Book Reviews

From Parameters,  Spring 2007, pp. 129-53.

Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. By Thomas E. Ricks. New York: Penguin Press, 2006. 482 pages. $27.95. Reviewed by Richard Halloran, onetime lieutenant of airborne infantry and a former military correspondent of The New York Times.

By the time this review appears, the book titled “Fiasco” by Thomas Ricks, a military correspondent for The Washington Post, will have taken a well-deserved place on the lengthening shelf of excellent critiques on the war in Iraq. The author wastes no time in setting his pen to cut a wide swath through Washington and Baghdad, beginning with President George W. Bush. Ricks asserts in his opening passage that the president’s “incompetence and arrogance are only part of the story.”

Ricks goes on to slash Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon and the Republican-dominated Congress. He cuts an equally wide swath through the US civilian and military high command and their Iraqi counterparts in Baghdad. Since this and other accounts have extensively recorded the triumphs and failures of Iraq, there would seem to be little left to say.

Ah, but don’t go away. There is a subtext to Fiasco, a thread on military-press relations coursing through the copy that has been little noted in the attention to the larger picture. Ricks, in response to an e-mailed query, says that this thread was not deliberate but “just kind of happened” as he toiled on the manuscript. Here, too, the author’s double-edged electronic sword slices into the military leadership and the press with equal fervor. Few on either side survive without deep wounds about which both military officers and ink-stained wretches would benefit from reading.

Ricks scores the media for its “inability to find and present alternate sources of information about Iraq and the threat it did or didn’t present to the United States.” He contends that “the media didn’t delve deeply enough into the issues surrounding the war, most notably whether the administration was correctly assessing the threat presented by Iraq and the cost of occupying and remaking the country.”

The author is especially critical of The New York Times and particularly its reporter, Judith Miller, for having been taken in by a dissident and opponent of Saddam Hussein, Ahmed Chalabi. Miller wrote an early story about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction and thus, Ricks says, “began one of the more dismal chapters in modern American journalism. She had lit the fuse of a running story about the Iraqi arsenal that eventually blew up in her face, tarnishing not just her own career but also one of the proudest names in American journalism. The New York Times, the ‘paper of record,’ would carry more than its share of misinformed articles that helped drive the nation toward war in Iraq.”

In Iraq itself, Ricks records the widespread military complaint that the press was too negative. He quotes Colonel David Hogg, a brigade commander in the Fourth Infantry Division: “I don’t think they’re fully reporting the success we’re


having.” On a hot day in July 2003, Hogg said: “I think we’re fixing to turn the corner. I think operations over the next couple of weeks will get us there.”

General John Abizaid, the Central Command commander, Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, and L. Paul Bremer, the chief of the Coalition Provisional Authority, repeatedly returned to this theme. Bremer, on a trip back to Washington, was quoted: “The people of the United States were not getting an accurate picture of the progress we had made here.”

As travel by correspondents became more dangerous, Wolfowitz accused reporters of being cowards, afraid to get out of Baghdad to write the good news about schools and hospitals being opened. Ricks says, dryly, “it wasn’t a particularly logical statement,” and Wolfowitz apologized a couple of days later.

On the other side, the author contends that the press office of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad “seemed to see itself more as a monitor of the media than as a provider of information.” The CPA, for instance, urged correspondents to cover a new garbage collection service. Carol Williams of the Los Angeles Times took the CPA up on its challenge and found that many of the trash crews were children who were being shaken down by bullies for a third of their wages of $3 a day. “CPA officials,” Ricks says, “weren’t pleased by her coverage.” They sought to punish Williams by refusing to let her talk to engineers working on a project to provide clean water to the Iraqis.

The US civilian and military leaders in Baghdad fought not only with the press but with each other. Ricks reports that military leaders saw the primary audience for communications were the Iraqis while the politically attuned civilians said the center of gravity was the US public.

Moreover, the author says, “the US military itself also presented somewhat of a threat to reporters.” Approaching a checkpoint was worrisome as sentries were nervous about suicide bombers. “Not only were reporters handled with great suspicion, they were sometimes singled out as especially threatening to the security of US troops,” Ricks writes. The presence of news crews might be an indicator of an imminent bomb attack as insurgents wanted their dirty work covered in the media.

In one case, however, a general learned to use the press to get what he needed. Major General Charles Swannack, commanding the 82d Airborne Division, tried for several months to get local police equipped in al Anbar province. Finally, he expressed his frustration in a press conference—and shortly after, the equipment began to arrive.

Ricks suggests that US public affairs officers never seemed to sink as low as Saddam Hussein’s information minister, Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf, dubbed “Baghdad Bob.” Even as he insisted that early graves awaited US forces in the desert, the US Army was setting up camp a few miles to the west while the US Marines were approaching from the southeast.

This was the same Iraqi spokesman, as this reviewer remembers, who asserted confidently that American tanks would never reach downtown Baghdad. As he spoke into the television cameras, an M1A1 Abrams tank roared visibly down the street behind him.


State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III. By Bob Woodward. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006. 560 pages. $30.00 ($15.00 paper). Reviewed by Jeffrey Record, Professor of Strategy and International Security, Air War College.

State of Denial is Bob Woodward’s third book on the George W. Bush administration’s internal national security deliberations post 9/11. Unlike Bush at War (2002) and Plan of Attack (2004), however, State of Denial has been denounced by the White House. Both President Bush and Vice President Cheney cooperated with Woodward on the first two books, which more or less favorably portrayed the Bush White House (neither book questioned the administration’s credibility or competence), but they refused to be interviewed for the third. Perhaps they suspected what was coming: a scorching condemnation of what the legendary insider journalist portrays as an arrogant, clueless, and dysfunctional leadership mired in a war it neither anticipated nor has come to understand.

State of Denial, which may reflect Woodward’s own turning against the Iraq War and desire to cash in on its growing unpopularity, offers no profound new insights on the Bush administration. Observers have for years remarked on the president’s intellectual incuriosity and the equation of dissent with disloyalty. Indeed, critics believe that truth refuses—or is not permitted—to speak to power in the Bush White House. According to Woodward, CIA Director George Tenet believed that a “naïve” George Bush was making a huge mistake in attacking Iraq but never got around to voicing his misgivings to the president. Nor did Jay Garner feel obligated to alert the president that L. Paul “Jerry” Bremer was making “three tragic mistakes” in Iraq that could doom Operation Iraqi Freedom to strategic defeat.

And Woodward is hardly the first critic to paint Dick Cheney as a worst-case fantasist and intelligence cherry picker; Donald Rumsfeld as an arrogant, micromanaging bully; Condoleezza Rice as a weak national security adviser disposed to tell her boss what he wanted to hear; and Colin Powell as a bureaucratically isolated, reluctant warrior who allowed the administration’s war-lusting neoconservatives to enlist his prestige on behalf of a war he regarded as unnecessary and potentially disastrous (see Karen DeYoung’s superb Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell). State of Denial can also be seen as but the latest in an avalanche of books documenting the botched American performance in Iraq.

State of Denial does contain important new revelations. Just two months before the 9/11 attacks CIA Director George Tenet delivered a stark warning to then National Security Adviser Rice of an impending al Qaeda attack which she more or less ignored. In 2005 Vice President Cheney declared that the Iraq insurgency was in its last throes when in fact the administration knew that insurgent violence was worse than ever and growing. And as the Bush administration’s first term drew to a close White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card repeatedly pushed President Bush to fire Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld but was finally thwarted by the Vice President, who believed that it “would only be seen as an expression of doubt and hesitation on the war.” It also turns out that Henry Kissinger, though detested by the same neoconservatives who provided the intellectual rationale for the Iraq War, has


served as an intimate national security adviser to George W. Bush via the mechanism of private dinners with the president every couple of months.

