AMERICA'S SPLENDID LITTLE WARS: A Short History of U.S. Military Engagements: 1975-2000

Article excerpt

AMERICA'S SPLENDID LITTLE WARS: A Short History of U.S. Military Engagements: 1975-2000, Peter Huchthausen, Viking, New York, 2003, 272 pages, $25.95.

Peter Huchthausen's America's Splendid Little Wars is a small survey of major U.S. military interventions from 1975 to 2000 through five presidential administrations, beginning with Gerald Ford and ending with Bill Clinton. The book includes 13 "little wars," from the 1975 operation to recover the high-jacked merchant ship SS Mayaguez in the Gulf of Siam to the 1999 "relief intervention" in Kosovo. Huchthausen demonstrates how each administration used military force in its relations with other nations.

In each case, Huchthausen discusses the events that culminated in the use of force and describes the nature of the military action, the key figures involved, and provides an assessment of each outcome. His sound geopolitical and political-military analyses place each conflict in proper historical perspective and explain the underlying motivation for each military intervention.

Huchthausen, a retired naval officer and former intelligence analyst, points out that recent "small" U.S. military actions have been a decidedly mixed bag, with a number of them clearly in the "win" column. Several, like the Iranian hostage rescue, peacekeeping in Beirut, and the humanitarian intervention in Somalia, are in the "loss" category. Huchthausen describes how interservice rivalries; difficulties in understanding the local political situations; the leadership of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and combatant commanders; and the effect of political policy formulation affected the outcome of each conflict. …