Book Reviews

From Parameters,  Summer 2005, pp. 141-73.

Vietnam Chronicles: The Abrams Tapes, 1968-1972. Transcribed, selected, edited, annotated, and with an introductory essay by Lewis Sorley. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2004. 917 pages. $50.00. Reviewed by Lieutenant General Richard G. Trefry, USA Ret., Inspector General of the Army, 1978-83, and Military Assistant to the President, 1989-92.

Bob Sorley has spent the last several years writing the story of General Creighton Abrams. His first effort, Thunderbolt: Creighton Abrams and the Army of His Times, was a biography of the first order about a great soldier. His second effort was A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam. Both of these books have been widely acclaimed by professional soldiers and others whose lives were, and have been, affected by the American involvement in the Vietnam War.

In the Prologue of Vietnam Chronicles: The Abrams Tapes, 1968-1972, Sorley acknowledges that he wrote Thunderbolt before he became aware of the tapes of the Weekly Intelligence Estimate Update briefings conducted for General Abrams during his tenure as Commander of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV). Having been informed of the existence of the tapes, he used material from them extensively in writing A Better War. However, he was astute enough to realize what a treasure trove the tapes were, and this book is the result. The reader may be assured that the book is not simply an expansion of A Better War.

Pages xx to xxii of the Prologue provide an overview of the wealth of riches to follow. A brief extract from portions of these pages makes the point:

Tape recordings of the Weekly Intelligence Estimate Updates contribute the bulk of the material in this compilation. They are from the period June 1968 to June 1972; the years General Abrams was in formal command of US forces in Vietnam. Other sessions [covered] by the recordings include visits by the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Army, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Commander in Chief Pacific, and such others as British counterinsurgency specialist Sir Robert Thompson. All formed what I have termed the “Abrams Special Collection.” . . .

There are 455 tapes in the collections . . . [including] more than 2000 hours of briefings and discussions. These materials . . . were sequestered and their existence and location were classified top secret. . . .

With help from BG Harold W. Nelson, then Chief of Military History, and the approval of the Army Chief of Staff, General Gordon R. Sullivan, I was granted access to the tapes for record purposes. . . .

There are a number of engrossing stories that run through the tapes and the years they reflect. These include the changes of strategy and tactics for conduct of the war, development of South Vietnam’s Armed Forces, the pacification program and neutralization of the enemy infrastructure among the rural populace, progressive


withdrawal of American Forces, intelligence break-throughs in monitoring infiltration down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, interdiction of traffic on that trail, combat excursions into Cambodia and Laos, major battles culminating in the 1972 Eastern Offensive, land reform, enemy adaptation to changes in their battlefield fortunes, maturation of South Vietnam leadership, resumption of the air campaign against North Vietnam, political-military relations in Washington as they spilled over into American leaders in Saigon, increasingly difficult budget stricture, the impact of negotiations in Paris on conduct of the war and, of course, the interplay of the colorful and sometimes volatile personalities among both American and Vietnamese involved in conduct of the war.

Anyone reading the above quotations will be struck by the parallelism in many instances with our present adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Already pressures are mounting for early withdrawal from Iraq. Read carefully this treatise, because the lessons are profound.

Bob Sorley has provided a significant service to the United States Army and the Departments of Defense and State by editing this collection. Here is an extraordinary opportunity to have an insider’s view at the Weekly Intelligence Estimate Update over a four-year period. The relationship of a combatant commander to the White House, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff is particularly fascinating when the reader understands the experiences of Vietnam were long before the Goldwater-Nichols legislation that formalized the affiliation and interaction between the joint and service staffs. Today we tend to think of relationships with other government agencies as something we have to live with; that certainly was not the case during the Vietnam era. This book provides a course in “how to” on nearly every page for the potential senior commander as well as every staff director and subordinate leader who will deal on a regular basis with all the extremely complex requirements of senior command and staff positions.

One of the startling things to this reviewer is the amount and accuracy of intelligence that was available at General Abrams’ level. And not just that it was available, but how he used it. As one reads the book, there are many times when a briefing officer would cite activity in one of the many military regions Vietnam was divided into. General Abrams without fail would ask, “Yes, but what does it mean?” There were very few times when there was no reply to that question. The performance of General Potts, the J2 for MACV, and his people epitomize what the level of military intelligence should be.

This is not an easy book to read. First of all, the reader will need a book rest, as the book is 917 pages and will weigh heavily on your arms. But there are lessons to be learned on virtually every page. We constantly talk about the “warrior ethos.” This book defines the professional military ethic that incorporates that spirit as exemplified by a great commander, leader, and statesman.

Many of those who were present at the weekly updates are still alive. What an experience it would be to attend a session with those still living to review the updates either individually or collectively. The problem may be that too few among us will bother to read this living history while we have the opportunity. It always seems that the rush of events is overwhelming and impairing our ability to learn and understand.


Every year a select few books are published that should not only be must reading, but should also be added to one’s personal library. With this work, Bob Sorley and Texas Tech University have produced one of those books, and we will be forever in their debt for having done so. For those of us who were fortunate enough to have worked for and with General Abrams at various times over our careers, this book will remind us how lucky we were to be so privileged. For those who may only wish they’d had the opportunity, this book will tell them of the adventures they missed.

Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror. By Anonymous. Dulles, Va.: Brassey’s, 2004. 309 pages. $27.50. Reviewed by Colonel Robert B. Killebrew, USA Ret., who served in Special Forces, mechanized, air assault, and airborne infantry units, and held a variety of planning and operational assignments, during his 30-year Army career.

This is an insightful, bitter, worrisome book. It is also the most consequential critique of the war on terror yet published, deeply historical, broadly researched, and crisply articulated. Its conclusion is that the United States is mishandling the challenge of Islamic radicalism and that our present policies will inevitably alienate moderate Muslims worldwide, ultimately causing a true “clash of civilizations.” Like it or hate it, no substantial debate about the war on terrorism can now take place without references to this book and its ideas.

First, to the bitterness. “Anonymous” describes himself as a long-serving CIA analyst. His career, for the past 17 years, has focused exclusively on terrorism, Islamic insurgencies, militant Islam, and Afghanistan and Pakistan—a “very small wedge,” he says, “of a large intelligence pie.” His frustration boils over at national leaders—in the intelligence community, the military, and in political life—who failed for years to face facts on the al Qaeda threat available in any public library, who banished bearers of unpleasant news to nonessential posts, and who, after 11 September 2001, still refuse the realities of Islamic insurgency. Finally, he says, “There is not now, and never has been, a shortage of knowledge about the bin Laden threat, but only a lack of courage to tell the truth about it fully, openly, and with disregard for the career-related consequences of truth-telling. . . . The failure of many to perform their duty lies at the heart of why three thousand Americans perished on 11 September 2001.”

Beyond bitterness, the author’s insights into al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and Islam’s antipathy toward the United States are brilliantly presented. Bin Laden comes across not as a bloodthirsty terrorist or a medieval fanatic opposed to modernity, as many have claimed. Instead, he is portrayed as a shrewd, highly intelligent, and devout Muslim leader with considerable personal charisma—easily the most popular figure in the Middle East—who has emerged as a modern Islamic hero, urging his fellow Muslims to fight a defensive jihad against Western occupation of Islamic lands, support for Israel, collaboration with oppressive and apostate regimes, theft of Arab oil revenues, and acts which blaspheme God’s word. The author asserts that bin Laden’s agenda is not one of blind hatred toward the West, but is limited and focused at redressing these specific grievances. Further, bin Laden has achieved almost mythic


status among Muslims, who, radical or not, have been affronted by centuries of Western, and lately American, dominance of their region and cultures. “While Americans are told US forces are looking for an Arab version of Timothy McVeigh, Muslims are working and praying for the survival of a man better characterized for them as a combination of Robin Hood and St. Francis of Assisi, an inspiring, devout leader who is unlikely to be betrayed for $25 million in US reward money.”

In the eyes of bin Laden and his fellow jihadis, it is Islam that is under attack. The author writes, “Bin Laden et al. are and will continue fighting and killing Americans . . . because of what we have done and are doing in the Islamic world and not because of who we are. . . . For these men, the problem is clear—Islam is under attack—and the solution lies in war, or, in Islamic terms, a defensive jihad.” The US reactions to al Qaeda’s attacks, in whatever context, have thus far been ineffective and clumsy. Despite their considerable experience supplying Afghan resistance against the Soviets two decades earlier, the author asserts, American intelligence and military agencies went into Afghanistan essentially blind, without considering data available and on hand. As a result, allied operations in Afghanistan, after initial success, focused on capturing cities and simply pushed the Taliban’s fighters into the hills—as did the Russians—where they reside in growing strength today while the Karzai government survives in a small region around Kabul, protected by American bayonets. Inevitably, the author believes, Afghanistan will reject Western domination and Western ideas (as it has for centuries), the Taliban will come out of the hills, and Karzai and other Westernized Afghans will be lucky to escape with their lives.

The author’s analysis of the Iraq War is even more scathing. After reviewing the military strategy for a quick, bloodless war that failed to seal Iraq’s borders, he says, “Only a dunce or a man ready to be silent to protect his career could have failed to know that the US occupation of Iraq would create a ‘mujahideen magnet’ more powerful than Moscow created in Afghanistan.” From bin Laden’s point of view, an American-led invasion of Islam’s second-holiest nation, where only Saddam’s brutality held off a long-delayed religious civil war, was a gift from heaven. Al Qaeda’s leaders, in their public statements, have been jubilant over the availability of US troops to be killed. The US attack has had a galvanizing effect on Muslims everywhere, the author says, and Iraq has been a disaster for US relations with the Arab world. “Reality for America is simply a matter of saying that there is a large and growing number of Muslims who hate our policies and actions toward the Islamic world,” he writes, “many of whom have, or will, take up arms against us as a result.”

The critique of US strategy in Imperial Hubris centers on three basic ideas. First, we have failed to understand either the motivation or the psychology of bin Laden’s war, beginning with his success in justifying his war to the Muslim world in terms of defensive jihad. Of the types of jihad prescribed in the Koran, only defensive jihad—the war of self-protection—is an unavoidable personal responsibility on the part of every Muslim. By casting the war in this manner with no meaningful resistance from the Islamic world, bin Laden has made obligatory the duty of all Muslims worldwide to join in jihad.

Second, we have misread the nature of the war itself. By fighting a “war on terror” and not a global insurgency, the United States has not mobilized the re-


sources and will necessary to fight the war to the finish. By invading Afghanistan and Iraq with limited forces, the United States has succeeded only in giving Islamic insurgents the opportunity to tie down America and bleed its army, while graduates of the Afghan training camps build insurgencies elsewhere (al Qaeda cells have surfaced in west Africa, for example). By restraining the use of our power, we ensure that the bleeding will continue at a pace set by the Islamists.