Woodward also reveals that then Marine Corps Commandant James Jones, favored to replace outgoing JCS Chairman Richard Myers, refused to be interviewed for the job because he believed that Rumsfeld had reduced the chairmanship to a sycophantic vehicle of politically corrupted military advice. Indeed, Jones, who subsequently became NATO’s supreme commander, tried to talk General Peter Pace out of taking the job. Jones told Pace that Iraq was “a debacle” and that Rumsfeld had “systematically emasculated” the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “You should not be a parrot on the secretary’s shoulder.” Pace (obviously) was not persuaded.

State of Denial indicts all the Bush administration’s national security principals for their various roles in plunging the country into what an increasing number of Americans believe is an unwarranted and messed up war. But none of the principals is more scathingly accused than former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who inhabits the book as a domineering, self-important, abusive, and incompetent war leader—a Republican Robert McNamara. By early 1968 McNamara had become an unacceptable political liability to the White House, and his replacement by Clark Clifford heralded a fundamental change in the Johnson administration’s Vietnam War policy. Rumsfeld, however, appears still to enjoy the confidence of President Bush, and it is in any event far from clear that his involuntary departure from the Pentagon would signal a change in the White House’s opaque Iraq War policy of “staying the course.”

State of Denial is must reading for Bob Woodward addicts, including Secretary Rumsfeld, who (perhaps now regrettably) agreed to speak to Woodward on the record, as well as for students of post-9/11 US foreign policy. Notwithstanding Woodward’s drab prose and disinclination to analyze or even interpret his material, his trilogy remains, at least until primary source documents are made available, the best narrative of the Bush administration decisionmaking.

Never Quit the Fight. By Ralph Peters. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2006. 368 pages. $27.95. 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.

Newspaper columnists know the truth of the saying that if you write a column a day for a week, one will be a dud, one will be brilliant, and the others will be somewhere in between. This is also the problem with books that are compilations of columns and articles, and it is both the attraction and the drag of Ralph Peters’ latest, Never Quit the Fight, a collection of his writings from various publications between the summer of 2003 and the fall of 2006.

During the span of Peters’ articles, the United States held national elections, terrorists struck in London and elsewhere, and insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan hardened. In topical articles for the general public, the author takes his


usual swipes at the Air Force (This critical component of our national security has become corrupt, wasteful, and increasingly irrelevant.) and bureaucrats whose vision has been lost to political correctness (He was standing in a downpour insisting that it wasn’t the rain that was making him wet). But throughout, Peters’ insistence that we are locked into outdated views of war, underrating the true nature of the Islamic threat, and misjudging America’s attraction for the ordinary people of the world are constant themes. As he always does, Peters mixes metaphysics with current events; of a suicide bomber, he says, “The gesture and the result are inseparable from and integral to his message. Self-destruction and murder join to become the ultimate act of self-assertion.”

Being topical pieces, some in this collection now seem dated, as when he lauds a “new spirit” after the Iraqi elections, or when he notes that “Tal Afar is free” following the US occupation. (It has again become a battleground.) Others have themes familiar to Peters fans, as when he calls for greater resolve, and more deadly combat, in the face of terrorist attacks. The article “In Praise of Attrition,” written for Parameters in the summer of 2004, reflects this fighting spirit. “We need plain talk, honest answers and the will to close with the enemy and kill him. And to keep on killing him until it is unmistakably clear to the entire world who won.” Even for his fans, Peters’ tendency to oversimplify and shoot wide can sometimes take away from his message.

But emerging from these columns is the theme of Peters’ recent work— that Islamic radicalism is a mortal threat to modern civilization, and civilization is not taking it seriously. His growing awareness of Africa as both a battleground and an opportunity for human development—a central theme of his most recent book, New Glory—is also reflected in this collection. While Never Quit the Fight does not have the consistency and emerging maturity of his previous works, there are enough nuggets in this collection to make the book invaluable to students of current and military affairs.

Pyrrhic Victory: French Strategy and Operations in the Great War. By Robert A. Doughty. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2005. 578 pages. $39.95. Reviewed by Dennis E. Showalter, Professor of History, Colorado College, and author of Patton and Rommel: Men of War in the Twentieth Century.

France, and the French army in particular, have been increasingly marginalized in the growing body of scholarship on the Great War. To British scholars France is the “Great Other.” Sometimes it is the unknown ally, the off-stage factor in a war fundamentally about Britain: its military system, its social structure, its mythology. At other times France becomes “Perfidious Gaul,” seeking to enmesh honest Britons in devious schemes to take over more miles of trench and mount offensives in the wrong places. American scholars frequently regard France as elder brother, generously providing tools and training, then applauding as the doughboys assume the war’s burden. Yet France is also the calculating patron, expecting to use the naive foreigners to underwrite France’s plans for peace and reconstruction. Ger-


man authors for their part tend to concentrate on the British connection. Verdun is overshadowed by the Somme and Passchendaele. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and the Royal Navy are the standards against which German military effectiveness is measured. The British parliamentary system is the touchstone for critiquing Germany’s ramshackle authoritarianism.

This marginalization reflects as well the mentality of a France whose intellectuals and academicians have concentrated on World War II and its consequences. The “grand tragedy” of 1940, the Vichy years and the Liberation, the Fourth Republic, and the sales guerres of Indochina and Algeria, overshadowed the Western Front. The revival of interest in the Great War since the 1970s, inspired by the work of Jacques Becker, has emphasized the “new military history,” producing a spate of work on the mentality of the poilus and the dynamics of the home front, the war’s destructive effects, and its eschatological consequences. Operational analysis has been of secondary interest.

Pyrrhic Victory restores the French army to its legitimate position at the focus of World War I. General (Ret.) Robert Doughty, for many years Chair of the US Military Academy’s History Department, possesses a gifted professional soldier’s understanding of French aims and intentions. The result is a definitive account of the development and implementation of French strategy in the Great War.

Doughty begins by analyzing the reconstruction of the French army between 1871 and 1914. It was based on a sharp division between political and military leaders. The former determined policy and objectives, then stood back and turned matters over to the soldiers. That pattern, often presented as a model for the conduct of America’s wars, led to a war plan emphasizing the offensive at all levels, strategic, operational, and tactical. It led to an army structured institutionally and intellectually for fighting a short war. And it left France’s military cupboard empty when the long-expected death-grapple with Germany in the autumn of 1914 produced unprecedented casualties, but no decision.

The central figure in this national drama was Joseph Joffre. Chief of the General Staff since 1911, Commander in Chief since the outbreak of war, he proved unusually flexible in responding to the tactical conditions imposed by the emergence of trench warfare. He was constrained by strategy and policy, however, to continue an offensive policy not merely to liberate occupied France, but to contain a German army that by 1915 had all too free-a-hand in every other sector and theater of what was being increasingly called the Great War.

Above all, however unwillingly, Joffre came to understand the necessity for accepting a war of endurance. He reconfigured doctrine, training, command philosophy, and weapons procurement to prepare the French army for a long haul. He sought to coordinate plans for a general offensive with BEF commander Sir Douglas Haig; and to secure cooperation on the Italian and Russian fronts. Joffre did not expect even that sharing of the war’s burden to bring immediate success, only to wear down German resources. And his grand strategic design was shattered by the German attack on Verdun.

Whatever German Chief of Staff Erich von Falkenhayn’s ultimate intentions, Verdun bled white the army Joffre had been at such pains reconstituting. The


government was reorganized; Joffre was dismissed as Commander in Chief; and General Robert Nivelle received a free hand. He projected “total destruction of active enemy forces,” but his tactics were strikingly similar to those of previous offensives. Their failure caused the army’s morale to collapse. Doughty’s analysis of its recovery describes a military process: with a moral dimension. Nivelle’s successor Philippe Petain sought to rebuild spirit by developing means of attacking without suffering unsupportable casualties. He sought as well to reconfigure defensive methods, avoiding the slaughter of Verdun.

