Fateful Decisions: Inside the National Security Council

By Karl F. Inderfurth; Loch K. Johnson | Go to book overview

1
THE DEVELOPMENT OF POLITICAL-MILITARY
CONSULTATION IN THE UNITED STATES

Ernest R. May

This selection traces the origins of the National Security Council as a cabinet-level coor-
dinating agency for security policy.

In the Cabinet room of the White House, every Thurs day morning, the National Security Council gathers around a long, massive table. On the table are printed briefs reviewing some problem of national policy. Pre pared by the Council staff, these briefs blend the views of many departments and agencies, but in Council dis cussions the members and advisers rehearse these views once again. The Secretary of State and others suggest desirable solutions to the policy problem, while the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman the Joint Chiefs of Staff describe the military risks entailed in each alternative course of action. The Pres ident then reaches his decision, and the United States may acquire a new foreign policy or perhaps a new shading for an old policy.

Nearly all Americans agree on the need for this National Security Council. Everyone realizes that American policy has outgrown the Cabinet, just as atom has outgrown the college laboratory. Where, fifty years ago, Secretary of State Elihu Root could disre gard reports of a crisis in the Middle East, cabling American envoy, "Continue quarrels with missionaries as usual,"1 a similar crisis today would call out instruc tions to diplomats all over the world, orders to military and naval commanders, anxious discussions in Wash ington, and an earnest session of the National Security Council. Living in a world as sensitive as a can nitroglycerin, Americans accept the need for exact weighing of political and military factors before each policy decision.

The nation has acknowledged this need, however, for only a short time. Not before the 1940's would the majority of Americans have endorsed the rationale that underlies the National Security Council. Yet this rationale now seems self-evident: military forces are the rooks and bishops behind the knights and pawns of diplomacy; although the rooks and bishops move less frequently, their role in the game is no less decisive. Before the executors of foreign policy can decide what the nation ought to do, they must learn from political and military experts what the nation is able to do. They must lay objectives alongside capabilities, in the same way that business men compare the blueprints of design engineers with the estimates of cost accountants. In making foreign policy, in other words, ends must be measured against means.

Although this rationale won acceptance only recently, it is not new, even in the United States. Nowhere, in fact, is it more vigorously summarized than in Number 23 of the Federalist Papers, written by Alexander Hamilton. But long years of isolated safety smothered the idea of political-military collaboration. It found no new spokesman until Captain Mahan began to preach, late in the nineteenth century. Even then, the idea was not translated into action until after the conquest of the Philippines, when a few Americans, look

Reprinted with permission from Ernest R. May, "The Development of Political-Military Consultation in the United States," Political
Science Quarterly 70 (June 1955): 161–180.

Ernest R. May is professor of history, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

-7-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Fateful Decisions: Inside the National Security Council
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 378

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.