolitionism, was a threat to racial supremacy. “The commissioners insisted almost to a man that Republican ascendancy in Washington placed white supremacy in the South in mortal peril.” The fear was of both political and social equality. Second was the prophecy of race war. The commissioners believed the Republicans would encourage and even incite slave rebellion and pointed to John Brown’s Harper’s Ferry raid as evidence. Finally, the commissioners predicted racial amalgamation as the ultimate product of Republican rule. Interracial marriage threatened Southern womanhood. Of course, the commissioners used every available argument—states rights, tariffs, etc.—to bolster their point. However, Professor Dew finds their emphasis on the racial issues embedded in slavery as the heart of their argument.

After the war even unreconstructed Southerners changed their tunes, and the states’ rights issue rose to the top of their list of grievances. That was not what they had said at the war’s beginning. Perhaps Henry L. Benning, a Confederate general and famous


states’ rights advocate both at the time and after the war as an associate Georgia Supreme Court justice, said it most plainly in his address as a commissioner to the Virginia secession convention: “‘What was the reason that induced Georgia to take the step of secession?’ Benning asked as he opened his speech to the Virginia delegates. ‘This reason may be summed up in a single proposition,’ he answered. ‘It was a conviction, a deep conviction on the part of Georgia, that separation from the North was the only thing that could prevent the abolition of slavery.’” Slavery was the basis of Southern society, economy, and culture. The South viewed the Republican Party as an abolition party. Slavery and Republican control of the national government could not coexist, so the South withdrew from the union.

Despite his Southern heritage, Professor Dew should not have been surprised by the result of his investigation (and I am unconvinced that he actually was). The material he uses and his approach are new—the conclusion they lead to is not. The chief position of one of the contending schools in the debate about the causes of the Civil War is that only unreconstructed, uneducated, or unengaged Southerners cling to the view that the war was primarily a struggle over states’ rights with slavery as at best a peripheral issue. The only states’ right that really counted was the right to slavery. That logic has been espoused for years without winning the debate. Apostles of Disunion will not likely settle the argument. Potential rebuttals remain. One, on which Professor Dew unfortunately touches only briefly, is the claim that all the slavery talk was simply propaganda, and the real issues were the underlying political and economic struggles. There is, of course, evidence to support that point of view. I found Apostles of Disunion convincing—others will not. All should read and ponder it.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)Legacy of Discord: Voices of the Vietnam War Era. By Gil Dorland. Washington: Brassey’s, 2001. 249 pages. $26.95. Reviewed by Dr. Henry G. Gole (Colonel, USA Ret.), who served with MACSOG and 5th Special Forces Group in two Vietnam tours of duty.

Gil Dorland has written a dispassionate and balanced book based on interviews with 18 key players in the Vietnam War and one historian of the period, most of them readily recognizable to a military audience. The author’s objectivity is worthy of note, particularly considering his background. In 1963 the US Military Academy graduate, then a captain, became the first of four brothers, sons of their colonel father, to serve in Vietnam. Two of the brothers served two tours in Vietnam, and two were wounded—the author seriously and twice. His credentials as a military brat and published author gave Dorland access to some men generally reluctant to be quoted “on record.”

Dorland elicits divergent then-and-now perspectives of high-powered individual subjects about the war. His choice of interviewees—military men, policymakers, journalists, two Vietnamese (one from each side), and anti-war activists—ensures provocative reading for Vietnam War junkies and general readers alike. Despite a few standard questions posed (for example, the prospect of Chinese intervention, the quality of the armies engaged, consideration of the use of nuclear weapons, the prospect of “victory,” and individuals’ opinions of leading personalities), it is difficult to summarize the wide-ranging discussions and conclusions out of context in a short review. Generally, they may be characterized as follows: McNamara, incrementalism, and micromanagement are treated with scorn; former advisers and those who worked most closely with the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) give Vietnamese soldiers surprisingly high marks; and the lessons of Vietnam deeply influenced


the American soldiers and statesmen who later conducted the war against Iraq. In brief, the value of the book is chiefly in the observations, insights, and gems provided by thoughtful men, once deeply engaged in the war and still associated with it.