In an introduction written with an eye to the present, Doughty warns that believers in surgical wars and quick fixes know little about the Great War. Even an army as dirigiste as the French, with almost four years of war experience, faced problems institutionalizing such comprehensive doctrinal changes. The German offensives of 1918 put French and British backs to the wall. The emphasis on firepower that characterized French offensive tactics in the war’s final year was only relatively successful in reducing losses. One-fifth of all French casualties were suffered in 1918. The “strategy of opportunism” pursued by Ferdinand Foch as Allied supreme commander was in good part a product of recognition that the French army could no longer bear the war’s primary burden.

Nevertheless France won—in good part because from the politicians at Versailles to the poilus in the trenches, its people refused to accept defeat . . . . Doughty recognizes the high, short- and long-term costs of what he legitimately calls a Pyrrhic victory. But in this seminal book he demonstrates the crucial role of the army and its generals in structuring a triumph of national determination. He demonstrates as well that for all its errors of preparation and execution, the army’s prestige was by no means undeserved. This dual intellectual achievement merits the highest recognition by soldiers and scholars alike.

The Future of War: Organizations as Weapons. By Mark D. Mandeles. Dulles,Va.: Potomac Books, 2005. 205 pages. $48.00 ($24.00 paper). Reviewed by Colonel George E. Reed, Director of Command and Leadership Studies, US Army War College.

In The Future of War: Organizations as Weapons, defense analyst, consultant, and scholar Mark Mandeles provides a valuable contribution to the literature of military innovation and revolutions in military affairs (RMA). The book contains a well researched argument that technology and operational concepts are unlikely to reach their potential if organizational and institutional factors are ignored. As James Q. Wilson similarly noted in his landmark study of government behavior Bureaucracy, “organization matters.” Mandeles observes that for the nature and character of war to transform it takes more than the insertion of new technology. Transformation occurs only when military personnel can actually implement and exploit a set of technologies and operational concepts.

Mandeles acknowledges an intellectual debt to Jean de Bloch who applied a multilayered analysis to the study of warfare in the early 1900s; an approach recommended for modern-day analysts who tend to focus more exclusively on technical ad-


vances in command, control, communications, intelligence, long-range precision weapons, and reconnaissance. Mandeles recommends that we consider the future of warfare from a perspective that incorporates the interplay of military technology, individual decisionmaking, and organizational structure. Much more emphasis, he argues, should be placed on the latter two. Disappointed with efforts to improve command and control through the acquisition of computers and communications equipment, he sees the arrangement of and flow of information for knowledge and understanding in organizational settings as a critical task.

Chapter 4 contains a critique of the rational model of decisionmaking prevalent in the military. Mandeles recognizes that while rationality is a reasonable goal actual decisionmaking is messy, especially when dealing with complex problems that are part and parcel of warfare. He does not cast out the rationality project in total but points out that it is appropriate under conditions that are increasingly rare: a slowly changing environment, stable means-end relationships, limited number of decision participants, and centralized authority over the situation. Mandeles illustrates his points with two cases: the planning and execution of the Desert Storm air campaign and Operation Allied Force, the 1999 Kosovo air campaign. In both cases the author postulates that formal organizations were incapable of handling command and control tasks, necessitating establishment of ad hoc organizations and work-arounds. Landpower enthusiasts will undoubtedly note a paucity of Army and Marine examples throughout the book.

Mandeles’ treatment of network-centric warfare reflects a cautious optimism. He observes that the underpinnings of network-centric warfare—metaphorical applications of ideas and abstractions of chaos and complexity theory—are “more often asserted than demonstrated.” However, the promise of rapid decisionmaking and increased tempo through flat organizations, and seamless integration of sensors and shooters facilitated by modern communications technology is certainly not beyond possibility. Mandeles flatly asserts that the command, control, computers, communications, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance technologies central to network-centric warfare will not translate to war-fighting effectiveness until they are linked with formal and informal military organizations in addition to doctrine and operational concepts. Central to this linkage are the problems of person-technology interface and the massive cognitive demands on commanders and troops that require additional study and experimentation.

In Chapter 6 Mandeles explores the applicability of various organizational structures for future warfare. Tightly coupled organizations are hierarchical and process work in a fixed order. They tend to be control oriented and intolerant of deviation from a prescribed approach. Such organizations deal best with well-defined and clear tasks where proven procedures are known to be the most effective. Loosely coupled organizations are not as dependent on central authority. They operate more independently and tend to negotiate roles and tasks. Loosely coupled organizations are creative, can adapt quickly, and have advantages when facing complex and ambiguous tasks. Not surprisingly, Mendeles suggests that future warfare will have a place for both types and submits that a complex bureaucracy in the example of a newsroom may have merit. Newsrooms employ small groups of


coordinators arranged by topic and territory to guide and direct work, yet they move and share information quickly. Some issues such as precision strike missions will continue to require centralized direction, yet combat by informal and loosely coupled groups is more appropriate for rapidly changing conditions. In the final chapter he calls for the dedication of resources to develop RMA renaissance people with a wide-ranging and deep knowledge not limited to current technologies. The implications of this requirement are profound for the system of leader development in all services.

Mandeles recognizes the promise of network-centric warfare, yet raises the kind of important questions and issues often overlooked by advocates of technology. In a regrettable departure from an otherwise well considered approach the author overly distills the complexities of leadership by depicting the leader essentially as a decisionmaking machine. This could be forgiven in light of the level of analysis he undertakes, but his abject dismissal of the human dimension of leadership and motivation as mere personality characteristics and charisma that cannot be taught is unfortunate. Aside from this distraction the remainder of the book is a valuable and insightful resource for those concerned about the future of warfare.

The War for Korea, 1945-1950: A House Burning. By Allan R. Millett. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2005. 348 pages. $39.95. Reviewed by Colonel Donald W. Boose, Jr., USA Ret., faculty instructor in the Department of Distance Education, US Army War College, and author of U.S. Army Forces in the Korean War 1950-53.

Fifteen years ago, distinguished historian Allan R. Millett focused his research on the Korean War, producing books, monographs, and translations of the Republic of Korea’s multi-volume history of the war and memoirs of Korean War-era Chinese generals. The War for Korea, 1945-1950: A House Burning is the first volume of Millett’s long-awaited major history of the war, and it has been well worth the wait.

The book is a major contribution to the literature in several respects. Deftly synthesizing the best of recent scholarship while clearly and concisely presenting the conclusions from his own research (summarized in an exceptionally useful bibliographic essay), Millett systematically unravels the complex threads of the Korean nationalist struggle. He presents the Korean side of the story to Western readers while also describing the influence of Soviet and American policymakers, leaders, and advisers. He thus adds an authoritative voice to the debate over the extent to which the Korean War was an international war between Soviet and American-led blocs or a Korean civil war.

Millett makes clear that, while the superpowers divided Korea and influenced events in their respective spheres, a deep schism within the community of Korean nationalists was the root cause of the war. He argues that the Korean War was a long conflict between two competing visions of Korea’s future that began with the late nineteenth century stirrings of Korean modernization. This ideological conflict


was both suppressed and intensified during the 40-year Japanese occupation, flamed into insurgency and civil war in the south after the establishment of the Republic of Korea (ROK) in 1948, and entered the conventional combat phase with the North Korean invasion in June 1950.

The author warns against the easy application of Western political labels to the two contending groups. Those who adopted Marxism-Leninism as their model and eventually gained control in the north can accurately be called communists. But there is no simple term for the non-communists whom Millett describes as “a coalition of ultranationalist authoritarians, traditional conservatives with vested property rights, reformers who in Europe would have been Christian Democrats or Christian Socialists, humanitarian liberals, and apostate Communists.” He goes on to argue, “the two Korean revolutionary movements . . . shared a deep commitment to restore Korean sovereignty and to lead the nation into the modern, postcolonial world. Their own flaws and the accidents of history turned this hope into tragedy.”

Millet provides readers with insight into the Japanese occupation when many Korean nationalists moved into Manchuria to carry on guerrilla warfare and eventually aligned with the Soviet and Chinese communists. Another group established a government in exile in China, while others moved to the United States. Those who remained in Korea were subject to Japanese repression and, with few exceptions, had to endure, accommodate, or embrace Japanese rule. This relationship to the Japanese and the factionalism that affected all these nationalist groups raised issues of collaboration, legitimacy, and succession in Korean politics that continue to this day.