Third, American leaders in politics, academia, the military, and the media remain woefully ignorant of the kind of war we’re fighting. “Instead of facing reality,” the author writes, “hubris-soaked US leaders, elites, and media, locked behind an impenetrable wall of political correctness and moral cowardice, act as naive and arrogant cheerleaders for the universal applicability of Western values and feckless overseas military operations. . . . We are succeeding only in fooling ourselves.” We have, he says, resolutely ignored the true nature of bin Laden’s message to Islam and his precisely articulated aims, underestimated the resources necessary to win, and have engaged instead in our own agendas without considering the enemy. (So much for understanding asymmetric warfare.)

“From their first workday, intelligence officers are told never to suggest policy,” Anonymous says. But he is intellectually brave enough to break the rule and offer some “suggestions for debate.” They include recognizing the war as an insurgency, though one of a new kind, and moving away from the “bloated, risk-adverse, and lawyer-palsied counterterrorism community.” Among other points, he would opt for more and deadlier use of US military power, drop the pretense that allies will be a substantial help in fighting the global insurgency, demand expertise from military and intelligence agencies and hold their top officers accountable for results, review US policies toward Israel, and drive hard toward energy self-sufficiency to end the US dependence on Mideast oil. He also passionately urges a wide-ranging and public debate over American national interests, including whether the United States has any business, in the end, trying to install democracy in countries that have never had it, don’t especially want it, and are not essential to our national survival.

On first reading, Imperial Hubris leaves the reader a little breathless. Every sentence is aimed and barbed. The author’s professional expertise and deep knowledge of his subject jump from every page. His attacks on the bureaucracy and bureaucrats—including military leaders—are not distractions, but rather the core of his argument that we have misread the enemy and that we are too clumsy and hidebound to either develop an effective strategy or to follow it.

And yet, on second reading, there are gaps in his strategic discussion. The undertone to his articulate and well-reasoned call for a more discriminate foreign policy is a reconsideration of America’s forward position in the world, not only in the Mideast but elsewhere. While US policies are unpopular on the Arab street, not all Muslims hate the United States, and there are Islamic leaders in the Middle East and elsewhere who understand the blind alley al Qaeda represents, and are risking all to try to bring their faith and those who share it into a modern and moderate era. If America’s support for modernity and modern leaders, however clumsily expressed, excites hatred, it’s still unlikely that American withdrawal would make us either better loved or more secure. Finally, though the author convincingly presents a pre-


cise bin Laden agenda of relatively limited objectives, it is not at all apparent, given the Mideast passions and hatreds that he also presents, that fundamentalist rage would subside even if the United States conceded every point. As he points out, this is unknown territory—war to the finish, and aimed at some distant point we have not yet glimpsed. Mob passions are not a solid basis for determining long-term strategy.

If the author’s strategic proposals seem to fall short, though, his call for objectivity, accountability, and expertise in our response to the Islamic insurgency is much more on target. We have in fact underestimated the nature and strength of al Qaeda’s campaign against the United States. We were not prepared to respond immediately to the 11 September attacks, when al Qaeda’s camps were full and the leadership was vulnerable. We did miscall the nature of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we do not seem to have much of a strategy for dealing with Islamic insurgency beyond hoping that democracy takes hold in some pretty unlikely spots. Imperial Hubris has to be read by every serious military leader or thinker.

Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism. By Geoffrey R. Stone. New York: W. W. Norton, 2004. 730 pages. $35.00. Reviewed by Richard Halloran, onetime lieutenant of airborne infantry, formerly with The New York Times as a foreign correspondent in Asia and military correspondent in Washington, now a free-lance writer in Honolulu.

In the wondrous Constitution of the United States, surely the jewel in that crown of democracy is the First Amendment with its guarantees of freedom of speech, the press, religion, peaceable assembly, and of petitioning the government for a redress of grievances. It is the provision that assures us of freedom of the mind and spirit and distinguishes America from almost every other nation on earth.

Over the 214 years since the Bill of Rights came into force, Americans have argued about just what the First Amendment has meant and how much freedom it envisages. Is it absolute or is it, despite the seemingly absolute language of the amendment itself, subject to restrictions and, if so, what and when and how much? Looking back over the last two centuries, it seems clear that no nice, neat answer is good for all times and circumstances.

Into this eternal debate comes Geoffrey R. Stone, professor of law at the University of Chicago and author of four earlier books on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. On the First Amendment, Stone comes close to being an absolutist, contending that there should be only the most minuscule limits on the freedom of speech. He points to rulings by the Supreme Court, mostly in the 20th century, and asserts that by the end of the war in Vietnam, “The Court had come to understand that free expression is fragile, that dissent is easily chilled, that government often acts out of intolerance when it suppresses dissent, and that it is essential to protect free speech at the margin.”

Stone poses the ultimate question in a passage about the case of the Pentagon Papers, in which the government sought an injunction from the Supreme Court to prevent The New York Times from continuing to publish the secret history of the Vietnam War leaked by anti-war activist Daniel Ellsberg. Justice Potter Stewart


asked, “What should we do?” if the Court found “something there that absolutely convinces us that its disclosure would result in the sentencing to death of a hundred young men” who were American soldiers captured by the Viet Cong.

Alexander Bickel, representing the Times, contended that would not happen, but conceded, “I am afraid that my inclinations to humanity overcome the somewhat more abstract devotion to the First Amendment.” Stone disagrees: “It is misleading to cast this as a trade-off between ‘real’ lives and ‘abstract’ principle. This information is fundamental to public debate and understanding. . . . If publication of this information would lead the nation to greater wisdom and, perhaps, to negotiate an end to the war, how many American soldiers would be spared?”

This reviewer, who has printed his share of articles about sensitive issues in national security, comes down on Bickel’s side. Common sense and moral obligation dictate that no American correspondent or any other citizen has the right to jeopardize the life of another American by what he says or writes. At the same time, this constraint does not give government officials or military officers the right to shout “national security” every time they read an article or get a query they don’t like. Abuses on one side of this equation only generate abuses on the other side, to the detriment of American citizens.

For years, the accepted measure of restraint on freedom of speech and press was the doctrine of “clear and present danger” enunciated by that eloquent defender of the First Amendment, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. In a case in 1919, Justice Holmes wrote: “The question in every case is whether the words are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to cause a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree. When a nation is at war many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight.”

In 1931, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, drawing on the work of Zechariah Chaffee, at that time the nation’s leading scholar on the First Amendment, said in a decision: “No one would question but that a government might prevent actual obstruction to its recruiting service or the publication of the sailing dates of transports or the number and location of troops.” Stone, however, does not think Holmes, Hughes, and other Supreme Court justices did enough to protect freedom of speech. Instead, he applauds a 1969 decision in which the Court struck down a law in Ohio forbidding anyone from advocating violence or terror to achieve political reform. The Court, Stone says, set three conditions to define subversive advocacy: “There must be express advocacy of law violation; the advocacy must call for immediate law violation; and the immediate law violation must be likely to occur.”

Beyond this critical issue, Stone’s readable book has other flaws. The sub-title is misleading, as this is a work about civil liberties, not just freedom of speech— which is but one of America’s civil liberties. Stone wanders off into the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, a dark stain on our history but not related to freedom of speech. He rightly laments the excesses of Senator Joseph McCarthy who, if anything, manipulated freedom of speech to condemn innocent people. He criticizes the PATRIOT anti-terrorist act, in which he has many allies, but that has little to


do with freedom of speech. The book has 132 pages of endnotes, evidence of not only prodigious research and learning but of a meandering argument.

In sum, this book badly needed a good editor to maintain its focus and make it into a leaner, more powerful line of reasoning.

Europe’s Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914? By David Fromkin. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. 350 pages. $26.95. Reviewed by Professor Eugenia C. Kiesling, author of Arming Against Hitler: France and the Limits of Military Planning and Professor of History, US Military Academy.

In Europe’s Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914? David Fromkin turns the perennial question of responsibility for the Great War into a whodunit. He leads the reader through the tortuous events of July 1911, dismissing false leads as he goes, to discover the culprit. “The Austro-Hungarian government deliberately forced a war on Serbia and . . . the German government deliberately forced a war on Russia, France, and Belgium.” In short, Fromkin has discovered for himself and nonspecialist readers the conventional interpretation of 1914.

The author claims to introduce a new angle by arguing that two separate wars began in 1914, one between the Dual Monarchy and Serbia and the other pitting Germany against France and Russia. This idea has not been new, however, since David Remak wrote about the “Third Balkan War” in the 1972 volume of The Journal of Modern History.

But a mystery requires a surprising denouement and interesting criminals. Fromkin eventually offers both by identifying the murderers of European peace: Austrian Foreign Minister Count Leopold von Berchtold and Germany’s Minister of War and Chief of the General Staff, Generals Erich von Falkenhayn and Helmuth von Moltke. He concludes that “Moltke and Falkenhayn had succeeded in an unprecedented act of political hijacking; they had taken over Berchtold’s war against Serbia, and had forced it instead to take them to their own war against France and Russia.”

One may dispute Fromkin’s conclusion that three men alone were responsible for the outbreak of the Great War, but it is more profitable to examine the implications of his argument. It is not necessarily the historian’s job (unlike the detective’s) to identify the guilty, but Fromkin seems too keen to exonerate his villains. In his view, Germany was not culpable for starting the war because war was “a normal and usual political activity,” one described by Theodore Roosevelt as “healthy and desirable.” But if there was nothing wrong with going to war, why does he emphasize how many people tried in 1914 to avoid it? Worse is the implication that aggression remains morally acceptable today as long as one’s culture thinks it is.

More troubling is Fromkin’s assumption that, since the Great War demonstrates that one side alone can start a war, the actions of those attacked are not worth examining. Britain, France, and Russia have little role in his story other than to be attacked by an aggressive Germany. “What drove France and Russia to join the fray can be covered in a sentence.” Indeed, but that is not to say that French and Russian policies had no impact on German actions.


Fromkin explicitly aims his book at the American reader seeking to understand the outbreak of war in the 21st century. An obvious place to seek lessons from the Great War is through the study of diplomatic and military intelligence. The key moments in the July Crisis tend to be those in which leaders suddenly realized that things were not as they had thought. For example, Fromkin notes that Austria’s military leaders learned on 29 July that Russia might intervene to support Serbia and that Germany had not promised to mobilize in response to a Russian partial mobilization against Austria-Hungary. Surely no question is of greater relevance than how so many important people could be surprised by so many things over the course of a month, but intelligence receives not a single mention in Europe’s Last Summer.

Although advertised as “based on the latest scholarship,” this is not a scholarly work. There is no discussion of existing historiography. The thin bibliography omits crucial works, most startlingly those of Donald Kagan and Paul Schroeder. Fromkin uses footnotes to identify direct quotations rather than to support historical argument. He makes frequent anonymous references to things “historians believe” or “no longer believe,” rather than engaging explicitly with the arguments of his predecessors.