Barry McCaffrey is quoted as saying, “Combat was the most totally absorbing, selfless, and worthwhile thing I had ever done in my life.” Similarly, Norman Schwarzkopf comments on the meaning of service to others: “As I look back over my life, when I felt best was when I was serving a cause for which I didn’t receive anything tangible back.”

Peter Arnett responds to the charge by General William C. Westmoreland and others that journalists Arnett, David Halberstam, Malcolm Brown, and Neil Sheehan were too young and inexperienced to cover the war. He does so by pointing out that they were no younger than World War II correspondents and that one must be “young and virile and bold enough to go out in the field and get your ass shot at.” Halberstam had covered the civil rights movement in the South and the Congo War before he went to Vietnam. Brown had covered the Cuban campaign and had been in Vietnam four years before Westmoreland arrived. Arnett was 30, had been in Southeast Asia for eight years as Westmoreland took command in 1964, was married to a Vietnamese woman, had a brother-in-law who was an ARVN colonel, and remained to the end in 1975. Halberstam has had a distinguished writing career, but he says at age 65, and gray, “Vietnam is still my identity. It never goes away. It’s still the dominant story of my life.”

War protester Tom Hayden says he was convinced that the best way to support American soldiers was to stop the killing, adding: “The war was fought intensely around dinner tables. I wasn’t alone when my father wouldn’t speak to me for 15 years.”

Senator John Kerry served two tours in Vietnam, one of them commanding a small boat in the Mekong Delta in combat. He says, “It was a wonderful time in all its craziness. There was a great bond, a great connection that forged.” But the decorated hero turned against the war in 1969 and became a spokesman for the Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

Senator John McCain, who was very badly handled as a POW, found combat “invigorating, adrenaline inducing, and very exciting in many respects.” But he is very critical, saying he was “disillusioned and angry,” at the way the air war was managed.

Harvard graduate Daniel Ellsberg was a marine during the Suez crisis, one of McNamara’s whiz kids in the 1960s, and a true believer who did some of his research in the muck of a rice paddy before leaking the “Pentagon Papers” to The New York Times in 1969. It was in the course of writing a McNamara-directed history of the decisionmaking behind US involvement in Vietnam that he turned against the war, in order “to stop the meaningless killing of American soldiers.” He still considers himself a patriot.

James Webb distinguished himself as a combat marine, public official, novelist, and thinker. He says, “In my mind, I am a writer. In my heart I am a soldier, and I always will be.” His remarks about then and now are, as usual, clear and stimulating.

Le Ly Hayslip was a poor Vietnamese girl and Viet Cong supporter who later married an American and experienced culture shock in moving from Vietnam to metropolitan America. She has returned to Vietnam often for humanitarian purposes, regarding herself as a bridge-builder between the two worlds.

ARVN Colonel Cau Le was decorated for bravery 28 times, including Vietnam’s Medal of Honor and America’s Silver Star. He was wounded three times. The 1963 graduate of Vietnam’s Military Academy was a regimental commander at 28. From 1975 to 1988 he was in POW and reeducation camps, never seeing his five children. His wife was permitted to visit him once a year for 15 minutes. He now lives in the United States.


Gil Dorland takes the reader to what Webb calls “the most divisive issues in this country since the Civil War.” His subjects’ reflections about how the Vietnam War appeared to them then and some 30 to 40 years later ring true. Students of war and politics will read this book with interest. Thoughtful veterans will experience feelings of pride, regret, and shame.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)War Diaries 1939-1945. By Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke. Edited by Alex Danchev and Daniel Todman. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001. 815 pp. $40.00. Reviewed by Dr. Conrad Crane, Professor, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College.

No single individual did more to shape Allied strategy in World War II than General Sir Alan Brooke, later Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) and principal military adviser to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Each night throughout the war Alanbrooke described key events and vented his exasperations in a diary which he wrote for his wife. The text underwent several postwar revisions by Alanbrooke and his biographer, Sir Arthur Bryant, and the various edited versions have inspired a great deal of controversy. Keele University professor Alex Danchev and graduate assistant Daniel Todman have gone back to the original handwritten diary and reproduced it free of the omissions and reshaping of which Bryant was especially guilty, though they have included postwar comments written by Alanbrooke where the additions supplement the original text. The unexpurgated diaries are even more illuminating and controversial than previously released editions, and should be an invaluable resource for anyone studying World War II.