In the closing days of their rule, the Japanese, seeking transitional stability, established an interim Korean-led administration. The leaders of the Korean internal resistance established a People’s Republic, while a group of Korean elites, many Western-educated and most of whom had cooperated with the Japanese, established a rival Korean Democratic Party.

Soviet forces occupying the northern half of Korea co-opted the People’s Republic and set about land reform, redistribution of Japanese assets, establishment of an administration led by pro-Soviet Koreans, and neutralization of opposition groups. In the south, the Americans rejected the People’s Republic and established a military government to administer their zone. Their motives were laudable: to set the conditions for Koreans to select their own government, avoiding political control by extremists of the left or right, and to ensure that former Japanese assets did not fall into the hands of profiteers. But reform proceeded slowly and was hampered by the struggles for leadership among contending groups of domestic and overseas Korean nationalists. For a time, a US-Soviet Joint Committee discussed ways to bring independence and sovereignty to Korea, but the mechanism broke down, a victim of the growing US-Soviet Cold War confrontation. Meanwhile, as Millett shows, the Koreans themselves on both sides of the 38th Parallel struggled to control their own destiny.

As post-war budgets plummeted, the US military saw Korea as a liability rather than a strategic asset and became eager to withdraw American forces. In


1947, with the Joint Committee at loggerheads and Koreans demanding immediate sovereignty, the United States placed the Korea problem before the United Nations. In 1948, a UN Temporary Commission, denied access to the north, supervised elections in the south. Syngman Rhee (Yi Sung-man) outmaneuvered his rivals to become the first president of the resulting Republic of Korea government. A separate regime was established in the north under Kim Il-sung, the Soviet-supported former guerrilla leader of the communist Kapsan partisan group, who had similarly outwitted rival leaders.

The new ROK government struggled with political infighting and a staggering economy. Open rebellion flared in April 1948, which Millett marks as the real beginning of the Korean War, and in 1949, a “Parallel War” of clashes between ROK and North Korean forces along the 38th Parallel began. By the summer of 1950, Syngman Rhee’s government had managed to survive the political struggle, near disastrous economic problems, and the insurgency. But by then, Kim Il-sung had gained Soviet support and Chinese acquiescence for a war to reunite the peninsula.

Millett recounts this complicated and confusing story with clarity, precision, and the punch and understanding of military concepts that remind the reader that he is a Marine colonel as well as an accomplished scholar. The breadth, depth, and balance of the book are likely to make it the authoritative and reliable standard account for many years to come, essential reading for those who would understand the historical context of the complex, brutal, and continuing drama of the Korean conflict.

Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam. By Mark Bowden. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006. 680 pages. $26.00. Reviewed by Colonel Gregory Fontenot, USA Ret., director of the University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Mark Bowden, once again, has produced a tour de force in his powerful narrative of the “hostage crisis” stemming from the seizure of the US Embassy in Iran on 4 November 1979. Bowden connects this “dot,” which many Iranians consider a crucial moment in their successful revolution, as important as Yorktown was to our own revolution, with the “war on terror.” In his epilogue, Bowden restates his thesis noting that the hostages, “Lived with the arrogance of Islamist certainty, which prompts otherwise decent men to acts of unflinching cruelty. My goal was to reconstruct their experience as they lived it. The men and women held hostage in Iran survived nearly fifteen months of unrelenting fear. They were the first victims of the inaptly named war on terror.”

Bowden delivers a riveting and rich narrative weaving the fabric of the story of the hostages, their captors, and more. His account of the efforts of the United States to free its emissaries marked by the sad failure at Desert One is still as painful to read nearly 30 years after the fact as it was to endure all those years ago.

Although Bowden does not deliver convincing proof of the connection that he claims exists between the successful assault on the US Embassy and the cur-


rent “war with militant Islam,” his claim has the ring of truth. Nonetheless, proving the correlation remains. This shortcoming does not diminish the compelling power of his narrative. Arrogance, hubris, ignorance, cruelty, compassion, resistance, kindness, petty jealousy, courage, naiveté, and sheer stupidity are all found in abundant quantity among the Iranians and Americans who are the protagonists of this tale. Illuminating the very human foibles of everyone from the Iranian “students” who seized the embassy to Charlie Beckwith who led the failed rescue attempt forms the heart of story. This is Bowden at his best, facilitating rather than dictating. Bowden is not invisible, but nearly so, letting the players tell their story. He does so with few interventions, although his bent is unequivocally American. This is a tale well told from an American point of view. Bowden is not driven by his feelings, but not embarrassed by them either. The result is balanced, but reflects a number of conflicting emotions that are definitely those of an American.

Several themes emerge from the crisis that are reminiscent of most historical misadventures, but nonetheless warrant repetition since the lessons stemming from miscalculation, arrogance, and ignorance never seem to take. Neither President Jimmy Carter nor his counterparts in the curious government of Iranian politicians and mullahs understood each other or seemed to think critically about what their respective options might be. President Carter and his advisers made decisions that failed to consider the conditions in Iraq and imputed to the Iranians motivations not dissimilar from their own. In short, Iran would surely act in accordance with Iranian interests as discerned by Washington. The Iranians, although often unsophisticated and beset with internal contradictions based on an internecine struggle over the direction the revolution should take, frequently acted on the basis of domestic concerns rather than a thoughtful assessment of their strategic position. This should not have surprised the American leadership.

Both sides understood the semiotic power of the images from Teheran and Desert One, but the Iranians out performed the United States in waging what is now called information warfare. Their messages, often crude and almost laughably false proved powerful in Iran and outraged, according to Bowden, only the United States. Indeed as Bowden points out not even our allies offered tangible support to the United States despite the incredible and clearly illegal action of the government of Iran in neither preventing nor undoing the militants’ assault on long held conventions of behavior toward diplomats and their staff.

The disastrous rescue attempt that ended at Desert One, like all military disasters, seems somehow inevitable in retrospect. The efforts of Colonel Charlie Beckwith and the special operations troops read like a Greek tragedy. Beckwith, the hero, Bowden reveals is as flawed and as doomed to failure as any of those imagined by the Greeks. As courageous as Cardigan’s lancers who rode into the valley of death, many of the special operations troops proved more perceptive. One of them observed, before the mission, that the only difference between those who flew to Desert One and the defenders of the Alamo was that “Davy Crockett didn’t have to fight his way in.” Military mishaps don’t just happen whether in the Crimea in the nineteenth century or in Iran in the twentieth century. Arrogance, confusion, and miscalculation all play a role in producing military disaster.


Finally, neither side understood the other nor seemed able to find the means to learn about the other. Bruce Laingen, the American charge d’ affairs who presided over what remained of the embassy after it drew down from a strength of 1,000 to 60 inhabitants, remained optimistic until the day the Iranians seized the embassy. He was surprised by the takeover despite warnings from the provisional government that they might not be able to control events. The Iranians for their part failed to understand the consequences of seizing the embassy among which included cutting themselves off from parts and support for American weapons found in abundance in their armed forces. Worse still for Iran and perhaps, America, the United States supported Iraq not Iran when Saddam Hussein attacked in the midst of the hostage crisis. Ignorance or at least not being able to perceive the problem from the point of view of others plagued both the bifurcated and chaotic government of Iran and that of the United States.

For those in the embassy compound, both Iranian and American, the weeks and ultimately months the crisis lasted revealed all the best and worst traits found in humans. Most of the young Iranians who held the compound, acting on passions based on slogans rather than careful thought, proved unbearably ignorant and spouted the most outrageous diatribes. But what is eerie about the hateful “death to America” rants is how familiar they sound even now. The Iranian mythology surrounding CIA intervention and various supposed American conspiracies is based at least on a kernel of truth. Iranian paranoia seems absurd given the facts in 1979. All three members of the CIA team in Teheran in 1979 were new. None of them spoke Farsi and they inherited a station which included virtually no agents. The Iranian impression of American prowess in clandestine intervention coupled with revolutionary zeal overlain with a veneer of religious superiority played a role in stimulating the assault on the embassy and the cruelty shown to the hostages in the ensuing months.