This is not a book for specialists nor for those seeking guidance in pursuing the subject in further detail. It is, however, written for people with short attention spans. The average chapter is less than six pages long. The topic of internal class struggle, crucial for explaining German bellicosity, gets two pages, exactly as many as the all-important “Eastern Question.” While complex issues are glossed over, Fromkin does not stint the married life of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Sophie or the biographical details of their assassin, Gavrilo Princep. He devotes more space to such incidentals as Colonel Edward House’s mission of May 1914 than he does to German war plans, let alone those of the other belligerents.

Professional officers may be attracted by a book whose short chapters fit into a busy schedule and whose mystery-novel style promises to make history painless or even fun. They should avoid being seduced by the proposition that complex historical events ought to be reduced to a set of entertaining episodes and one-line assessments.

Historians have long understood the superficial origins of the Great War, that Austria sought war with Serbia and that Germany launched a war against France and Russia. Behind that statement lies a host of fascinating questions—political diplomatic, military, social, cultural, economic, ideological—about exactly what happened in July 1914 (and why war did not break out earlier). Fromkin is correct to believe that these issues have great resonance today. He does a disservice to the defense community, however, by suggesting that useful lessons can be learned by condensing the outbreak of the Great War to a single thin argument.

The Sheriff: America’s Defense of the New World Order. By Colin S. Gray. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2004. 195 pages. $29.95. Reviewed by Damon Coletta, Associate Professor of Political Science, US Air Force Academy.

In the midst of continuing criticism from Europe comes Colin Gray’s classic geopolitical defense of the Bush Administration’s muscular grand strategy. Gray is


almost certainly correct that “a great many people around the world will not like the argument presented” in The Sheriff. Widespread constituencies harboring the best intentions and more than a little faith in the transformative power of institutional procedures and liberal internationalist ideals will find his unyielding reminders about the anarchic nature of world politics difficult to swallow but also difficult to ignore.

With zeal and a healthy dose of wit, the distinguished professor, who holds posts in both England and the United States, gamely assaults the dreams of progressives—most likely to be found in the Western democracies—who see, just around the corner, the end of history and the beginning of an international consensus that rests on democratic politics, market economics, and individual liberty. With no less than eight references to Thucydides in five conversational chapters, Gray files a kind of amicus curae brief for Robert Kagan’s widely circulated argument in Of Power and Paradise.

Kagan relished the irony of postmodern Europe, gasping from its gated community at brutish America on the outside, even as the United States atavistically guaranteed security for Europe’s liberal-democratic union. Gray further insists that, despite appearances of a historical transformation, the Kantian paradise in Western Europe is not really a world apart. As Thucydides and Hobbes remarked before Kant, the world—all the world for all of recorded history—tends toward competition, strife, and disorder unless a coherent power persuades, coerces, or compels people to behave in a civilized manner. The United States, in a league apart from the European Union, China, or the United Nations, derives its political influence from dominant military and economic power. For Gray, the United States is the only actor that has a chance of preserving some semblance of world order from cancer-like regional chaos in the coming decades.

Though clear and well-grounded in long-standing assumptions about world politics, Gray’s view nevertheless invites attack from many who take a different impression from classics such as Thucydides, Hobbes, Gibbon, or Machiavelli. Within the histories of the great interstate wars and civil wars, there are, indeed, many instances where leaders lost focus on the realities of power, found themselves undone, and saw their institutions destroyed. From the same so-called realist canon, though, there are plenty of cases—none more poignant than Thucydides’ account of the Athenians surrounded in Sicily—where naked power without honor or legitimacy provoked its own destruction sooner rather than later. In all the world, order may depend on power, but apparently it is also true that sustainable power depends on order.

This reciprocal relationship makes it difficult to tell a simple causal story about the course of international politics. Gray and other scholars in the tradition of classical realism prefer to organize their thinking around the idea that the arrow of influence pointing from power and toward order is somehow thicker than the one pointing in the opposite direction. At the same time, though, Gray is careful to note that secondary factors—not just ideological convictions and behavioral norms that shape world order but also things like technological accoutrements that shape world power—can, at confounding moments, emerge to wreak first-order effects on the international system. That means that discerning political dangers from opportunities and formulating a strategy to manage both of them involves more art than science.


The complexity of interaction between legitimate, durable order and state power saves Gray’s ancient brand of realism from more scientific competitors. The neo-realism of Kenneth Waltz and John Mearsheimer girds analysts for the overwhelming mass of historical detail by maintaining focus on the distribution of state power. Classical realists, by contrast, resolutely follow Thucydides, Gibbon, and Machiavelli, embracing the swirl of detail in human history. Ironic twists confirm the complexity of political power as both cause and effect. The devils lurking in the details starkly reveal limitations of a sleeker, formulaic approach exclusively based on “scientific” measurements of material capability.

That said, classical realism, and The Sheriff in particular, have their own limitations. Readers will have to take Gray’s word that the preponderance of evidence from recorded history supports his assumptions about order, state power, and war. One hundred fifty short pages of prose is simply not enough to both explain the argument and provide a plausible sample of cases. The cascade of rich historical citations, so crucial to both the founding assumptions and artistic method of The Sheriff, inconveniently plays out in other books.

Another common complaint of political scientists against the traditionalists holds for The Sheriff as well. If, as Gray suggests, “Strategists seem to be born rather than made,” that leaves the justification behind life-and-death decisions in the preparation and waging of war uncomfortably inaccessible, especially for a world power that relies on steady affirmation from its democratic society. Precious little advice in The Sheriff is concrete enough to be thoroughly tested in the course of actual policies.

From his previous writings, Gray weaves in a cautionary theme on the limits of new technology for reducing the costs of war. Here, too, classical realism provides only general guidance. According to theme number eight in Gray’s nine-point argument, “Technology is vital, but does not determine military or policy success.” Knowing this, as Gray acknowledges, does not tell us much about which transformation programs the Defense Department should buy, although cutting or including the wrong ones would cripple a proactive grand strategy. Moreover, even the most optimistic Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) advocates who trumpet information technology’s potential for lifting the fog of war could coexist with Gray’s conservative admonitions: that military effectiveness, overall, will continue to depend upon combined arms, including competent ground forces, and that information dominance for lopsided victories in conventional war will not automatically imply solutions for asymmetric or postwar scenarios.

In short, the precepts and meticulous logic of classical realism can take us only so far. When it comes to deciding how to actually cope with Iraq, North Korea, Europe, China, or al Qaeda, ample room remains for the mystical, which sometimes operates under the guise of “strategic genius.” This is not to say that The Sheriff offers no valuable contribution. Gray’s 20 pages of endnotes, for example, rather function as a helpful appendix, integrating his expert monologue with the dynamic conversation under way among officials as well as academics on American grand strategy and defense transformation. Taken as a whole, The Sheriff effectively demonstrates why traditional realism, geopolitics, and the cyclical view of history, after 2,500 years, retain their relevance. Even if books like The Sheriff cannot provide tidy answers in a handy


primer for statesmen, they can prod a sometimes overwhelmed foreign policy elite to peer deeper into the past and ask the right questions.

No End in Sight: The Continuing Menace of Nuclear Proliferation. By Nathan E. Busch. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004. 490 pages. $40.00. Reviewed by George H. Quester, Professor of Government and Politics, University of Maryland.

This is a very valuable book which addresses one important half of the nuclear proliferation problem. The author says relatively little about the motivations of the countries acquiring nuclear weapons in the past or in the future, i.e. about the strategic or political calculations behind such proliferation, and he thus does not spend much time discussing the likelihood of further proliferation. Rather, the book offers a detailed and well-researched survey of the immediate consequences of such proliferation, of the risk that weapons might go off by accident or as a result of insubordination, or that nuclear materials might slip out of control into the hands of additional nations or even those of non-state actors.

The author offers a careful review of the experience of the United States, the Soviet Union and its Russian successor, and China, to see what lessons can be extracted from these nuclear powers on the management of nuclear command and control, and on nuclear material protection, control, and accounting (MPC+A). The British and French experience is not discussed, on the argument that these democracies will have largely matched the American experience (but one wonders whether any close calls might have been unearthed in these two national cases).

Additional chapters discuss what we know of the Indian and Pakistani track record on the control of nuclear weapons and nuclear materials, and of our experience with Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Given that the book was published in late 2004, the inclusion of the chapter on Iraq may strike readers as a bit odd, in view of the growing consensus that Saddam Hussein’s regime was not able to resurrect much of a nuclear program after the inspections and dismantling it was subjected to in the aftermath of Desert Storm. The author’s discussion of Iraqi thinking, which may have been drafted a year or two earlier, is caveated to take the American intervention into Iraq into account, but it still has a slight tone of being overtaken by events. The author does not offer any real discussion of the Israeli experience, on the argument that it is “extremely difficult to obtain much reliable information on its nuclear weapons systems.” Yet the same issues of reliability must emerge on the reports we have to sort out on Iran and North Korea (as well as on all of what we thought we knew about Iraq), and there may also be issues of “reliability” in the reports of “materials-unaccounted-for,” or of near-failures in the nuclear command- and-control systems, in the major nuclear powers as well.

Limited of course to non-classified information, the book pulls together almost all of such reports in a very well-written account, and hence will be must-reading for anyone working on nuclear proliferation issues in the future. It sets up something of a strawman in the “proliferation optimists,” most prominently Kenneth Waltz, the analysts who minimize the risks that nuclear weapons will be set off when they are not sup-


posed to, or will slip out of state control, and who argue that there will be fewer wars and more widespread deterrence when nuclear weapons spread. Replete with detail on the many ways that nuclear weapons could get used or could get lost, Busch’s book offers a powerful antidote to the first part of the above “optimism.” But, as noted, it does not delve far into the second part of the pro-proliferation argument, by which Israel may have won Arab acceptance of its existence in a very hostile neighborhood simply because of all the rumors that it has acquired nuclear weapons, and by which North Korea could similarly be seeking to avoid the “dust-bin of history” by getting the atomic bomb.

On the first part of the optimist-pessimist argument, the book certainly offers a powerful reinforcement for what most Americans (and most nations around the world) most probably already accept, that it is important to make a strong effort to keep nuclear weapons from spreading. A critic of the book might come back with the question, at what price? What alternatives and what other problems would have to be accepted?

Indeed, there are some tough trade-offs involved here, where the policy choices are not at all so clear or easy. In the book’s relatively shorter section on policy recommendations, the author approves of further reductions in the American and Russian nuclear arsenals. These would of course make sense in that the smaller the arsenals, the easier it is to make sure none of the bombs slip out of control. But the concomitant that smaller arsenals reduce the risk of premature use, or reduce a reliance on launch-on-warning, etc., may not be so clear. It is also not so certain that major reductions in the Russian and American nuclear arsenals would discourage horizontal nuclear proliferation rather than encouraging it.

