America's Viceroys: The Military and U.S. Foreign Policy

By Hansen, Donald K. | Naval War College Review, Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

America's Viceroys: The Military and U.S. Foreign Policy


Hansen, Donald K., Naval War College Review


Reveron, Derek S., ed. America's Viceroys: The Military and U.S. Foreign Policy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. 214pp. $75

In 2000, Washington Post reporter Dana Priest wrote a series of articles on the rising importance of the regional combatant commanders, comparing them to modern-day "proconsuls" whose Roman forebears served as regional governors and commanders in chief of their military forces. Reveron's America's Viceroys examines this comparison, providing a historical and contemporary analysis of contemporary regional combatant commanders and their rising influence in the foreign policymaking arena. (While the implications of this rising trend are left to the reader, nowhere does the book imply that our combatant commanders are presentday Caesars, about to cross the Rubicon and seize Rome.) The last chapter of Reveron's book expertly examines their rising power and influence on traditional civil-military relations. In short, he finds, administrations use the military in non-warfighting ways, because of its size, capabilities, and "can-do" culture.

It is somewhat ironic that it was the military services and the Pentagon that fought hardest to prevent the ascendancy of the regional combatant commanders. Four decades of legislative changes to the Department of Defense and military mistakes from World War II to DESERT ONE finally culminated in passage of the Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act of 1986. This act finally gave unity of command to the combatant commanders and reduced the service chiefs to the secondary role of training and equipping their forces. In hindsight, however, it was the Department of State, not the service chiefs, who suffered the greatest loss of influence with this change.

The regional combatant commanders today are considered by many within the U.S. government to be policy entrepreneurs. Each commands a large staff, oversees a huge budget, and travels frequently within his region to promote U. …

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