Military Assistance: An Operational Perspective

By Waghelstein, John | Naval War College Review, Autumn 2000 | Go to article overview

Military Assistance: An Operational Perspective


Waghelstein, John, Naval War College Review


Mott, William H., IV. Military Assistance: An Operational Perspective. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1999. 360pp. $65

William Mott draws some useful conclusions from eight disparate cases of military assistance: French support for the American colonies (from 1776); British support for the anti-French coalition (from 1793); British support to the Iberian campaign (from 1808); U.S. support for wartime China (from 1941); U.S. support for postwar China (from 1945); U.S. support for the French in Indochina (from 1949); U.S. support for the Republic of Vietnam during the "inter-war period" (from 1955); and U.S. support during the Second Indochina War (1965). Mott superimposes a profile of four "uniformities" as a means to assess donor nation success: convergence of national aims and interests; donor control of the relationship; committing donor defense forces; and cohesion of donor policies and strategies.

There are, however, several issues regarding the study's approach and the universality of the conclusions. Mott's study uses the term "wartime," which has a broad array of meanings. For example, Americans think of war as an anomaly in international relations. Despite the fact that there have been only five formally declared wars, Americans have seen nearly 225 years of unbroken warfare. Nevertheless, they still insist on making a distinction between war, peace, and all that unpleasantness in between. Assessing the success of U.S. support for China during World War II and U.S. support in Indochina requires, therefore, different approaches. Military assistance in the former was an economy-of-force operation that presented the Japanese with an additional front in a multifront theater, analogous to U.S. support to the Soviets (1941-1945) against the Germans. The cost-benefit ratio for these cases worked. However, equating the three post-World War II Indochina cases with keeping China in the war (and tying up dozens of Japanese divisions) is a stretch. Unlike 1917 and 1941, undeclared low-intensity conflicts, or small wars-or the nom de jour, military operations other than war-have a decidedly different resume of cohesion, convergence, and success.

Mott raises a number of issues that caused this reader some difficulty. In the first French case, he posits several war aims and then selects the most ambitious one by which to measure success. There is no doubt that revenge for the loss of North American colonies (1763) and the total destruction of Great Britain loomed large on Versailles's wish list. There is also little doubt that the French did not reject a lesser but included goal of embarrassing and weakening their adversary, which they achieved with money and a minor commitment of forces to the Americans.

Problems with war-termination goals resurface in the book's appendix, with respect to the Reagan Doctrine; Mott compares French support to the Americans to American support for the Contras in Nicaragua. After noting the similarities, he calls both attempts failures and dismisses the Reagan attempt to 11 roll back" the Soviets. …

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