But the Iranians were not uniformly cruel or even mean spirited. Among their numbers were those who proved compassionate and able to see in their American prisoners people like themselves. The Americans too proved diverse. Some among the hostages were loathed by their colleagues and captors alike. Some collaborated with their captors, some did some of the time, and some never did. All of them lived for more than a year uncertain about their fate and compelled to endure whatever came their way. However fearful the most fearful of them proved, they all showed courage at one point or another and throughout the entire experience it is useful to remember they were the victims, not the Iranians.

Guests of the Ayatollah is well told. Bowden has brought together important threads that the first person accounts of those taken in siege of the embassy were largely unable to tell—the efforts to free them and the Iranian perspective. Bowden’s synthesis is important as a reminder that human behavior under stress runs the gamut from commendable to contemptible. What he does not say, but rather leads us to is that these facts contribute to arrogance which when combined with ignorance almost certainly produces miscalculation leading to inevitably tragic and far reaching outcomes.


America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy. By Francis Fukuyama. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2006. 226 pages. $25.00. Reviewed by Dr. William J. Gregor, Professor of Social Sciences at the School of Advanced Military Studies, US Army Command and General Staff College.

America at the Crossroads was prepared from materials originally presented by Dr. Fukuyama as a series of lectures at Yale University in April 2005. The preface makes clear this book is a personal statement explaining why he can no longer support neoconservatism. Ostensibly, the purpose of the book is to elucidate the neoconservative legacy, explain where the Bush administration has gone wrong, and outline an alternative way for the United States to relate to the rest of the world. The book is also intended to launch a new journal, The American Interest. Those interested in Dr. Fukuyama’s views and his falling out with his neoconservatives colleagues will find this an easy and enjoyable read. However, the argument seems intended entirely for foreign policy scholars and national security policy practitioners living along the Boston to Washington, D.C., corridor.

The most interesting and useful chapter in the book is Dr. Fukuyama’s version of the neoconservative legacy. Those who have not read Peter Steinfel’s 1979 book The Neoconservatives or more recent works such as Murray Friedman’s The Neoconservative Revolution, will find Dr. Fukuyama’s discussion of the intellectual origins of neoconservatism informative. The roots of neoconservatism lie in a group of intellectuals who attended City College of New York in the 1930s and early 1940s, a group that included Irving Kristol, Daniel Bell, Nathan Glazier, and others. Irving Kristol and Daniel Bell founded the journal, The Public Interest, in 1965. The journal became home to a generation of academics, social scientists, and think-tank intellectuals who through their writings played a major role in public policy discussions throughout the 1970s and 1980s. These men form a coterie of intellectuals who seem to view foreign policy as an intellectual, rather than practical pursuit. However, Dr. Fukuyama sees the need to extend the neoconservative influence beyond the circle of intellectuals to persons who actually make policy. He asks, “Was Ronald Reagan a Neoconservative?” Here the narrative is less convincing and the reader wonders why it matters. It matters because Dr. Fukuyama’s argument requires he show that actual policies were derived from neoconservative ideas in order to criticize the Bush administration’s policies and the individuals who made them.

The need to link the policies of the Bush administration to the principles of neoconservativism is the book’s weakness, but the most revealing element of Dr. Fukuyama’s argument. For the author, policy is or ought to be derived from intellectual principles, the result of a deductive process. Unfortunately, actual policymakers are seldom intellectuals and even when powerful intellectuals are part of an administration, policy making is fragmented by the institutional arrangements within the United States government. So from the public rhetoric of the Bush administration—for example, the 2002 National Security Strategy and the President’s second inaugural address—Dr. Fukuyama teases statements that he argues


find their antecedents in the principles of neoconservatism. Thus he is able to interpret the Bush administration’s commitment to advancing democracy in the Middle East as both an adoption of neoconservative ideas and a misinterpretation of his 1992 book, The End of History and the Last Man. In his words, The End of History was not about a universal desire for liberal democracy but a universal desire to live in a modern society. The problem is that the first president to dedicate the United States to supporting democracy in the form of a National Security Strategy was neither Ronald Reagan nor George W. Bush. It was Bill Clinton. Thus, while some members of the Bush administration might subscribe to neoconservative principles, it is equally plausible that decisions were motivated by other factors, including precedent, and rationalized in the administration’s public rhetoric.

From the discussion of the neoconservative legacy, the book progresses through chapters on preventive war, American exceptionalism, political and economic development, and rethinking international institutions. Each chapter refers to some element of neoconservative thought, but the argument has progressively less to do with neoconservative principles. Instead, the chapters provide commentary on elements of US foreign policy and a discussion of ideas on these subjects in the academic literature. Dr. Fukuyama states his foreign policy preference in the final chapter, “A Different Kind of American Foreign Policy.” The critique is in many ways familiar and many of the proposed policy changes seem immanently reasonable, but the argument is too clinical. There is no sense of pressures from competing domestic political interests, foreign governments, or enemy actions. Ideas alone are all that matter. Thus, the military reader will be disappointed if he reads this book looking for practical foreign policy advice.

Red Commanders: A Social History of the Soviet Army Officer Corps, 1918-1991. By Roger R. Reese. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2005. 315 pages. $35.00. Reviewed by Stephen J. Blank, Professor of National Security Studies, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College.

The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 opened the way to a new more truthful historiography of Russia. Archives were opened, historians were freed to write history as it actually appeared to them without ideological and political blinders, and memoirs became infinitely more open and candid. While the Putin period has seen some regression in this respect, it is clear that the openness allows historians to break new ground in understanding every aspect of Soviet life, not least the Soviet military. Roger Reese’s account is one of the best and most provocative fruits of this post-Soviet epoch. Based on archives, transcripts of important meetings and congresses of the party and military, the newest historiography and memoirs, as well as earlier accounts, Reese demolishes much of the mythmaking that has surrounded previous writing about the Red Army. His thesis is clear and simple. Due to state pressure from above the Soviet Army and its officer corps were never allowed to develop into a truly professionalized military. That is, a military with a professional officer corps that exuded an esprit de corps based on being a member of this profession of arms.


Instead the officer corps was politicized, undereducated, frequently made up of men who were forced into service against their will, and riddled throughout its history with serf-like relations between officers and soldiers. The pathologies now associated with hazing or “Dedovshchina” in today’s Russian Army were deeply rooted and constant features in the Soviet Army. Not only were officers insufficiently educated, they frequently cared little for their men, often resorting to physical abuse, other forms of brutality, and even theft. If anything these pathologies worsened after 1945, especially in the Brezhnev period when there was no mechanism for policing the army from within. This feature is of course hardly surprising when one realizes that Russia has never actually known the rule of law; coupled with the fact that Tsarism frowned upon professionalization and the formation of social classes as they had developed in the West.

Thus by 1991 the Soviet Union had created an army that for all its size was in key respects pre-modern, governed, as Reese observes, by these serf-like relations between officers and soldiers. It is not surprising that an institution which never achieved any internal cohesion or sense of itself as a profession continued to possess an identity defined by the Communist Party. Nor is it surprising that as the Party disintegrated after 1985 that the armed forces also disintegrated, not just along ethnic lines but from within as the nearly farcical aspects of the abortive coup of 1991 demonstrated. It is not difficult to identify a prognosis for today’s Russian forces as being in many respects linear continuations of previous trends.

The author forces the reader to question much of the preexisting literature related to civil-military relations in Russia. He does so in the belief that much of that literature as well as the general scholarly corpus of works on the issue of civilian-military relationship was written as a result of Harvard Professor Samuel P. Huntington’s classic 1957 study, The Soldier and the State. After Reese is finished demolishing the myth of the “professional” Red Army it is clear, that at least with regard to this particular armed force, we can no longer apply Huntington’s postulate of modern armies possessing inherently professional orientation to their military tasks. It is no less likely that in many respects this study will serve as a guide for future analyses of not just the Red Army but for many other social organizations and groups within Soviet society. Not only is this book path breaking, but it lays the foundation for future works that will depend on its line of inquiry and conclusions.

