Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A Reminder

Russell F. Weigley, “The Soldier, the Statesman, and the Military Historian,” Journal of Military History, 63 (October 1999): 807-822.

I recommend this fascinating article. The overall argument is that while American military leaders have generally bowed to civilian control, since 1945 they have questioned that authority more vocally. The high point came with General Colin Powell and the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations. Weigley was not a fan of this trend in the slightest, and he was not particularly a fan of American military actions in the late Cold War and 1990s. In short, he was not what we have come to call, incorrectly, a neo-conservative. Keep that in mind when reading this excerpt about the Gulf War:

The military leaders, having made an icon of the idea that clarity of objectives is indispensable to successful military action, reasoned in the aftermath that because the military action successfully drove Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait, the objectives must have been clear. In truth, such was scarcely the case, as the failure to seize opportunities to destroy the Republican Guard, which was a principle prop of Saddam's entire regime; the haste to end all fighting in order to minimize casualties regardless of such larger policy puposes as stabilizing the region and assuring against the repetition of Iraqi adventurism; and the dangers to regional safety and American interests that still persist because Saddam retains both power in Iraq and weapons of mass destruction all make evident.
Conventional wisdom in October 1999. Just a reminder.

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