THE MISSION: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America's Military

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THE MISSION: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America's Military, Dana Priest, W.W. Norton & Co., NY, 2003, 429 pages, $26.95.

The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America s Military combines keen observations with an interesting writing style, but in the end, its conclusions are flawed. Dana Priest's basic thesis is that over the past decade the U.S. military has taken on a greater role in formulating and executing foreign policy in many of the world's troubled regions. The author argues that the military's fourstar regional commanders have usurped the influence and authority of the State Department and local ambassadors. This, Priest argues, leads to poor policy execution: "Pimply young soldiers, taught to seize airstrips, instead play mayor, detective, and social worker in a gung-ho but ill-fated attempt to rebuild a nation after the fighting stops."

The reality is that nation-building is never easy, and the military is no worse at it than civilian agencies, but Priest never analyzes the alternatives, seemingly unaware that during our Nation's history, the military did the lion's share of nation-building.

Priest is particularly critical of the U.S. military's role in the Balkans, but admits that the region was the "site of the worst mass murder in Europe since World War II and a symbol of the powerlessness of the UN and international organizations. …