Another tough choice gets discussed a little in the book, but then gets perhaps too quickly brushed aside, regarding whether to offer the latest in permissive-action-link (PAL) command-and-control technology to countries like India and Pakistan. To do so would indeed seem to be rewarding proliferation rather than punishing it. But to do so also would in some cases reduce the risk of accidental use, or the risk of still further proliferation if there were an attempt to steal bombs from these countries.

The nuclear proliferation possibility, as the author eloquently points out, is a most serious problem, with some very broad and complicated ramifications. To note that this book (quite competently and readably) addresses one slice of this problem, while saying less about the rest of the problem, is hardly a condemnation of the product. The book is extremely valuable for the data and facts it pulls together, doing so in a very engaging form.

The Great Game: The Myth and Reality of Espionage. By Frederick P. Hitz. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. 189 pages. $22.00. Reviewed by Colonel Stuart A. Herrington, USA Ret., author of Stalking the Vietcong: Inside Operation Phoenix, Peace with Honor: An American Reports on Vietnam: 1973-1975, and Traitors Among Us: Inside the Spy Catcher’s World.

Curious readers have a propensity for seeking out professional human intelligence officers who publish books about their experiences. Tell me, these readers inquire, is the reality of the spy versus counterspy game anything like the


exciting espionage genre of Ian Fleming, Tom Clancy, or John le Carre? This, and many other timely and far more important issues, are either the principal focus of Frederick P. Hitz’s The Great Game, or are suggested by his perceptive analysis of what has been called “the world’s second oldest profession.” Hitz, an attorney and a veteran of more than 18 years of CIA duty, including service on the operational side of the house, was inspired to write this book by a freshman seminar he teaches at Princeton University. He is well qualified to weave a tapestry of reflections on the craft of espionage by studying the characters of fictional and real spies, from le Carre’s George Smiley to the CIA’s infamous and all-too-real Aldrich Ames.

Hitz promises the reader that he will not “break cover” until the work’s epilogue on the question of how the adventures of fictional spies stand up to the reality of the game, then embarks on a series of psychological vignettes of various espionage protagonists from both worlds. Functionally organized chapters on all aspects of the game of espionage follow, artfully embellished with real-world examples from the pantheon of heroes and anti-heroes of Cold War espionage cases. What makes the book particularly interesting is that Hitz, who clearly remains in touch and well-connected, is able to salt the text with informed and perceptive observations of the likes of Oleg Penkovsky, Pyotr Popov, Jonathon Pollard, Aldrich Ames, Clayton Lonetree, Felix Bloch, and Robert Hanssen. His ventures into these case files make it clear to the reader, as all professional human intelligence officers know, that truth was almost invariably stranger than fiction on the streets of Berlin, Vienna, Moscow, and Washington during the Cold War.

One chapter, “Recruitment,” is of particular interest. As a human intelligence/counterintelligence officer, this reviewer had the opportunity to evaluate human intelligence operations in Panama in the wake of Operation Just Cause, in the Gulf at the conclusion of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and, most recently, in Iraq. In all three contingencies, one of the most prominent “lesson learned” from an intelligence perspective was the lack of human intelligence on the eve of the conflict that might have made operations more successful. American spymasters had failed to build a stable of spies who might have access to critical information—“actionable” is today’s buzzword—whether that might be Manuel Noriega’s favorite hideouts, Saddam Hussein’s intentions with respect to Kuwait, or the real status of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs. Hitz provides a number of clues to the reasons for this perennial weakness.

Neither Director Robert Gates nor veteran CIA career operator Dewey Clarridge knew of any significant recruitments by American case officers of Soviet spies, Hitz informs the reader. Virtually all successful operations against Moscow, Clarridge recalls, resulted in Soviets who “walked in of their own volition and offered their services, usually for money.” Hitz also notes that in non-Soviet cases, such as operations in the mid-1980s against one “Middle East country” (read Iran), the CIA apparently lost almost its entire stable of human sources because almost 20 sources were reporting via secret writing to one accommodation address in Europe that had not been changed for a long time.

The disturbing dimension of such weaknesses is that today, as the nation wages the war on terror, there is near unanimity that human intelligence (HUMINT),


not eavesdropping spy satellites or “eye in the sky” cameras, is essential to success. Yet it is apparent from this reviewer’s experience, recent history, and Hitz’s observations that we are far from having the kind of capability in this arena that the situation demands, causing this reviewer to label the HUMINT woes of Panama, the Gulf War, and the Iraq War as “lessons not-yet-learned.”

Hitz’s reflections and history reveal the critical role that good human intelligence can and has played in the making of history. Highly sensitive information provided by Soviet spy Oleg Penkovsky about Soviet strategic missile program vulnerabilities enabled President Kennedy to better cope with the Soviet threat to Berlin in 1961, and with Khrushchev in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Hitz also highlights Soviet spy Richard Sorge’s penetration of the Japanese government that provided Moscow with assurances Japan would not attack the Soviet Far East, enabling Stalin to rush troops from Siberia to European Russia to blunt the Nazi advance in World War II.

Today, our nation is in a life-and-death struggle with a well-financed, fanatical adversary whose hatred of us is an article of religious faith. These are adversaries who make no secret of their ambition to obtain and use nuclear weapons, who have been appropriately labeled “undeterrable,” and who have digested the lessons of asymmetric warfare against our vulnerable homeland. In such a strategic environment, national defense demands that the American intelligence community review its fundamental assumptions about the human intelligence mission, develop rules of engagement suitable to the penetration of “hard targets,” cultivate a competent and bold army of case officers who can take on these targets, and develop a stable of well-placed human intelligence sources that will provide early warning of our worst fears. One would hope that, as Congress debates the revamping of the nation’s intelligence community, its members and staffers take the few short hours required to give Mr. Hitz’s book a quick read.

Filling the Ranks: Transforming the U.S. Military Personnel System. Edited by Cindy Williams. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2004. 361 pages. $50.00 ($25.00 paper). Reviewed by Rich Yarger, Ph.D., Professor of National Security Strategy, US Army War College.

There are good reasons why major changes in the military personnel system are approached with caution. Unlike civilian personnel management systems, the military personnel system is ingrained in every aspect of the military profession, traditions, and culture. It serves as both the lubricant and the glue of the profession. It both encourages and facilitates the men and women of the US military in accomplishing their missions and tasks while bonding them collectively in a selfless life calling. No one should ever approach changing this system with a cavalier attitude, because it affects the very fabric of the quality of our national military power—the human dimension. With that caveat, Cindy Williams and the 13 other authors who contributed to this book have done the military a good service. Under the rubric of change, they have compiled an in-depth assessment and critique of that range of benefits, compensation, structure, privileges, training, and rewards that constitute the current personnel management system.

The tenor of the overall work is that the current system is out of step with the realities of modern war and the expectations of the men and women who will fill


the ranks in the future. The chapter authors have credibility, and they have done their homework. There is a logic and flow to the overall book that convinces the reader the authors understand the issues and there is a need to examine change. Collectively they argue the military must modernize its personnel system or risk the success of the modern voluntary force. This contention may or may not be right in an absolute sense, but the debate needs to be conducted and some changes are long overdue. In that regard, the authors have framed the debate well. The book looks at the “why” of the current system as hard as it looks at the “what” of a new system. It is a micro-study in the complexity of change.

This book adds value to the profession far beyond the positions that the authors take and the recommendations made for changes in the active and reserve forces. It is an excellent summary of the current personnel management system and the issues confronting it. Military personnel managers at every level should add it to their bookshelves. For them, it is a reminder of and resource for fulfilling their responsibilities in manning the current and future force. For the decisionmaker and more general professional, it is an essential resource for understanding the history and practice of personnel management in the US military, as well as a practical overview of the current problems confronting the system and potential solutions for them.

Lincoln’s War: The Untold Story of America’s Greatest President as Commander in Chief. By Geoffrey Perret. New York: Random House, 2004. 496 pages. $35.00. Reviewed by Colonel Len Fullenkamp, USA Ret., Professor of Military History and Strategy, US Army War College.

Geoffrey Perret begins Lincoln’s War by reminding the reader, “Incredible as it may seem to us, when Lincoln became president, there was still a question as to whether the president, even acting as commander in chief, had the power to determine military policy. It fell to Lincoln to create the role of commander in chief.” He had to sort out the breadth and depth of what we now commonly refer to as presidential war powers as he grappled with the challenges of fighting a civil war. In doing so successfully, asserts Perret, “he created the modern presidency.”

That it was to be Lincoln’s fate to redefine the presidency is all the more remarkable given his conservative views on the limited powers of the office. As a member of Congress in 1846, a younger Abraham Lincoln vigorously objected to what he considered the usurpation of congressional war-making powers by James Polk. Polk had taken the country to war with Mexico over the objections of the legislative branch. Lincoln chided Polk in a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, declaring, “Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so, whenever he chooses to say he deems it necessary [and] you allow him to make war at pleasure. . . . [Y]our view places our president where kings have always stood.” Ironically, less than two decades later, Lincoln would find the need to exercise just such kingly powers—powers that, in the eyes of many at the time and in later generations, vastly exceeded what the founding fathers had envisioned for the chief executive.


From the first moments of his presidency Lincoln held the unshakable belief, as expressed in his inaugural address, that “the Union is indivisible,” period. When the Southern states seceded, he held their actions invalid, and then fought a long and bloody war to prove the point. A lesser man than Lincoln would have avoided war, or if war had come, may have agreed to a negotiated settlement rather than to preside over the effusion of blood and destruction of property that resulted from four years of civil war. Lincoln the lawyer found implied powers in the Constitution, foremost of which was that a just end justified the means. In Perret’s words, “Lincoln . . . faced a clear choice: either stick to the letter of the Constitution and see the Union disintegrate or follow the spirit of the Constitution and do whatever was needed to save it.” “Whatever” included a range of actions that to some made Lincoln appear to be more a dictator than a President. He suspended the writ of habeas corpus, authorized expenditures from the treasury without congressional approval, ordered conscription, closed newspapers and jailed editors, and ordered martial law in states where local courts claimed jurisdiction.

When the government found itself out of money, Lincoln authorized the printing of “Greenbacks” (currency not backed by gold reserves). When the Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon Chase, objected because to do so violated the Constitution, Lincoln pointedly remarked, “I will violate the Constitution if necessary to save the Union.” Perret provides an interesting account of how Lincoln used his war powers as a basis to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Although sworn to support and defend the Constitution, Lincoln came to see that slavery was a source of strength so essential to the South that it had to be addressed. How to do so within the Constitution took him some time to figure out. Ultimately, William Whiting, the War Department’s legal counsel, convinced Lincoln that the revered document provided “only a frame of government, a plan in outline for regulating the affairs of an enterprising and progressive nation.” By mid-1862, Lincoln, “a strict constructionist” concluded that the Constitution had to be “interpreted by common sense,” and he therefore “invoked the ‘hitherto unused powers’ of the Constitution to defend it.”

