Warmaking and American Democracy: The Struggle over Military Strategy, 1700 to the Present

Article excerpt

WARMAKING AND AMERICAN DEMOCRACY: The Struggle Over Military Strategy, 1700 to the Present, by Michael D. Pearlman, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 1999, 441 pages, $45.00.

Michael D. Pearlman's unique book, Warmaking and American Democracy, offers the first truly American perspective on the evolution of US military strategy. Most studies of US warmaking give a Eurocentric critique fundamentally incommensurate within a democratic political framework.

The Eurocentric critique is the Clausewitzian-authoritarian formulation that elevates the force of political reason and authority-embodied in the king as political leader and military commander in chief-above the people and the military. The democratic critique, developed by Pearlman, places the Clausewitzian "trinity" under the force of law and the legal institutions of the state. The constraints and restraints of democratic legal institutions on political and military decisionmaking give US warmaking its unique quality and character.

Shortly after the Civil War, the Federal Army was removed from the president's executive control and placed under congress's legislative authority-an inexplicable relationship within the Clausewitzian framework. Pearlman iterates that many apparent conflicts over strategy were in fact clashes between political-strategic frameworks. …