THE PENTAGON AND THE PRESIDENCY: Civil-Military Relations from FDR to George W. Bush

Article excerpt

THE PENTAGON AND THE PRESIDENCY: Civil-Military Relations from FDR to George W. Bush, Dale R. Herspring, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, 2005, 490 pages, $45.00.

Dale R. Herspring's book shows how the senior military command, particularly the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), has viewed the presidency since World War II. The book's topic is vital, its scope ideal. Including presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush, the book helps us get away from the stereotypical thinking that all conflicts are inherent in institutions and that all senior military people dislike all presidents.

Military personnel want a commander in chief who respects them, does not lie to them, listens sincerely to their concerns, and gives them unambiguous guidance. They also want a boss who takes responsibility when things go wrong. This might sound simple, but it is all too rare.

In the military's eye, George H.W. Bush was about as good a president as one could get. He was honest and open-minded, even in disagreement, although he did not always follow professional military advice. For example, he went from the strategic defense in Operation Desert Shield to the offense in Operation Desert Storm without giving Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell previous notice; Powell found out while watching a White House announcement on the morning news.

Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. …


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