Perret devotes considerable time and attention to Lincoln’s relations with his generals. Until Ulysses S. Grant came along, Lincoln was perpetually frustrated with generals who refused to prosecute the war with the vigor he thought essential. Indeed, Lincoln was so exasperated with generals who refused to fight that he resorted to giving authority to commanders to attack in his name, allowing them to place the blame on him if the attack failed. Urging George Gordon Meade to pursue and attack Lee after Gettysburg, he wrote, “The order I enclose is not of record. If you succeed, you will have all the credit of the movement. If not, I’ll take the responsibility.” When Lincoln suggested a post-Antietam offensive to George McClellan, only to have the Young Napoleon reject the idea, he wrote plaintively to his reluctant general, “I say ‘try’; if we never try, we shall never succeed.”

Perret leaves little doubt that Abraham Lincoln is the central character in the great drama that was the American Civil War. It was Lincoln’s determination, his iron will, that was the key to Union strategy. The Army War College teaches that strategy is the calculated relationship of ends and means, and on a mechanical level that construct is accurate; but a war-winning strategy requires another element to be


successful, the will to prevail. Absent this, an accounting mentality takes hold, and war planners tend to think of strategies as driven by means, rather than ends. Strategy becomes what can be afforded, rather than what is called for by the ends. During one of the darkest hours of the war, as an expression of his unbending will Lincoln asserted, “I expect to maintain this contest until successful, or till I die, or am conquered. Or my term expires, or Congress or the country forsakes me.”

Perret argues that Lincoln sustained the war effort and secured victory because he understood “an eternal truth: only those who try to go too far discover just how far they can go.” Further, in an assertion that forms the central thesis of this book, “Lincoln defined the war powers of the presidency in a way that no other member of his cabinet understood or agreed with, including Edward Bates [Attorney General]. . . . What it amounted to was that in a struggle for its very survival, the United States could claim all the powers allowed under international law, and none of those powers could be circumscribed by any of the guarantees or prohibitions of the Constitution.” In short, Perret sees Lincoln as unique among those who until his time had held the office of President. “What set Lincoln apart was his conception of the first of all presidential duties: saving the Constitution, whatever the cost and whatever the document’s literal or plain meaning. Almost anyone else would have looked for a compromise. He never did so. To Lincoln the equation was unarguable: no Union, no Constitution, as surely as no Constitution, no Union.”

A close reading of Lincoln’s War leaves no doubt that the domestic power of the chief executive in wartime is limited only by Congress and the courts. If Congress is divided and the courts stand silent, there is almost nothing the commander in chief cannot do. Readers mindful of the exigencies of the Global War on Terror will find interesting analogies between the crisis confronting Lincoln, and his response, to those confronting the commander in chief today. Now, as then, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

Readers with an extensive knowledge of Civil War history and a good grounding in political science will dismiss Lincoln’s War as being superficial on both accounts. On the other hand, the general reader with an interest in civil-military relations, Abraham Lincoln, and the American way of war will find Perret’s book worthy of his time.

Winfield Scott and the Profession of Arms. By Allan Peskin. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2003. 344 pages. $49.00. Reviewed by Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Moten, Ph.D., Academy Professor and Chief, Military History Division, Department of History, US Military Academy.

Not long ago, Winfield Scott, who towered literally and figuratively over the American Army for 50 years, seemed to have lost the attention of military biographers. Winslow Elliott’s eloquent Winfield Scott: The Soldier and the Man (1937) stood as the definitive and unchallenged treatment of “Old Fuss and Feathers” for six decades.

The drought has passed. With Allan Peskin’s monograph, we now have three new Scott biographies in seven years. John S. D. Eisenhower began the Scott renaissance with his Agent of Destiny in 1997. Timothy Johnson followed the next


year with a biography subtitled “The Quest for Military Glory.” Now Allan Peskin continues the reappraisal with Winfield Scott and the Profession of Arms.

Eisenhower’s Agent of Destiny vibrantly presents a Scott who dominates much of Jacksonian America and its military affairs, but it adds little to Elliott’s earlier treatment and sadly neglects many archival sources and much excellent and recent historiography. Johnson’s Winfield Scott is just as readable, but far better researched and informed by the past few decades of debate surrounding the subject of military professionalism.

Peskin’s biography is elegantly written, thoroughly researched, and carefully argued. His narrative deftly weaves the principal episodes of Scott’s eventful life together with the story of America’s adolescence. In this telling, the complex Scott— by turns vain, compassionate, self-deluded, visionary, thin-skinned, and statesmanlike, to name a very few traits—develops into one of the most reliable grownups in a young nation plagued by leadership that was too often short-sighted and self-seeking. Time and again American Presidents ask Scott, hero of the War of 1812, to handle intractable politico-military crises. His record of accomplishment is mixed, but the fact that one administration after another turns to him for counsel and action in matters military and diplomatic attests to his durable utility on the national stage.

The most important thread in the tapestry of Peskin’s life of Scott is the protagonist’s central role in the development of the American military profession. Scott was an unlikely proponent. A self-taught officer who achieved flag rank in his twenties, he might have been forgiven for succumbing to the signature temptation of self-made men—thinking that his success was pre-ordained and that his talents had sprung from innate personal qualities. Instead, Scott determined upon a course that made him truly unusual, trying to build upon his individual success by replicating it throughout the Army. He believed that his historic legacy would reside in the future of his institution. What Scott the autodidact had done for himself, he hoped to provide universally to a fledgling standing army. He labored to build a regular American Army by establishing professional standards of training, behavior, organization, equipment, and procedure. Over a career of more than a half-century, he was largely successful.

The theme of professionalization carries the biographical plot through Scott’s command in the War of 1812 to his inelegant fall from grace at the beginning of the Civil War. Along the way, he wrote tactical doctrine and governing regulations for the Army, schemed for career advancement, commanded troops in an ill-fated Florida campaign during the Second Seminole War, and feuded with Presidents, generals, and Secretaries of War. The rightful highlight of any Scott biography is his brilliant Mexico City campaign, beginning with his amphibious landing at Veracruz and subsequent investment of that city, and continuing with one tactical and operational success after another, despite facing superior numbers and commanding troops and subordinate generals of uneven quality. Peskin adroitly blends military and political analysis in helping us to understand how Scott could lead such a flawless campaign and achieve decisive strategic victory, only to be recalled in disgrace by the manipulative and paranoid President Polk.

Peskin’s understanding of the politics of Jacksonian and antebellum America is on full display in his analysis of Scott’s failed presidential campaign of


1852. It was a campaign that spelled the end of the Whig Party and of the general’s political aspirations.

One omission stands out in this treatment of Scott as military reformer. The author gives too little attention to the agency of the US Military Academy in the development of military professionalism. Scott himself recognized the important contributions of West Point graduates, which they manifested so well during the Mexican campaign and thereafter in the Civil War. Scott was a booster of the academy and spent many quiet vacations there. As Peskin concentrates on the entire regular Army, not just the officer corps, as the key to Scott’s formulation of professionalism, he tends to neglect the formative contributions of West Point.

At this juncture, the reader expects the reviewer to pronounce where the new offering ranks alongside the competition. I will resist. Both Johnson and Peskin have given us first-rate treatments of one of the most significant and unfortunately neglected lives of the 19th century. I found Peskin’s Scott to be fascinating—a complex, self-defeating, endearing, maddening, pompous genius. Winfield Scott and the Profession of Arms enriches our understanding of the general and the Army and nation he served.

Confederate General R. S. Ewell: Robert E. Lee’s Hesitant Commander. By Paul D. Casdorph. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004. 474 pages. $39.95. Reviewed by Ethan S. Rafuse, author of A Single Grand Victory: The First Campaign and Battle of Manassas and Associate Professor of Military History, US Army Command and General Staff College.

In August 1862, Richard Stoddert Ewell was widely recognized as one of the premier division commanders in the Confederate Army. By the time the Civil War ended, however, Ewell’s star had lost much of its luster. First came a grisly wounding at Groveton on 28 August 1862 that cost Ewell almost his entire left leg and forced him to miss the Maryland, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville campaigns, followed by a marriage that would prompt rumors that Ewell had come under the sway of “petticoat government.” Then, after returning to action in May 1863 as Stonewall Jackson’s replacement as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia’s Second Corps, Ewell turned in performances at Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Sailor’s Creek which ensured that the task of producing a truly balanced account of his life and career—one that offered a clear understanding of the challenges corps and division commanders faced during the Civil War—would be a difficult one.

Fortunately, in 1998, Ewell received the sort of biographical treatment his service during the Civil War and as an Indian-fighting dragoon in the antebellum Army merited: Donald C. Pfanz’s Richard S. Ewell: A Soldier’s Life. That 600-page doorstop of a book, in addition to being exhaustive in its research, highly readable, and rich in detail, offered a remarkably balanced appraisal of its controversial subject. This cannot all be said of Paul D. Casdorph’s Confederate General R. S. Ewell.

Casdorph certainly deserves praise for an impressive research effort and for producing a well-written narrative of Ewell’s life and career that will be useful to anyone who finds the size of Pfanz’s work daunting. Unfortunately, these qualities are off-


set by Casdorph’s evidently uncritical embrace of the Lost Cause–Douglas Southall Freeman–Ted Turner school of Civil War history, in which Ewell’s supposed indecisiveness ranks high on the list of explanations for Confederate military setbacks in 1863-65, especially at Gettysburg. Indeed, by his own admission, Casdorph began his research on Ewell with a negative view of his subject. The inspiration to undertake a study of Ewell, Casdorph states in his introduction, came while he was working on his 1991 book, Lee and Jackson, when he “began to wonder why a man [like Ewell] with such defects of character should reach a high station.” That Casdorph failed in the course of his research and writing to rise above his initial animus toward Ewell is evident. In an attempt to support his thesis that Ewell was an irrepressibly hesitant man and a drag on the Confederate war effort, Casdorph gives more weight to Pierre Beauregard’s critique of Ewell’s performance at First Manassas and Clifford Dowdey’s critique of his actions at the Wilderness than either merits, and he does not do justice to Ewell’s exceptional performances at Kettle Run and Second Winchester.

Nowhere is Casdorph’s lack of balance more evident than in his treatment of Gettysburg, however. It has become an article of faith among many students of the Civil War that Ewell’s refusal to follow up on his corps’ sweeping victory north of Gettysburg by attacking Cemetery Hill or Culp’s Hill on 1 July 1863 cost the South a golden opportunity (one that Jackson “surely” would have seized) to make the Gettysburg campaign a triumph from which Confederate independence would have flowed, instead of the defeat that set the South on the road to Appomattox. In his treatment of this episode, Casdorph confirms the traditional image of Ewell being paralyzed by indecision at a time when critical pieces of terrain were there for the taking.