With this work, Danchev and Todman have provided two valuable contributions for students of history. The first is historiographical. The editors’ delineation of the course and degree of revision in Bryant’s and Alanbrooke’s later use of the diaries reveals much about how history is written and interpreted, and the editorial comments throughout the text highlight significant omissions or distortions that occurred. The complete text and additional Alanbrooke comments also strengthen the value of the diaries as an important historical document, filled with fascinating insights about the forces and men that won World War II, and revealing much about the complex thought and growing frustrations of Alanbrooke himself.

Though Alanbrooke was obviously brilliant, his intellectual arrogance can be wearing at times. He was very patronizing toward other Allied leaders, especially the Americans. He thought Dwight Eisenhower was a gifted politician with no real military skills, and considered George Marshall to be fair and honest but possessing no strategic sense. Alanbrooke was not much easier on the British, being especially critical of the other ranking members of the Imperial General Staff. He considered his nation’s lack of competent senior leadership to be a result of the high casualties of World War I. Though he was a benefactor of Bernard Montgomery, Alanbrooke appreciated the difficulties Monty’s lack of tact caused in coalition warfare. Alanbrooke particularly disdained Charles De Gaulle, though he was very impressed with Joseph Stalin, judging him the most competent strategist of all major leaders of the war. Alanbrooke also gave high marks in that category to his predecessor as CIGS, Sir John Dill, as well as Douglas MacArthur.

The book is dominated, however, by Alanbrooke’s love-hate relationship with Churchill. While the CIGS had great respect for the Prime Minister’s courage and fortitude, he was continually exasperated and often enraged by Churchill’s lack of stra-


tegic focus and penchant for wild schemes. As the strain on both men grew, Churchill’s health declined and drinking increased, further fueling Alanbrooke’s anger and despair. On numerous occasions the diarist vented his frustration with passages like, “Without [Churchill] England was lost for a certainty, with him England has been on the verge of disaster time and time again.”

Of course in Alanbrooke’s view, he is the one who averted that disaster. For anyone trying to understand the British approach to coalition strategy during the war, this volume is a must-read. Alanbrooke, like the rest of his British counterparts, can be faulted for being too wedded to the Mediterranean approach. He resisted the cross-channel invasion right up to the end, and remained infatuated with knocking Italy out of the war and bringing Turkey in. Only late in the war does he intimate in a few entries that the Italian campaign did not produce the drain on German resources he expected, but he never admits to any personal error in strategic judgment.

As with all diaries, this lengthy book can be dry reading at times, especially when dealing with get-togethers with friends and family. But it is full of fascinating passages, and the sections dealing with the proceedings surrounding the many high-level strategic conferences between Allied leaders are particularly interesting, as is the earliest part of the diary when Alanbrooke commanded British Forces in France. Danchev and Todman have provided a resource that will provide revelations for experts, students, and general readers alike, and at a very reasonable price.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)Hidden Heroism: Black Soldiers in America’s Wars. By Robert B. Edgerton. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2001. 271 pages. $25.00. Reviewed by Major Robert L. Bateman, Department of History, US Military Academy, West Point, New York.

According to the “about the author” section of this book, Robert Edgerton is the author of “more than 20 other books on a variety of sociological, anthropological, and historical topics.” He is currently a professor of anthropology at the UCLA School of Medicine. Based upon the evidence of this book, as a historian Edgerton is a pretty good sociologist. Despite that faint praise, this book is a fairly well rounded, if extremely limited, contribution to the field of military history. It does not, however, break any new ground in the sub-field of the African-American experience of military service.