The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln. By Sean Wilentz. New York: W. W. Norton, 2005. 1,044 pages. $35.00. Reviewed by Colonel Matthew Moten, Deputy Head, Department of History, US Military Academy and author of The Delafield Commission and the American Military Profession.

Democracy is a malleable construct whose definition changes through history. Yet any understanding of democracy surely includes a sense of the ability and the willingness of the people to participate in their governance. In The Rise of American Democracy, Sean Wilentz portrays the evolution of democracy as a con-


tinuous struggle to define the limits of political participation and the bounds of legitimate political discourse.

The book begins with the American Revolution and traces political change through the election of 1860 and the beginning of the Civil War. The framers of the Constitution, a masterpiece of compromise, guaranteed to Americans a republic, not a democracy. Indeed, most eighteenth-century observers would have questioned the value of democracy, rule by the mob, in contrast to the leadership of wise, propertied aristocrats. Such men filled George Washington’s administrations and the first Congresses, and many of them feared and disdained the first critics of government then beginning to exercise their freedoms from below.

Wilentz rightly focuses on historical contingency. Democracy was on the rise, but that rise occurred in the context of conflicts whose outcome was ever in doubt. For example, Thomas Jefferson’s election over John Adams in 1800 was a near-run thing. An Adams victory would have dealt a body blow to the notion of organized opposition to government. President Jefferson replaced Adams’s Federalist officeholders with his own supporters and encouraged them to identify with his Democratic-Republican faction. Yet Wilentz demonstrates that this partisanship was not merely or even mostly from the top down. Country democrats and city artisans formed small groups in localities across the young nation. Appealing to their disparate discontents and giving that opposition ideological coherence was the work of Jefferson and his advisers. Allotting weight to the top and the bottom of society, Wilentz blends political and social history in a massive synthesis that draws on the best of both genres.

A strong narrative propels The Rise of American Democracy through an exploration of eight decades of political change. Wilentz guides us through birth of tradesmen’s associations, religious movements, constitutional reforms, and political parties. He elucidates, often state by state and election by election, the effects of local issues on the national political scene. War often provided the social or economic disruption necessary for interests to coalesce and force political change. Yet, rather than giving us bloodless analysis of groups and historical forces, Wilentz instead portrays the lives of important characters who play upon his stage. Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln are giants, driving events and being driven by them in turn. John Quincy Adams and Martin Van Buren are tragic figures, while John C. Calhoun plays the villain. Lesser known abolitionists, editors, and clergymen also get their due. Jefferson’s era established the legitimacy of partisan discourse and loosened the aristocratic hold on the levers of power. Jackson rebelled against the “corrupt bargain” that gave J. Q. Adams the presidency in 1824, creating the first mass-based, populist political party in American history and seeing Jackson enroute to two terms as president. In his opposition to national public works projects and the Second Bank of the United States, Jackson championed the common man against the oligarchy, and encouraged his participation in politics. The controversial Jackson attracted powerful enemies, many of whom transformed in their opposition to him. One was John C. Calhoun, ardent nationalist in the War of 1812, secretary of war, and two-time vice president who became the first great sectionalist leader during the nullification crisis of 1832. Likewise, the bulk of Jackson’s critics found that the only effective means of opposition


was to build a second national political party, soon known as the Whigs, the party that defeated Jackson’s successor, Martin Van Buren, for re-election to the presidency in 1840. For years thereafter, large majorities of eligible voters swamped polling places to decide contests between these young parties. Sometimes the nationwide turnout was as high as 80 percent, a figure scarcely imaginable today. Lincoln’s rise as a politician owed much to his ability to master mass politics, but it was his principled opposition to the extension of slavery that allowed him to win the election of 1860, at a time when that issue could no longer be compromised by either side.

The story is not one of unchecked progress. While property qualifications for voting largely disappeared, slaves and women could not vote, and even free blacks lost the franchise in some states where they had previously held it. After 1840, slavery became the central issue in political discourse. Papered over in the Constitutional Convention, largely ignored in the early national period, “gagged” in the House of Representatives in the age of Jackson, the issue of slavery dominated politics in the two decades before the Civil War. No longer able to fudge sectional differences, the national parties imploded over the Fugitive Slave Act, the expansion of slavery, and the Dred Scott decision. Lincoln became president as head of a sectional, antislavery Republican Party without a single southern electoral vote. That election sundered the Union. Perhaps Wilentz’s greatest contribution in this volume is to demolish the most pervasive myth in American history, that the Civil War had its origin in anything other than the politics of slavery.

Historians of the era have been dismantling the “Lost Cause” myth for four decades, but the public has been slow to discard a trope so carefully contrived by postwar southern nationalists. The book is well positioned to complete its destruction. Winner of the 2005 Bancroft Prize, The Rise of American Democracy has already established a secure place in American historiography and will likely become the seminal work on the period. It has been well reviewed in the most prestigious journals and hotly debated in the political press. Sean Wilentz has capped a remarkably fruitful career with a magnum opus of brilliant synthesis and original scholarship.

Killing the Messenger: Journalists at Risk in Modern Warfare. By Herbert N. Foerstel. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 2006. 136 pages. $39.95. Reviewed by Colonel Walter H. Leach, USAF, Director of Aerospace Studies, US Army War College.

Killing the Messenger opens with short, engaging narratives about journalists reporting on conventional war. With sections devoted to personalities such as Martha Gellhorn, Ernie Pyle, Edward R. Murrow, and Walter Cronkite, the opening chapter is interesting reading. Covering the Spanish Civil War through Operation Desert Storm, these reporters later sought to downplay their own exploits, noting they exposed themselves to fewer risks than those they covered. The narrative makes it clear these journalists recognized the risks they assumed (sometimes much more vividly when it was too late to turn back), yet also recognized that the real story would otherwise remain out of reach. Each of these celebrated journalists had a story to tell, and it makes for an entertaining ride.


The second of five chapters is titled “Journalism and the New Face of War.” Here the entertaining ride stops—abruptly. Foerstel fast forwards to June of 2004 and the reader is transported to an editor’s room in Baghdad where five reporters discuss difficulties in covering the Iraq war. Foerstel’s thesis is finally laid front and center: “For journalists, the familiar rules of engagement have been stripped away” and “Gone is the assumption that correspondents are more valuable as witnesses than as targets . . . .”

After documenting the difficulties of journalists in Iraq, the author switches gears to highlight another perspective as he introduces the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Foerstel’s discussions with CPJ about risks in Iraq first introduce the reader to the idea of US military personnel targeting journalists. This thread will be dangled before the reader throughout the book. Similar to the first chapter, numerous short vignettes describe current-day brushes with danger. The difference here is a more gripping, intense narrative.

Chapter three steps back from Iraq to document the stories of five journalists, beginning with Philip Caputo’s abduction in Lebanon in 1973 through the more familiar stories of Jerry Levin, Terry Anderson, and Daniel Pearl, finishing with Canadian Scott Taylor’s 2004 abduction in Iraq. These stories recount the journalists’ suffering in harrowing detail. The storyline is similar to US Prisoners of War (POW) in Vietnam—blindfolding, repeated blows and kicks, threats of execution, isolation, and the repetitive answering of repetitive questions under interrogation. Proceeding in an almost monotonous tone, the only suspense becomes how each hostage will gain release (or in Pearl’s case, how his journalist wife ultimately discovers the truth about his death). Missing from the POW analogy was a clear, unifying thread connecting the journalists. Unlike Vietnam stories that evoke suffering for a higher cause, the only link here, and it is subtle, is the pressure each of the journalists was under to get his stories.