Yet, unlike Pfanz, who meticulously reconstructed the events and addressed all of the factors that shaped Ewell’s thinking on 1 July, Casdorph neglects a number of critical points. There is no mention of the fact that even before Ewell could have gotten his forces into place for an attack, Cemetery Hill was held by a fresh Union brigade that was well-supported by artillery, as well as the rallying elements of the Eleventh and First Corps. Commanded by the redoubtable Winfield Scott Hancock, these forces would have hardly been the pushover so many assume and wish they would have been. Nor does Casdorph acknowledge that in order to get into position to attack Cemetery Hill, if he did not wish to waste the rest of the day swinging around the town, Ewell would have had to negotiate the chaotic and narrow streets of Gettysburg in massed columns and then attempt to deploy for the attack right under the noses of the Union defenders. Indeed, a full consideration of the evidence suggests that had Ewell (or Jackson for that matter) attempted to attack Cemetery Hill on 1 July, it would have resulted in a bloody repulse rather than a decisive success. Of course, there was also the option of seizing Culp’s Hill. Yet upon receiving an erroneous report that Culp’s Hill was unoccupied, Ewell did in fact order Edward Johnson’s division (the only division in the Second Corps that had not already been heavily engaged on 1 July) to seize the hill. Yet by the time Johnson reached Culp’s Hill, it was after dark and he found it occupied by Union forces. More could be said on this matter, but there is clearly plenty of evidence to suggest that the notion that is central to Casdorph’s entire book—namely, that an unreasonably hesitant Ewell threw away a golden opportunity on 1 July 1863— is not supported by the facts.


One easily sympathizes with Casdorph’s plight as he wrote this book. It is hard to imagine how he could have produced a book on Ewell that could match, much less set itself apart from, Pfanz’s thorough and balanced study. By offering a portrayal of Ewell that follows and reinforces the traditional (albeit flawed) interpretation of the general and his role in the Confederate war effort, Casdorph has in fact managed to set his work apart from Pfanz’s—although not in a positive way.

Command Failure in War: Psychology and Leadership. By Robert Pois and Philip Langer. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004. 304 pages. $29.95. Reviewed by Colonel Thomas J. Williams, a clinical psychologist and Director, Army Physical Fitness Research Institute (APFRI), US Army War College.

The goal of understanding the psychological characteristics of commanders, in particular trying to identify those aspects of their personalities that may have influenced their decisions when they fail, offers many intriguing possibilities. Too often we are quick to ascribe “leadership” attributes to successful commanders without attempting to discern how their underlying personality or psychological traits contributed to that leadership success or vulnerability for failure. Certainly, the move toward increased self-awareness in leaders is designed to reduce the risk of falling into a pattern of maladaptive behavior or decisionmaking that increases the likelihood of failure.

Command Failure in War seeks to offer a psycho-historical balance in this process by focusing on commanders and the causes and consequences of their decisionmaking from the perspectives of both a historian and a psychologist. The late Robert Pois was a professor of history at the University of Colorado for nearly 40 years. His other books include The Great War, National Socialism and the Religion of Nature, and Friedrich Meinecke and German Politics in the Twentieth Century. Philip Langer teamed with Pois due to his lifelong interest in military history, and is professor of educational psychology and Faculty Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Institute of Cognitive Science.

The premise for this book is straightforward but difficult to achieve with great fidelity. The authors apply a psycho-historical analysis to eight notable failures of military command and leadership. The authors note they chose the leaders they did out of personal interest and knowledge. The focus shifts from one-day decisions, to a protracted campaign, to the air campaign of World War II. This diverse range, guided more by interest than purpose, results in difficulty in identifying the underlying psychological processes that may be common to the failures of these leaders.

The leaders and battles examined include: Frederick the Great at Kunersdorf; Napoleon in Russia; three US Civil War campaigns: Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg, George McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign, and John Bell Hood’s Battle of Franklin; Douglas Haig and the British General Staff during World War I; Winston Churchill’s strategic bombing of Germany during World War II; and Adolf Hitler’s leadership of the German Army in the Battle of Stalingrad.

The conceptual framework focuses on the individuals’ characteristics (e.g., personality, developmental history); the situations (the historical and cultural influ-


ences at the time); their leadership style; and the existing stresses of the war at the time of the failure. The authors effectively set the stage for the decisions that were made and then identify background and developmental history factors for each leader, offering speculation on how the psychological characteristics of the commanders may have contributed to their defeat.

Offered as a warning for commanders facing asymmetric and unpredictable threats today, the authors argue that Frederick the Great, Napoleon, Lee, and Hitler, while all previously successful, failed in each highlighted battle because they were unable to appreciate and adapt to new circumstances, stubbornly and inflexibly ignoring evidence and advice to the contrary. This inflexibility is equated to impaired problem-solving, which in turn constrained the abilities of these commanders in the stress of war to effectively see or evaluate alternative courses of action. The authors note the common theme as one in which “persistence of habit, fixed systems of belief, or given attitudes or mental predispositions” hindered effective judgment.

The authors introduce the reader to several psychological theories which non-psychologists may find tedious. Yet their main point—that the military character or personality of commanders does matter—is an important one, and this book goes far in reinforcing it. The book also makes evident how difficult it is to discern these psychological aspects of leadership and how the personalities of leaders will change in war. The influence of personality on leaders has long been recognized by Army doctrine.

This is a timely and important book, even if it takes liberties with some of the underlying psychological explanations. It provides a valuable addition to increasing our awareness of the complexity and relevance of the personalities of leaders in shaping their leadership style. The book also reinforces the importance for senior leaders to increase their focus on how personality factors influence their actions; how the stress of war can influence the expression of that personality; and how, too often, aspects of their personality may increase the prospect of failure in command in time of war.

This Man’s Army: A Soldier’s Story from the Front Lines of the War on Terrorism. By Andrew Exum. New York: Gotham Books, 2004, 239 pages. $25.00. Reviewed by Dr. Henry G. Gole (Colonel, USA Ret.) author of Road to Rainbow: Army Planning for Global War, 1934-1940 and Soldiering: Observations from Korea, Vietnam, and Safe Places.

This Man’s Army is a well-written insight into what is expected of the American warrior early in the 21st century. It puts the reader on an unforgiving battlefield and suggests important questions.

“Where did we get such men?” That rhetorical question is posed by Admiral Tarrant, a character in James A. Michener’s novel of the Korean War, The Bridges at Toko-ri, and by the perfectly cast Frederick March in the film version. The question posed in the early 1950s resurfaces 50 years later as once again the few fight while the many are generally unaffected by two distant wars fought in their name. Indeed, the many are often self-indulgent, even hedonistic in their pursuit of


things that abound in our overflowing market economy. The few are still slamming aircraft onto tossing flight decks and walking patrol in dangerous places while most of us are snugly a-bed. Where do we get such men?

We got one of them from East Tennessee. He came via ROTC at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League institution better known for producing doctors, lawyers, and captains of finance than for providing gritty leaders eager for close combat and skilled at killing people. His name is Andrew Exum, English and classics major and infantry platoon leader.

From 2000 until 2004, Exum’s graduate school was Infantry Officer Basic, Ranger, and Airborne courses at the University of Hard Knocks, home of the US Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia. His apprenticeship was at Fort Drum in a rifle company of the 10th Mountain Division where he learned his trade: leading tough young Americans into harm’s way and out again. Then he was a journeyman in Kuwait, taking full advantage of the opportunities to hone his personal skills as a fighter and leader of fighters with realistic training. But he was bored and disappointed because he was left out of combat. He hadn’t had his war. Then came the call to Afghanistan and a chance to show his stuff.

For all the ink spilled over high-tech combat and gee-whiz gadgets, Andrew and his merry band, once delivered to God-awful places at the top of the world, do what infantry has always done. They climb steep mountains, sucking thin air while carrying burdens so heavy that their efforts would be described as cruel and unusual punishment if they were convicted felons. “Success” is defined as forcing a wily foe to fight in the infantry contest that is killing and dying at close range. Extraordinary physical exertion by day is punctuated by teeth-chattering cold at night.

At one point, after an assault on an al Qaeda cave, it is necessary to move 800 meters. “On a running track, I can cover that distance in about two and a half minutes. With a ninety-pound load and at ten thousand feet, however, it took significantly longer.” Lieutenant Exum leads the way. He enters an enemy fighting position and puts his foot down on something soft. “Catching my balance, I looked down to realize that I had just put my boot into the belly of a freshly killed soldier.” This is followed by an opportunity to blow one’s limbs off along with enemy munitions of questionable stability. The munitions cannot be left to enemy use; specialists are not available for the task; infantry does it.

Welcome to the world of high-tech infantry combat in this age of transformation. Most civilians remain blissfully unaware of a certain neat distinction known by soldiers. Combat can kill or maim anyone in the neighborhood, but combat doesn’t just happen to infantry. Infantry seeks combat. Constantly.

And Exum kills a man. It’s okay. It needed doing.

Re-entry into the “world,” as soldiers refer to our land of malls and interstate highways, is temporarily disorienting. But then it too is okay. One is young and adaptable. And Exum had not yet had his fill of martial adventures, so it’s off to the hard core of infantry, a Ranger company. Then he returns to civilian life.

As we consider the prospect of intense combat in the aftermath of America’s 2004 general election, the question posed earlier is still on the table. It is not academic. Reservists have been extended beyond the terms of their contracts, reg-


ulars are meeting themselves coming and going, and the military cupboard is bare. In the absence of conscription, where, indeed, will we find such men?

The First World War. By Hew Strachan. New York: The Penguin Group, 2003. 384 pages. $27.95. Reviewed by Dr. Douglas V. Johnson II (LTC, USA Ret.), Research Professor, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College.

Whenever I pick up a book on World War I by a British author, the first thing I search for is mention that the Americans participated, and if there is mention, I then examine the tone of that reference. The Index to this particular work shows four pages for the American Expeditionary Force, which tells me it isn’t going well since the number is slight and the title is incorrect—it should read plural, “Forces.” There is no bibliography, so let’s look at the notes: David Trask, good; James Hallas, good; Chambers, Sims, Seymour, Halpern, Knock, Sumida, Charles Gilbert—are all okay as sources, but they do little to examine the ground war, outside of Hallas, who is focused entirely on tactics. There is one photo each of Pershing and Wilson. Well, the Americans fought for only about 100 days and suffered “only” some 50,000 casualties, which does not compare to the slaughter suffered by the other participants, but the record is quite solid that as far as the French were concerned, 1917 was the year to “wait for the Americans.”

There must have been some reason for that comment, but because Colonel Bob Doughty (USA Ret.), the former head of the History Department at West Point, is almost the only American who bothers to translate and examine French military records, we are left a bit adrift for a complete explanation; not so with the British. If the reader wants to really get into the worth of the American contribution, one must post himself or herself to the Military History Institute and read the dispute between a certain American field artillery brigadier and a variety of British authors, historians, and other notables conducted in the pages of several prominent American newspapers. “The Americans ‘WON’ the war!” trumpets the brigadier—“Hogwash” respond the British. One doubts there will ever be agreement on this issue, but it still rankles a bit to see the American contribution largely ignored.