In the acknowledgments and introduction, the author states that the reason he wrote this book was to address an issue not dealt with in any depth by previous works on this topic: the racist contention and stereotype that blacks were “natural cowards,” and thus unfit for service. Although Edgerton runs through a litany of the most recent works of military history on the topic, he almost immediately dismisses them. Hidden Heroism, Edgerton claims, moves beyond these mere works of military history because it places the African-American military experience within the larger social and cultural context of the history of race relations in the nation as a whole. By doing so the author states that he can explain how the “natural coward” stereotype came to be and why it was sustained.

This, unfortunately, is somewhat superfluous. Other books have not addressed the broader American social and cultural context when dealing with the military experience of blacks for two reasons. To begin with, the military side of the story alone is huge, and deserves much more space than the average publisher is willing to allot. The


second reason is due to what, for lack of a better term, might be called the “Homer Simpson Critique.” Through much of US history American society suffered from racist influences. The military, constituting a subset of American society, reflected this generally racist makeup. To quote, then, Homer Simpson: “Doh!” Sometimes one does not need an entire book to state the obvious.

Still, Edgerton might have been on to something. I can see how the US military experience of African-Americans, taken within a larger societal whole, could be a worthy topic for a book of 1,000 to 1,200 pages. One could hardly do the topic justice in fewer. In fact, that is what Edgerton has done here.

Hidden Heroism starts off with an apology that should make any historically savvy reader pause when picking this book off the shelf. Edgerton says, “Because Hidden Heroism spans more than two centuries of warfare under changing social and cultural conditions, it proved impossible for me to consult all the primary documents in any systemic fashion.” The fact is, although he may have consulted some of the primary source documents (the very foundation of any quality work of history) he never uses more than a handful in the entire book. For example, in the first chapter alone, a chapter that ranges from the American Revolution through the end of the Civil War (covered in 31 pages), of the 137 endnotes no more than four are from primary sources. The rest rely on secondary sources—what somebody said about what somebody else said about an event. That’s not the most sound methodology. There are good reasons why historians striving to write sound history demand a reliance on primary sources. How else can one strip away the filters of previous authors?

Edgerton provides, in a later chapter, a perfect case study for this. In discussing the experience of blacks fighting in the Vietnam War, Edgerton recounts the story of Arthur E. Woodley, Jr., “a black paratrooper with the 5th Special Forces Group.” Woodley tells of befriending a member of the Ku Klux Klan from Arkansas in Vietnam and, at a different point, of finding a white soldier flayed alive and staked out in the sun, to whom Woodley administered the coup de grace because “no rescue could be made in time.” It was an act which to this day is alleged to be the foundation of Woodley’s post-traumatic stress disorder. Edgerton cites as his source for this incident another secondary source. Apparently Edgerton never did any oral histories or research on the topic; he certainly never interviewed or researched Woodley.

If he had, he might have discovered that Arthur E. Woodley, identified by Wallace Terry (the author of Bloods, cited by Edgerton for this passage), was never with the 5th Special Forces Group. Woodley may well have gone on some deep patrols, as his military record does indicate he was a member of a divisional recon unit, but it appears that he knowingly misled Terry regarding his military record. The fact that Woodley claimed several awards he didn’t earn, including multiple Purple Hearts, suggests that his accounts of events may be less than reliable. People go to history books expecting to find facts. Reliable sources form a foundation; again, that is why historians, at least most military historians, insist on primary sources. Edgerton violated this precept and has passed on a legend, presenting it as a fact.

There is also a problem with Edgerton’s central thesis. Perhaps because this book is so small and thinly researched, he either did not have the time or space to address the fact that there were actually two competing manifestations of racism expressed in attitudes toward blacks in the military. The first, which Hidden Heroism does address, was the aforementioned myth of the “natural coward.” The second was the


belief that African-American males were likely to become crazed in combat—leaving the control of their officers and running amok on the battlefield in an orgy of violence. The obvious irony is that while these racist assertions were intellectually mutually exclusive, they were expressed simultaneously as reasons for barring blacks from armed service. Yet Edgerton is apparently unaware of the second myth, despite the fact that it was one of the central issues raised in the debates over the creation of some of the first all-black combat units during the Civil War, and was raised again prior to World Wars I and II.