After three chapters, readers might be tempted to ask “OK, I get the risk. What’s next?” In “Why Do They Hate Us?” Foerstel goes one step deeper into the thesis and openly posits the intentional targeting of journalists by both sides in Iraq. In a challenge to professional soldiers everywhere, Foerstel asks, “What . . . makes journalists appropriate military targets?” Acknowledging the complexity of the truth in Afghanistan and Iraq, he nevertheless says, “For example, Western journalists are a minority among the war correspondents killed there in recent years, and American and Coalition troops are prominent among the killers.” While the book is amply endnoted, the reader will find few documented sources for statements such as this one. There are exceptions where the author quotes journalists who witnessed themselves or other journalists being engaged by (generally) American forces. The affected journalists are quoted disparaging US Central Command or US Department of Defense investigations, while government spokesmen are seldom named and rarely quoted. To be fair to Foerstel, he does specifically note that a minority of his primary sources (Terry Anderson, being a prominent one) deny that friendly fire on journalists is ever intentional.

“Protecting Journalists at a Cost to Newsgathering” lays out various risk-reduction strategies for journalists and their employers. The chapter considers issues like prudent caution in day-to-day actions, embedding reporters within


military units, personal security training, arming reporters, and finally, isolating correspondents within the protected Green Zone in Baghdad. Probably the most important risk-reduction strategy Foerstel describes is the employment of locals as drivers, translators, stringers, and fixers. These journalistic helpers are lauded as invaluable, often taking on a much more critical role than simply helping. Even as friendly Muslims work hard to bring information to the journalists or the journalists to the information, Foerstel and his sources note there is a cost. The added steps distance the journalists from the story and reduce their depth of understanding and ultimately, the quality of the story. Foerstel’s conclusion is a short section titled “Is the Story Worth the Risk?” His answer seems to be, “It depends, and short of a corporate pull-out from the theater, we rely on each journalist to decide.”

It was surprising to read of journalists themselves lamenting the one-sided reporting of the war. Not focused on a “good news - bad news” imbalance, they are lamenting the security situation that impacts their ability to obtain the Iraqi perspective. Foerstel strongly feels United States and Coalition Forces have a responsibility for more protection of unembedded journalists. Unfortunately, it was difficult to sort facts from opinions on some of the author’s more controversial points. While it is possible that this narrative accurately represents the truly deplorable facts, it reads more like interviews with individuals whose opponents have been effectively caricatured. Ultimately, a more even-handed approach to this issue is required if the author expects his points to be convincing. One thing remains clear, however, that the journalistic field of battle has dramatically changed—and for the worse.

Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy. By Moisés Naím. New York, Doubleday, 2005. 340 pages. $26.00. Reviewed by Michael J. Fratantuono, Associate Professor, Department of International Studies, Business & Management, Dickinson College; Adjunct Professor, US Army War College.

During the past 15 years, globalization has been the defining characteristic of the international system. In this well written, provocative, and worthwhile book, Moisés Naím, longtime Editor in Chief of the journal Foreign Policy, examines an often overlooked aspect of the new era—illicit economic activity. He links the emergence of illicit activity to the globalization process, describes in detail various aspects of such activity, offers commentary on the threat posed by illicit activity to the international system, and suggests possible remedies.

Globalization has been energized by several forces, including breakthroughs in information technology and basic science; the tendency of market process to spill across national borders; and the liberalization of policies governing international flows of labor, capital, goods, and services. The globalization process has stimulated legitimate economic activity and elevated per capita income across the world. At the same time, however, globalization has enlarged the set of opportunities and the methods of conducting business available to actors involved in illicit activity, enhanced payoffs to them for operating outside accepted laws and norms,


and empowered them relative to the other actors in the international system, including nation-states, non-governmental organizations, inter-governmental organizations, and multinational corporations. While the world has always tolerated some amount of piracy and smuggling, the illicit activity of the current era represents a discontinuous leap from the past.

The rationale for illicit activity is mainly economic in nature. It is based on arbitrage, the ability to obtain items at a low price in one location and sell them at a higher price someplace else. The author describes in grim detail the activities employed by those supplying nuclear weapons, drugs, counterfeit products, stolen art, endangered species, and so forth to a market of willing buyers. Instead of specializing in provision of one or two “products,” today’s illicit actors have created transnational supply chains capable of delivering any or all of the above. For example, when the “market” indicates a desire for more prostitutes in one part of the world to a network coordinator, local agents in another region may go so far as to kidnap young women, hold them in “safe houses,” condition them via brainwashing and forced sex, and then transport them to the designated destination. With relative ease, coordinators of this same network might arrange involuntary surgery on an unsuspecting victim, delivering a fresh kidney halfway around the world to a private clinic, and transplant surgery for an impatient, wealthy client. In either case, the circular flow of activity would be closed when the proceeds from the transaction were channeled into seemingly legitimate “front office” activities, or were laundered through legitimate global financial intermediaries. In this light, the “core competency” of illicit actors is orchestration of the supply chain via a network form of organization—key facilitators throughout the chain communicate with others by means of sophisticated telecommunications technology; each having connections to providers operating out of local nodes. Overall, the global networks are flexible and the master-minds elusive.

In a colorful metaphor, Naím paints a universe on earth consisting of two components. The first, “geopolitical black holes,” are economically destitute regions or states that lack a strong rule of law. The second, “bright spots,” are characterized by stability and prosperity—they are places where civil and political institutions manage to keep illicit networks in check. Simply speaking, illicit actors nest in the black holes. In parasitic fashion, they extend and intertwine their tendrils into the nooks and crannies of the bright spots. Thus, actors in illicit networks need a well-functioning global political economy to flourish, and in this sense differ from terrorists who by violent acts attempt to destroy existing structures. Nonetheless, illicit activities have a long-term corrosive effect on legitimate aspects of the system. First, activities such as counterfeiting and piracy siphon value from legitimate channels. Second, the revenue captured is a means by which illicit actors corrupt and co-opt political, judicial, and civil authorities in developing countries. Third, these networks spill across national borders and undermine the sovereignty of nation-states. Finally, the products offered via illicit networks—counterfeits, sex trade, drugs—weaken the social and moral foundation of civil society.

Naím points out that all the major ideological perspectives in international relations theory: realism, liberalism, idealism, etc. regard the nation-state as the


fundamental building block of the global system. This emphasis creates blinders to the threats posed by stateless illicit networks. Therefore, new conceptual frameworks will be needed to shape analysis; the battle essentially will be between state and market, not state and state. In such a battle, state-based actors are inherently more constrained and less nimble than market-based actors.

Given these factors, what else can the legitimate actors in the international system do? Leaders in the fight against illicit activity need to employ the latest technology from the fields of packaging, tagging and tracking, biometrics, and surveillance. Within each country, they may be required to consolidate fragmented government agencies into one coherent organization. They need to consider creating an international approach that combines the resources of law enforcement and intelligence communities everywhere. They should establish realistic goals that target the most costly and egregious offenses, and not attempt a zero tolerance approach. They have no choice but to change the risks and rewards confronting both the suppliers and buyers of illicit goods and services, but should not express objectives in moralistic terms. There is no alternative to building popular political support among domestic constituencies. And they need to enlist the support of citizens everywhere, to shape a transnational “neighborhood watch” approach to the problem.

Although Moisés Naím conveys a sense of optimism as he develops this list, the reader cannot help but wonder if forging such a response is possible in the near to medium term. If not, the image of the world ahead is indeed demoralizing.

Spying on the Bomb: American Nuclear Intelligence from Nazi Germany to Iran and North Korea. By Jeffrey T. Richelson. New York: W. W. Norton, 2006. 608 pages. $34.95. Reviewed by Colonel John Mark Mattox, Commandant, Defense Nuclear Weapons School, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.

Imagine listening to a radio broadcast of a football game: The announcers are providing a vivid rendition of all that is happening on the field, recreating the mood in the stadium, and rattling off statistics on individual players and analyses of the historical trends of the teams at warp speed. Now for a twist: Imagine that the field is occupied not by two teams, but by eight teams, each with different goals. Imagine also that the announcers are seated not high above the crowd in a media box, but in a basement room underneath the stands, where they are receiving sporadic satellite imagery and sometimes dubious spy reports, as the basis for their account of the game.