The fundamental description in this book of American contributions to the ground war is contained in two pages, but they are artfully written and basically on the mark. The most useful bit is the single sentence that notes the size of the American contribution exceeded the 1918 size of both the French and the British imperial forces in France.

Now, the foregoing is admittedly an ethnocentric appreciation, and it should not be construed to diminish the value of this relatively slim, well-written overview of the war. If the reader has doubts about what level of war this book addresses, the maps readily demonstrate the author’s intent to conduct a global and theater-by-theater examination rather than provide a tactical or operational history.

Like many good histories of the war, this book takes the requisite space to present the alliance contributions in sufficient detail to make clear the associated burdens, dangers, and benefits of fighting as part of an alliance and of membership in a coalition. Strachan covers each theater thoroughly with both a broad outline of


events and a few illustrative vignettes, leaving the reader with a satisfying appreciation for the whole.

The author uses this same technique to encapsulate each phase of the war. The chapter on “Breaking the Deadlock” begins with a concise appreciation of the value of the trenches, including all their negative aspects. Trenches saved lives and allowed for economy of force despite being pest-holes. Strachan goes on to reinforce the point by noting that the attacker generally suffered disproportionately greater casualties. He also observes that in comparison to other wars World War I saw no distinctive campaigns, as soldiers were constantly exposed to combat in one form or another.

It is always reassuring to see an author address the full breadth of a war, including the infrastructure issues. In this regard, Strachan treats the lack of munitions in sufficient detail as he reviews the need to release soldiers from active duty to support manufacturing, and the participation of women in the British, French, and German munitions industries. He also notes that the rush to provide sufficient amounts of ammunition resulted in a decline in quality that had the secondary effect of creating battlefield casualties on friendly artillerymen equal to those inflicted by the enemy.

One of the best passages in this book is the sub-section on “Economic Warfare.” Strachan uses straightforward language to detail the ins and outs of this complex instrument of national power, or in this case international power. Devices such as preemptive purchasing, practiced by the United States during World War II, are shown to have been just the kind of measure required to tread the fine line between heavy-handed interventionism and the softer, market-driven approach that achieved the same effect—denying the enemy access to essential commodities without forcing a neutral state to join the enemy camp. This is one of the relatively few cases where economic embargo can be demonstrated to have had a direct effect.

None of this is new to any serious student of World War I, but Strachan has produced a work that brings everything together, with an occasional provocative or imaginative interpretation. With its well-illustrated format (including tinted and genuine color photographs), it is a work reminiscent of A. J. P. Taylor’s Illustrated History of the First World War that so beguiled me as a teenager. If you want a solid, quick, easy read on World War I, this book is a good one to consider.

Balancing Risks: Great Power Intervention in the Periphery. By Jeffrey W. Taliaferro. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2004. 306 pages. $39.95. Reviewed by Dr. Stephen Blank, Professor of National Security Studies, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College.

The subject of this book could not be more topical. Taliaferro’s main question is what drives great powers to take major risks in peripheral areas of world politics even though the risks are great and the chances of success are problematic at best. Naturally one would hope for answers based on historical examples, if not current wars, that would help guide policymakers and the public with regard to such conflicts as Vietnam, Iraq, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Chechnya, and possibly Afghanistan today (a somewhat different case since we were attacked). But instead we get something rather differ-


ent. The reader who looks at this book in the hope of finding usable analyses that can help to understand or guide policy will be disappointed, but it is not the author’s fault.

Taliaferro’s answer to his main question comes from prospect theory in economics, a theory that suggests people will take great risks to avoid losses and attempt to return their situation to an expected status quo that was beneficial to them, while they are more loath to take risk in the expectation of gains. Loss aversion or balancing risks is what drives them, and thus it is what drives states. This is not altogether a new theory. Most studies of Vietnam concluded long ago that we intervened there not because we thought we could overturn the Geneva accords of 1954, but rather to avoid loss of our position in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. Moscow’s intervention in Afghanistan followed a similar trajectory. What truly drove the Brezhnev administration in Afghanistan was the refusal to accept the loss of a “socialist” state, bizarre as that might seem in hindsight.

But Taliaferro, like any good professor of international relations, is more concerned with theory than with politics or policy. Theory ultimately seems more important than what governments do in reality. This is not surprising, since like every other author he has to make his way in his profession, a profession that too often turns away from real politics to ponder theoretical issues in the explanation of world affairs. Thus we are constantly treated to an assessment of not just what prospect theory has to say about his particular cases, but what offensive realism, defensive realism, the theory of logrolling coalitions, and the theory of balancing risks all have to say about them: Germany’s pursuit of crisis in Morocco in 1905 and 1911, Japan’s decision to attack the United States in 1941, and American decisionmaking during several phases of the Korean War in 1950-51.

While Taliaferro’s analysis of these cases is sound and well-researched, nonetheless this book still reads too much like a doctoral dissertation and not as a book for an audience beyond the academy. The author obviously and probably rightly feels he has to present his argument in this manner to be taken seriously in academia. Unfortunately, it only shows that even sound arguments often come cloaked in a costume that is all but impenetrable to non-mandarins. This is too bad, because it would have been most useful if he could have looked at Vietnam or even the war in Iraq (which began as he was writing) and told the reader something new and fresh. While the encomiums on the back of the cover suggest that he has succeeded in reaching his primary intended audience, this reviewer nevertheless remains not quite satisfied.

After all, it is true that Imperial Germany’s pursuit of gains in Europe through Morocco is truly a quest for intervention in the periphery. But is Japan’s effort to gain an empire, first in China and then in Southeast Asia, an intervention in the periphery? No responsible Japanese government has not been vitally interested in what happens in China or Manchuria. These areas are not peripheries to Japan, and while its imperial quest was misguided, it did have a basis in geographical reality. Similarly with regard to the US intervention in Korea, we were prepared to give it up or at least not take it particularly seriously until we were attacked. While the author grasps fully that in the conditions of 1950 that attack could not have been met any other way by an embattled Truman Administration, does Korea in this sense truly count as a periphery? Certainly it was strategically more important than Vietnam, a true war of choice, and


maybe it was even more vital than Iraq, another war of choice, so its status as periphery becomes even more debatable.

Again, the author is not to be faulted for his choice of examples or his argument. It is unfortunate that for sound professional and economic reasons Taliaferro chose to write a book targeted primarily at his brothers in Apollo, so to speak, but the fault lies in a system that disfigures solid intellectual analysis and readability in favor of obscurity and restricted readership. As a result, those of us who hoped for an incisive analysis of why great powers bog down sometimes—but by no means always—in wars on the periphery, and what sound policymaking can do about it, will have to wait for answers.

Inside the Pentagon Papers. Edited by John Prados and Margaret Pratt Porter. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004. 248 pages. $29.95. Reviewed by Colonel Thomas W. McShane, Director, National Security Legal Studies, US Army War College.

The Supreme Court’s 1971 decision in the Pentagon Papers case, New York Times Co. v. United States, affirmed historical precedents supporting freedom of the press against prior government restraint. Inside the Pentagon Papers afforded this reviewer the opportunity to revisit this case, which I first read in law school in 1975. It presents the competing interests of government secrecy in wartime with the media’s role in informing the public. This question is particularly relevant now, more than at any time since the Pentagon Papers.

The Pentagon Papers were an internal Defense Department study commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in June 1967, documenting the history of American involvement in Vietnam. Formally entitled “History of U.S. Decision Making Process on Vietnam Policy,” it was completed in January 1969, totaling 47 volumes and 7,000 pages. Only 15 copies were made; the entire project was highly classified and even withheld from President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of State Dean Rusk. The authors of the Pentagon Papers, about three dozen government officials, scholars, and military officers, labored at a disadvantage, lacking access to sensitive White House discussions and having no opportunity to interview key decisionmakers. The study’s value lay in its analysis and original documents.

One of the authors of the study, a Harvard-educated former marine and RAND Corporation academic named Daniel Ellsberg, had spent two years in Vietnam as a civilian official. When the study began, he was on the staff of the Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs, John T. McNaughton. Ellsberg later returned to RAND, where his brooding disillusionment with what he regarded as official government deception led him to release the papers to The New York Times in 1970. The Washington Post later obtained a copy of the papers, but the Times beat them (and several others) to press on 13 June 1971. The government sought restraining orders against both newspapers, and the cases were consolidated for argument at the Supreme Court on 30 June 1971, a remarkably rapid appeal.

The case had enormous impact on several fronts: it crystallized public and congressional opposition to continuing the war in Vietnam; it pierced the veil of gov-


ernment secrecy and diminished public trust in government; it turned those opposing the war into media heroes; and it rejected the notion of government restraints on publication even when classified information was compromised. Indirectly, many believe, it caused the Nixon Administration to overreact and set into motion events that would culminate in “Watergate” and President Nixon’s resignation. One example is the government prosecution of Ellsberg, which was dismissed at trial in large part because the infamous White House “Plumbers” unit had illegally searched Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office and taped Ellsberg’s calls.

By any measure, this is an important story that needs to be told to new generations. Prados and Porter serve scholars by updating the account, including newly released information on the role of participants such as Henry Kissinger, who the authors maintain was the driving force behind Nixon’s decision to oppose publication. Of the book’s seven chapters, the first chapter, describing how the papers were created, and the last chapter, outlining the legal and constitutional impact of the case, proved extremely useful.

The book grew out of a 2001 symposium sponsored by the National Press Club and the Vietnam Veterans of America to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Pentagon Papers, and unfortunately it reads like it. It includes personal vignettes and perspectives from a number of participants and supporters, and frequently slips into triumphalism over how the case saved Western civilization as we know it. It lacks objectivity, particularly in its strident vilification of Nixon, Kissinger, and Alexander Haig.

John Prados is a prolific writer with considerable experience examining and criticizing the American intelligence community. He is a senior analyst with the National Security Archive and recently published a book about former CIA Director William Colby. Martha Pratt Porter is director of communications and publications for the Vietnam Veterans of America.

One can forgive the authors their biases, but cannot excuse their disingenuous efforts to show that no government secrets were compromised by publication of the Pentagon Papers. The government hurt its own case and did a poor job of marshaling its arguments at the District and Circuit Court levels, highlighted by efforts by Defense Department officials to restrict access by Justice Department lawyers to key information needed to prepare their case. Prados and Porter portray the case as simply that of an overreaching, security-obsessed government against a fearless newspaper fighting for the public’s right to know.

But they protest too much. In the final analysis, Ellsberg withheld release of four sensitive volumes, partially minimizing the damage. After its victory at the Supreme Court, the Times resumed publication but censored damaging information cited by government lawyers as their basis for restraining publication in the first place. It was by chance and by virtue of efforts to halt publication that more damage was not done. David Rudenstine, in his much more balanced 1996 account, The Day the Presses Stopped, came to the conclusion that the Papers contained real secrets, that important government interests were at stake, and that the case was the first to confront the publication of classified information. The Court was not bound by previous cases upholding freedom of the press against prior government restraint. The outcome, he concluded, was always in doubt.