Although Edgerton’s motives are pure, his reasoning generally sound, and his prose clear and easy to understand, this is a book that is only one-quarter as long as it should be given the academic claims of its author and the scope of the material. If Edgerton were an amateur or an unseasoned writer, one might not expect more, but readers should expect far more from an author who holds his academic credentials out for inspection on the book-jacket. From an academician of some stature, we should expect a work of scholarship.

Unless you are compiling a library of all works on this topic, regardless of quality, you are better off saving your money until somebody—one hopes a historian—writes the 1,000 pages this topic deserves.

gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)The Mind of War: John Boyd and American Security. By Grant T. Hammond. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001. 234 pages. $29.95. Reviewed by Lieutenant Colonel Phil M. Haun, USAF School of Advanced Airpower Studies, Maxwell AFB, Alabama.

The turbulent career and controversial thinking of the late Colonel John Boyd, USAF, are lauded in this biography by Grant Hammond, a self-described Boyd disciple. His personal loyalty to Boyd, however, has prejudiced Hammond’s judgment, resulting in a one-sided, exaggerated ode prone to hero-worship. Still, Boyd was undeniably an innovative thinker and had a significant influence on the defense community, and this work has real value if the reader can get past the recurrent David versus Goliath theme of Boyd single-handedly taking on and defeating the US Air Force. Moreover, since Boyd never published his ideas, Hammond has done a great service by recording Boyd’s theory of strategic paralysis and maneuver warfare, focusing on a process known as the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) Loop.

The first half of the book is dedicated to the service career of John Boyd, the self-acclaimed maverick fighter pilot. Indeed, it was on combat missions during the Korean War that he had his grand epiphany. In a dogfight, the F-86’s advantage over the MiG-15 lay in its ability to transition more quickly from one maneuver to another. This insight proved fundamental to Boyd’s thinking. He went on to instruct at the Fighter Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base and wrote the school’s first aerial combat manual. His operational flying days at an end, Boyd went on to spend the next 20 years crusading for the procurement of more maneuverable fighter aircraft.

Arguably, Boyd’s most significant contribution to fighter aviation was the development of the energy maneuverability diagram. This allowed for the first direct comparison of performance capabilities between aircraft and remains a useful tool for fighter pilots today. Boyd’s obsession with maneuverability followed him to the Pentagon, where he worked on the initial development of requirements for the F-15. Unable


to prevent the Air Force from designing a large, expensive, highly technical fighter, he jumped ship. He then formed the “Fighter Mafia” which, against the wishes of the Air Staff, successfully lobbied for the smaller, more maneuverable, less expensive F-16. Following his retirement in the mid-1970s, Boyd continued his fight against waste, inefficiency, and the greed of the military procurement system by establishing the military reform movement. He also continued to provide insider information to Congress and the media.

The second half of the book addresses the autodidactic Boyd, a man dedicated to study and reflection, who then creates his magnum opus in the form of a 327-slide, 12-hour oration: “A Discourse on Winning and Losing.” Presenting this briefing over 1,500 times, Boyd expands his thinking beyond the tactical decisionmaking of a fighter pilot who must transition from one maneuver to the next more quickly than his adversary. Boyd describes this thought process as the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) Loop and goes on to apply it to any encounter with a breathing, thinking opponent. The outcome is then determined by a series of decisions and actions. Boyd asserts that victory is achieved when one performs the OODA Loop faster than one’s opponent, causing the adversary’s system to collapse into confusion and disorder. Of the four steps of the OODA Loop, orientation proves to be the most critical. It consists of a combined process of analysis and synthesis based on cultural traditions, genetic heritage, previous experience, and new information.

To better illustrate his method of thinking, Boyd makes an example of the snowmobile, created from the handlebars of a bicycle, the outboard motor of a boat, the rubber tread from a toy bulldozer, and the skis from a downhill skier. Although constructed of parts designed for other purposes, the outcome was a vehicle perfectly suited for its conditions. Boyd the eclectic and inductive thinker likewise draws his ideas from a wide variety of disciplines, including biology, chemistry, mathematics, and military history. (For a complete copy of Boyd’s reading list, see James G. Burton’s Pentagon Wars, Appendix A.)

