Warmaking and American Democracy: The Struggle over Military Strategy, 1700 to the Present
Bendel, Thomas R., Naval War College Review
Pearlman, Michael D. Warmaking and American Democracy: The Struggle over Military Strategy, 1700 to the Present. Lawrence: Univ. of Kansas, 1999. 393pp. $45
Warmaking-the pursuit of political objectives by military meansineluctably involves trade-offs not only in determining appropriate goals but also in determining the means by which they may be best pursued. While recent military action in Kosovo highlights the truth of this statement, the struggle to achieve a coherent military policy is not simply a contemporary problem for this nation. In this work, Michael D. Pearlman, a historian and associate professor at the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College, traces this problem from the pre-Revolutionary colonial wars through to the present, providing a comprehensive survey not only of America's wars but of the continual push and pull between the practitioners of military art and the politicians who direct them. In doing so, Pearlman demonstrates the difficulties faced by a pluralistic democracy in obtaining a consensus on either the most ef fective means for fighting a war or on justifiable ends of the wars being fought. While pursuing an explanation of the sources of these difficulties, he also illuminates a warmaking goal that is perhaps peculiar to America-that of fighting in order to banish doubts that a democracy can win its wars.
War, it should be remembered, has as its essential end the achievement of foreign-policy objectives; it is not simply about the practice of the military art. The connection between the ends and means is what we usually call strategy. Pearlman makes the case that American warfighting strategy is not and has never been determined in practice the way one might hope that it is in theory-through the seamless coordination of economic, political, moral, and military assets for the most efficient and effective accomplishment of the desired end. Rather, national strategy is the resultant of a competition between many actors in both the government and the military.
Although his book is not, according to the author, a political, diplomatic, or military history per se, Pearlman casts a wide scholarly net and draws on resources from all three areas to demonstrate that the differing perspectives within and between these actors-political parties, congresses and presidents, legislators and bureaucrats, military people and civilians, and the various branches of the armed services-make the formation of a coherent national strategy enormously complex.
Although each of these three areas has been individually, in other works, thoroughly dissected and analyzed, individually they can shed only so much light on the whole of the problem. …