The incident provides many valuable lessons, including: the irresistible temptation to over-classify information; the reality that secrets don’t always stay secret; the tenacity of the media; the public’s right to know what its government is doing; and that sometimes it is better to ignore damaging information than to fight it. The greatest irony of the Pentagon Papers case may be that the record damaged the reputations of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations far more than it did either Eisenhower’s or Nixon’s. It proved a “third rail” better left untouched.

Finally, events since 11 September 2001 have raised new questions of executive secrecy and public disclosure. Recent furor over the “torture memorandums” and abuse of detainees in American custody is eerily reminiscent of the Pentagon Papers. A look back to 1971, while unpleasant, may prove quite useful.

Lincoln and Whitman: Parallel Lives in Civil War Washington. By Daniel Mark Epstein. New York: Ballantine Books, 2004. 379 pages. $24.95. Reviewed by Dr. Bruce E. Fleming, Professor of English at the US Naval Academy.

There are many connections worthy of consideration between Abraham Lincoln and the poet Walt Whitman, the most famous of which is certainly Whitman’s long elegy on the death of Lincoln, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.” It’s a great poem, and much read in college courses, with all its echoes of English elegies of the same general time period, including those of Shelley (“Adonais,” on the death of the poet John Keats), and Tennyson’s “In Memoriam,” on the death of his friend Arthur Hallam. It’s so central to the connection between these two towering figures of 19th-century American history, in fact, that Daniel Mark Epstein not only devotes a whole chapter of his book on the “parallel lives” of the two men to it, but prints it in its entirety. It takes up ten pages.

The poem seems the best example of two nearly parallel lines crossing. It’s the one point at which the two men to whom Epstein devotes his book met, at least in literature. For it doesn’t seem as if they actually did meet in the flesh. Epstein recounts several near-misses, well known to Whitman biographers, including one where Whitman—who was a friend of Lincoln’s personal secretary John Hay—stood by, waiting for Lincoln to notice him in a gathering, and then ultimately turned away, unwilling to bother the President but later euphoric at the proximity. There are other near misses: much speculation over whether Lincoln recognized the man shambling by outside his window as Whitman (the source is a much combed-over letter). And on the 25th anniversary of Lincoln’s death, Whitman—by that time lionized into something like the mythic figure he has since remained—delivered a lecture in New York suggesting that he himself had been present on the night of Lincoln’s assassination in Ford’s Theater. In fact, the lecture relied heavily on reports of Whitman’s sometime “paramour” (Epstein’s term), Peter Doyle.

The intersection, in a literary sense anyway, of these two otherwise rather unrelated lives, forms the high point of the second half of Epstein’s book. The high point of its early pages is the intersection in something like the opposite direction, and it may be here that Epstein is at his most incisive. The law partner of the young Illinois


lawyer Abraham Lincoln was a fan of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, and lent it to Lincoln to read. Epstein evokes, in the quasi-novelistic style of most of his Parallel Lives (with the same problem that all these quasi-novels of real people has: how does he know Lincoln thought X, or Lincoln saw Y?), Lincoln poring over the grandiose, unbuttoned, and sometimes arguably pornographic cadences of Whitman’s poems, and sets Whitman’s lines in parallel (that concept again) with some of the arguments and cadences of Lincoln’s own speeches.

Epstein’s book is thus most revelatory as an appreciation of Lincoln the writer—unsurprising, perhaps, since Epstein himself is a widely published poet. Epstein goes line by line through some of Whitman’s poems, and suggests parallels in Lincoln’s own work. Epstein makes clear his claim: “What is evident here is a distinct literary influence.” Is he then saying that Lincoln would have acknowledged this debt to the poet? No. “It may not have been conscious. I do not mean to suggest that Lincoln wrote any speech with Leaves of Grass at his elbow. But Whitman’s thoughts are infectious.”

The book is almost as interesting as an evocation of Whitman as, for lack of a better word, stalker—and a fairly sick one at that. Whitman returned from his near-introduction with the President (he had a series of jobs in Washington during the war) to write in his diary that he felt “personally in love” with the President. Back then, in the much more rustic dirt-paved capital, you could hover and hope to be noticed; try it now and the Secret Service will have you splayed on the ground in no time.

Epstein makes other things about Whitman seem pathological as well—as perhaps they were. Whitman made a career out of tending wounded soldiers in the Washington hospitals, as he had tended the wounded back in Brooklyn. He was attracted to a mixture, as Epstein puts it, of Eros and Thanatos. Epstein reports matter-of-factly Whitman’s love of beautiful male bodies caked with gore, a sensibility that resurfaced in a great deal of English World War I poetry, such as that of Wilfred Owen. So long as the love was for the collective it could still be processed as high-minded, “beautiful” patriotism. But Whitman, then as now, always trod close to the line where people would misunderstand him—or understand him all too well.

The Epilogue of the book is devoted to the largely invented narrative delivered by Whitman in New York 25 years after the assassination of Lincoln. The President was dead; the poet had “burnished” his own immortality (the project of his later years, according to Epstein) and was now the authority on all things associated with the Civil War and with Lincoln. Each had gone his own way, as perhaps they had done when both were alive.

Parallel lives? Perhaps more accurately, two lives with glancing points of intersection, one early and one late. Epstein’s book reminds us that Lincoln was in his own way a poet, or at least used poetry for his own ends. Yet ultimately it is most successful as an evocation of the lonely chaos of the true poet’s life, haunting the famous until he finally can control them in death, in verse that had by then supplanted the living man in the public conception. Epstein’s book serves as a memento mori for men of action: do what you will with your armies and your politics. But finally it is the poet—that badly dressed, beery overweight fellow on the edge of the crowd with a boyfriend he met on the horse-drawn omnibus, the one looking your way hoping to be noticed—who will write your epitaph. It’s a sobering thought.


Embedded: The Media at War in Iraq—An Oral History. Edited by Bill Katovsky and Timothy Carlson. Guilford, Conn.: Lyons Press, 2003. 418 pages. $23.95. Reviewed by Lieutenant Commander Brendan R. McLane, USN, Executive Officer, USS Simpson.

Some would argue that the relationship between the military and the media has always been a zero-sum game. This argument held that the free access the media enjoyed in Vietnam, for instance, ended up working against the US military effort. The military successes in Grenada, Panama, and Desert Storm were not covered up-close and thus were viewed as good for the military and bad for the press. In early 2003, it seemed like the perfect balance had been struck, when the embedding program inserted print, radio, and television journalists from around the world into the coalition military units. Scenes from this win-win arrangement are expertly detailed in Embedded: The Media at War in Iraq—An Oral History. The editors, Bill Katovsky and Timothy Carlson, have compiled a thorough compendium of firsthand accounts by international journalists, as well as by US public affairs officers. The central theme is the struggle between the embedded and non-embedded reporters (referred to as “unilaterals”) over control of the story in the sense of whose reporting more accurately portrayed the war.

This tension is an important one, since it will shape the military-media relationship of the future. Those who blithely think that embedding was a success and that the media will agree to a similar arrangement in the next conflict are sorely mistaken. When no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq after the war, the media felt duped. When playwrights like Tim Robbins satirize embedding to sold-out audiences in Los Angeles and New York City, the media take note. Whether accurate or not, media members now, on the morning after the intoxicating, post-9/11 patriotic coverage, feel that they have been deceived and their credibility damaged. The embedding program carries that taint. The journalists who covered the war, whether as unilaterals or embeds, will influence future coverage and carry their baggage from Iraq to the next battlefield. Embedded is therefore a must-read for those interested in military-media issues.

The book also will be of interest to those who enjoy firsthand war accounts, but for others it will be a bit laborious, with many of the 60-odd accounts seeming similar and eventually blending into one another. The editors must have anticipated that problem, since they made a valiant effort to juxtapose the viewpoints of the various authors. Unilaterals follow embeds; TV reporters follow radio and print. Most contributors seem to be print journalists and that is beneficial, because they recount their experiences in story-like fashion, unlike their television brethren. While some appear narcissistic, with their tales focusing on themselves rather than on the war, most have informative adventures and poignant moments to share.

Most embeds struggled with their objectivity and worried about crossing the journalistic divide between detached reporting and involvement. This is where the book comes most alive. Martin Savidge of CNN describes it as follows:


In this war, there was a constant battle between Martin Savidge, who was with the Marines, and Martin Savidge, who was the journalist. It was a conflict of the soul. The reason is because if you are in a fight as a noncombatant, and your life and your fate are in the hands of the unit, there will be a bond with the soldiers. I know I did. No one who has not been in combat can really understand this, and it’s very true, because your life depends on the person next to you. The hard part for the journalist is that you’ve got to somehow rise above it, and try to look on it thoroughly and with honesty. It’s like having an out-of-body experience.

While a military reader might not spare a second thought to having participated in a firefight or assisted a medic in treating casualties, the ramifications of such actions have weighed heavily on the likes of Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN and Ron Martz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Not every print journalist bonded with his or her unit. From a detached perspective, the accounts of reporters getting “disembedded” seem unjust. While the entering agreement with media members stipulated that both good and bad would be reported, stories of negligence or incompetence were understandably not a big hit with the unit hosting an embedded reporter. Similarly, it was understandable but disappointing that journalists couched their stories with a slant that would be well received by their audiences. Spanish reporters freely admitted that it would have been impossible for them to write anything positive about the war, while US journalists shielded their audience from graphic pictures of civilian casualties that ran unedited abroad.

The readings from the unilaterals are especially important, since they give the military reader a better insight into the mind of the media on the battlefield. The unilaterals had different war experiences. They roamed the battlefield unrestricted and interviewed whomever they pleased. Their conscience was not troubled by worries over objectivity. They came under fire. Since the fire usually came from the military, it explains their greater concern with civilian casualties. And they had a much higher mortality rate than the embeds.

To the military public affairs officers, the unilaterals must have been a royal pain. Colonel Guy Shields and Sergeant Major Carol Sobel recount their difficulties with the unilaterals, who would blunder into firefights and then phone them for extraction. Nevertheless, unilaterals will never disappear from the modern battlefield. Armed with the latest technology and dissatisfied with briefings at command centers, these reporters and their editors want to find the ground truth. Some media centers will combine this perspective with embedding to get both sides of the story.

One conclusion a reader can take away from this book is that embedding as a military program should be here to stay. Most reporters liked it, as did the units they embedded in. Moreover, it should be expanded in breadth and depth. Otherwise, the only perspective to be reported will be that of the unilateral, who remains suspicious of embedding. Several embeds recount access to classified briefings, which helped them place their narrow observations in the field within the context of the operational idea of the campaign. This informal arrangement seems to have made good sense and was not regretted by either side. It seems inevitable that this will become a program-wide policy, a continuation in spirit of the current pendulum swing in military-media relations.

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Reviewed 12 May 2005. Please send comments or corrections to