In keeping with the idea of the snowmobile, Boyd the theorist is best understood as a synthesizer of other theorists. He is most closely aligned with Sun Tzu, emphasizing deception, surprise, and shock in gaining victory. Boyd’s deemphasis on technology finds him agreeing with Clausewitz over the persistence of uncertainty and friction in war, but parting ways in regard to the importance of direct attack on the enemy’s main center of gravity. Instead, Boyd aligns himself with maneuver warfare proponents such as Guderian, Fuller, and Liddell-Hart, arguing that the focus of attack should be on multiple noncooperative centers of gravity. He defines these centers of gravity as “those vulnerable yet critical connections and activities that permit a larger system’s center of gravity to exist.” Strategic paralysis is thus achieved by a combination of cutting communication, disrupting movement, and enveloping the adversary’s forces and resources.

Whether one agrees with John Boyd or not, his ideas have had a great influence on military thinking, particularly within the US Marine Corps. In this regard, chapters 8 through 10, entitled “Patterns of Conflict,” “Maneuver Warfare,” and “A Discourse on Winning and Losing,” are particularly useful in understanding his ideas and way of thinking. The majority of the book, however, which regales the reader with tales of Superman and his perennial fight for truth, justice, and the Boyd way, is so biased as to have scant utility for anyone save the most ardent Boyd aficionado.


gr_ball.gif (967 bytes)Made by the USA: The International System. By Alex Roberto Hybel. New York: Palgrave Press, 2001. 340 pages. $49.95. Reviewed by Russell W. Ramsey, Ph.D., D. Min., Professor of Latin American Studies, Troy State University, Visiting Professor at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, Ft. Benning, Georgia.

Professor Alex Hybel subscribes to the proposition that open and democratic systems have a marked advantage in the acquisition and retention of global influence. He then vitalizes this theory by describing the rise of the United States to world preeminence, employing a highly original structure and a set of sophisticated, internally consistent paradigms.

Dr. Hybel is the Susan Eckert Lynch Professor of Government at Connecticut College and a well-known lecturer on both world and Western Hemisphere politics. For the first six chapters in Made by the USA, Professor Hybel describes the relevant political actors and forces, the economic influencers, and their relationship. These chapters are arranged chronologically, starting with the early 19th century. The author manages, in amazingly short space, to show cognizance of a multitude of explanations for the outcomes of world power struggles. Without consciously delineating military power as a separate entity, he weaves a succinct and accurate portrait of relative military power in each period. He emphasizes forces over actors, and economics over ideology, without ignoring any of the factors.

Chapter seven describes the United States as the world’s fully developed hegemon, and Professor Hybel makes no assertion that is not adequately sustained by the groundwork laid in previous chapters. The scope of Hybel’s sources is simply staggering; his massive use of references sustains his far-flung entry into differing economic, political, and military realms. Sometimes excessive footnoting can be tedious to the reader, yet Hybel’s prose flows at such a snappy pace, it invites the reader to continue.

The book is perhaps the most inclusive short description yet written of how the United States became the world’s primary hegemon at Cold War’s end. It is also totally convincing, leaving in intellectual tatters the work of those who consider correct ideology to be determinative. The reader will respect Hybel’s conclusions even when not in agreement, for the documentation is so powerful and the logic so deceptively simple, yet airtight.

In way of recommendations, this reviewer would have liked an entry on the Spanish Civil War, as it illustrates the failed policy of US neutrality during the 20th century’s divisively ideological civil wars. Also, a few examples of naval and maritime power application by the United States would strengthen Hybel’s thesis, when couched in Mahanist philosophy. But these additions could make only small improvements in what is likely to be the best book of its kind in print.

While the general reader would benefit from this book, it is tightly packed with interdisciplinary facts and analysis, and with answers to intellectual battles about international relations en route to the finish line, all adding up to some heavy lifting. However, Professor Hybel’s book is strongly recommended for courses at all levels in international relations, world politics, or economics. Read in conjunction with Professor David Landes’s 1998 blockbuster, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, the book would be excellent for a general course on the world in the 21st century.

Reviewed 14 May 2002. Please send comments or corrections to