The picture which emerges is analogous to the Cold War effort, by the United States and others, to make sense of what was happening in the nuclear arena as the superpowers and would-be regional powers scrambled to acquire membership in the “nuclear club.” The picture which each possessed of the surrounding nuclear world was anything but a sharp relief. Rather, it was a blurred image of suppositions concerning real capabilities and real intentions based on ever-changing in-


telligence estimates and interpretations of imagery—some of them very good, others very poor.

Jeffrey T. Richelson fills a huge gap in our understanding of the dynamics of the Cold War with this monumental work. Appealing to a wealth of previously unavailable documentation, Richelson provides a vivid rendition like the one given by our football announcers above—and arguably with much greater accuracy—of US-British, Soviet, French, Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Israeli, and South African efforts to establish themselves as forces to be reckoned with in the nuclear world without, at the same time, tipping their own hands.

Of particular interest is Richelson’s account of US efforts to beat the Nazis to a nuclear capability. This account acquires particular significance in light of revisionist histories, which portray the United States as releasing the nuclear genie from the bottle during World War II merely because it could. On the contrary, the pressure to develop the bomb was extraordinarily high precisely because the risks of failure in the face of Nazi aggression would have been catastrophic—perhaps even more catastrophic than anything short of a no-holds-barred US-Soviet nuclear exchange in the succeeding decades.

Richelson provides an occasion for serious reflection over what should have been done about allegations that weapons of mass destruction were present in Iraq. As the history of the past 50 years reveals, even high-tech satellite reconnaissance capabilities have serious limitations, and there are some things that pictures will never reveal—especially when it comes to nuclear weapons developers who are keen to conceal, minimize, or exaggerate, depending on which tactic best achieves their aim.

Indeed, Richelson’s work is a “must read” for anyone who wants to understand what “deterrence” really means. Deterrence has virtually nothing to do with the actual use of a military capability, but merely with the credible threat of its use. Deterrence achieved its highest expression in the Cold War in a way that may never be equaled. Richelson shows that, in case after case, nation after nation entered the nuclear race because it felt compelled to do so, based on fear of what competitors were or might be doing. The question thus arises: Over the past 50 years, has any nation really wanted to light off a nuke? Richelson’s answer seems to be a resounding “no;” ironic as it may be, that would have defeated the whole purpose for investing billions of dollars, rubles, or rupees to acquire prestige and create uncertainty in the minds of others.

Richelson invites yet another occasion for reflection upon something more immediate and pressing: Are the world’s most recent nuclear aspirants, to include non-state actors, likely to see the world in the same way as long-standing members of the nuclear club have seen it? The answer is likely “no” to this question as well. These actors, national and otherwise, just might be willing to use their nuclear capability, even if it is a modest one. For, in another twist of irony, even a comparatively tiny but well-placed nuclear detonation (in, say, the Holland Tunnel) would change forever the complexion of the nuclear world—a world complicated by the fact that our spy apparatus did not see it coming and cannot identify a target for retaliation. Richelson gives us good reason to long for the good old days, when


all we had to worry about was mutually assured destruction. At least back then we could redirect a spy satellite to snoop on some specific mine, lab, production facility, or test site. Now that the world’s most dangerous figures might find it convenient, even cost efficient, to purchase a nuke from some like-minded rogue, the United States might find itself with precious little upon which to snoop. That eventuality leads dreadfully to the final conclusion: The only thing worse than listening to reports of a football game based on periodic satellite imagery and human intelligence is listening to reports of a football game based on no real data at all.

Spying on the Bomb is essential reading for anyone concerned with perhaps the most challenging security issue of our time.

William Harding Carter and the American Army: A Soldier’s Story. By Ronald G. Machoian. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. 2006. 388 pages. $34.95. Reviewed by Dr. Douglas V. Johnson II (LTC, USA Ret.), Research Professor, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College.

All Army officers will benefit from reading this insightful biography of William Harding Carter, military adviser to a reformist Secretary of War a century ago. While Carter is a lesser known figure, he played an important role in military history and in the transformation of the American Army. Because of its underlying transformation theme, this is a timely book.

While this is an excellent biography of William Harding Carter, it is much more. It is primarily a story of the transformation of the American Army in that tumultuous period following the Spanish-American War. Elihu Root, one of our most distinguished Secretaries of War, receives much of the credit for reforming the Army and rightly so, but it was Carter upon whom he relied for the basic concepts and particulars. It was the blend of ideas and capabilities between these two men that began the progressive transformation of the US Army, and to an extent the War Department, a transformation that is still underway as the Army once again seeks to define its officer corps, and continues to revise and refine the organizational relationships between the Services, Department of Defense, and the Congress.

Carter began thinking about what it meant to be a professional in the early years of his service. He did not have much to draw on in terms of leadership materials as that field of study has only recently emerged as a major academic discipline. Carter was successful, however, in defining the process for the development of a professional organization based on a structured, progressive educational system. Following on the efforts of General William T. Sherman at Ft. Leavenworth (which had languished for a number of years), there were no resources available to support a systematic approach to the analysis of strategic issues or the business of professionalism.

Carter was aware that the institution was not functioning efficiently and thus its effectiveness was well below what it should have been. Root had been appointed as Secretary of War for the purpose of fixing that very problem, and he found in Carter a ready source of ideas, proposals, and a deep understanding of un-


derlying causes. What made the two men such a solid team was the fact that Carter recognized what was wrong with the Army and proposed sound ideas on how to fix matters; Root on the other hand understood the reality of the political landscape. New legislation, drafted in large part by Carter, would not always get past Root’s desk. Root knew the Congress, and he possessed a keen sense of what was possible. While it doubtlessly irked Carter to see matters seemingly slide or sit idle, Root knew when the moment was right to forward particular issues. He also possessed a unique sense of how to couch issues in terms acceptable to the key figures in the process. Carter was often called upon to testify before Congress regarding the history and intellectual underpinning for numerous proposals, but it was Root who knew when and through whom to maneuver particular legislation. As an example, in crafting the 1903 Dick Act (the process for professionalizing the Army National Guard), Carter felt that all the act accomplished was to diminish the old Militia Act of 1792. Carter felt the legislation had been so watered down in the negotiation process that it was barely worth the effort. However, Root understood what Carter did not, that each step, however small, was progress and could be used as building blocks when other opportunities became available.

Some of the relevance of this book stems from the transformation of the civil-military relationships that emerge from the interaction of the Carter-Root team with the Congress. Today’s officers may profit from observing these interactions and giving them careful consideration.

The transformational sub-text of this book leaps out of its historical context to this reader. It is not just changing the educational system, an enormously important effort, nor is it just about reforming the National Guard and its relationships with the Active Army. It is also about the essential structure of the Army; its manning, training, equipping, and the management processes that permit its assigned functions to be performed efficiently in support of national objectives.

Carter would eventually look back on his work with a mixture of frustration and pride. He (ably supported and mentored by Root) was able to begin the process of transforming the Army into a professional organization. With the establishment of the Army War College, the critical foundation of the professional officer education system was created. However, this major contribution would not blossom until after World War II. Likewise, Carter’s structural transformations would have to wait. While the ossified “Bureau System” was temporarily quashed during World War I, it would take another war to bring about total reform. One could easily argue that it was not until after Operation Desert Storm that the Army National Guard’s relationship with the Regular Army was finally addressed. The lessons of civil-military relations that Carter learned had to be relearned by each succeeding generation of officers.

An Army officer’s professional reading-list should encompass the best works that define how the institution grew and matured. It should include Edward M. Coffman’s books The Old Army, The Regulars, and The War to End All Wars, among others. Now, however, there is a compelling need to add Ronald G. Machoian’s William Harding Carter and the American Army: A Soldier’s Story to the list.

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Reviewed 28 February 2007. Please send comments or corrections to