Finding the Target: The Transformation of American Military Policy

By West, F. J. "Bing" | Naval War College Review, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Finding the Target: The Transformation of American Military Policy


West, F. J. "Bing", Naval War College Review


Kagan, Frederick. Finding the Target: The Transformation of American Military Policy. New York: Encounter Books, 2006. 432pp. $29.95

How has American military strategic thought evolved since the fall of Saigon? How did each service reinvent itself, shake off old ghosts, and restore morale and purpose? How did each decide upon a different doctrine to guide its training, procurement, and deployment? How much influence do civilian defense officials wield over strategy and doctrine? Is the country well served by the process that produces strategy and doctrine inside the services? Military historian Fred Kagan provides here a tremendous primer on these issues. He has written a clear, definitive, and opinionated history of the development of strategy and doctrine in the American military since 1975. His clarity of prose and the evenhandedness of his presentation enable the reader to separate the history from Kagan's interpretation. That is the mark of a fine scholar.

Kagan is well known among military historians. A serious researcher and author of a major work on the Napoleonic wars, his greatest strength is his down-to-earth, friendly, inquisitive style. As the resident military scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Kagan has the venue and cachet to draw ambassadors and four-star generals routinely to his conferences, where they join captains and majors fresh from the battlefield. Building upon his years as a professor at West Point, Kagan has developed a broad network of military contacts that makes this book a blend of scholarship and insider knowledge. Though he is plugged into the daily skirmishes of Washington's political arena, as a historian Kagan's chief interest lies not in the immediate issues but in focusing upon the underlying trends.

The author blends brief synopses of such past campaigns as Bosnia, DESERT STORM, and IRAQI FREEDOM with portraits of strategic iconoclasts like John Boyd, John Warden, Douglas MacGregor, and Arthur Cebrowski, emphasizing how doctrine changed and with what results related to budgets and force structure. Kagan does not believe that force structure evolves slowly over the decades. Instead, he illustrates how the few influence the many, and how strategic leadership affects the direction of each service for good or ill.

On the positive side, Kagan recounts how in 1978 the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Thomas Hayward, came to believe that the downward spiral in the naval budget was the result of an intuitive strategy held by Secretary of Defense Harold Brown and his senior staff. These civilian defense leaders were concerned that the Soviet Union was increasing its geopolitical pressure across Europe, gaining both economic and political advantage in the shadow of its presumed superiority in land forces. Accordingly, the Office of the Secretary of Defense was focused on building up Army and Air Force strength in Western Europe, while naval forces languished because they were seen as of lesser utility.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

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.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

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

Cited article

Finding the Target: The Transformation of American Military Policy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

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?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

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.

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.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?