The Pentagon and the Presidency
Civil-Military Relations From FDR to George W. Bush
Dale R. Herspring
While presidents have always kept a watchful eye on the military, our generals have been equally vigilant in assessing the commander-in-chief. Their views, however, have been relatively neglected in the literature on civil-military relations. By taking us inside the military's mind in this matter, Dale Herspring's new book provides a path-breaking, utterly candid, and much-needed reassessment of a key relationship in American government and foreign policymaking.
As Herspring reminds us, that relationship has often been a very tense, even extremely antagonistic one, partly because the military has become a highly organized and very effective bureaucratic interest group. Reevaluating twelve presidents—from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush—Herspring shows how the intensity of that conflict depends largely on the military's perception of the president's leadership style. Quite simply, presidents who show genuine respect for military culture are much more likely to develop effective relations with the military than those who don't.
“A fine, and extremely useful, summary of civil-military relations since Franklin Roosevelt.”
“This fascinating book is a keeper for the professional military member and the student of civil-military relations.”
—ArmySee all reviews...
“Provides a superb insight into the nature of civil-military relations.”
“Well-researched and highly readable.”
—Proceedings (U.S. Naval Institute)
“A timely and path-breaking book.”
—Foreign Service Journal
“A magnificent survey.”
—History: Reviews of New Books
“A probing analysis of an important and enduring challenge for American democracy as current as today’s headlines.”
—Peter D. Feaver, author of Armed Servants: Agency, Oversight, and Civil-Military Relations
“Unprecedented in breadth on this vital subject, The Pentagon and the Presidency will be regarded as one of the seminal works on U.S. civil-military relations. Sure to generate debate, Herspring’s work is a must-read for anyone interested in the critical national security issues that our nation will face in the next decade.”
—H. R. McMaster, author of Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam
“No student of civil-military relations in the United States will be able to ignore this impressive work.”
—Fred I. Greenstein, author of The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to George W. Bush
“Turns the discussion of civilian control of the military on its head. . . . Well written and highly recommended.”
—John Allen Williams, Chair and President, Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society
“A lucid, richly detailed, and timely book.”
—Lewis L. Gould, author of The Modern American PresidencySee fewer reviews...
Each chapter focuses on one president and his key administrators—such as Robert McNamara, Henry Kissinger, and Donald Rumsfeld—and contains case studies showing how the military reacted to the president's leadership. In the final chapter, Herspring ranks the presidents according to their degree of conflict with the military: Lyndon Johnson received exceedingly low marks for being overbearing and dismissive of the armed forces, further aggravating his Vietnam problem. George H. W. Bush inspired respect for not micromanaging military affairs. And Bill Clinton was savaged both privately and publicly by military leaders for having been a "draft dodger," cutting Pentagon spending, and giving the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" tag an unnecessarily high profile.
From World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Herspring clearly shows how the nature of civilian control has changed during the past half century. He also reveals how the military has become a powerful bureaucratic interest group very much like others in Washington-increasingly politicized, media-savvy, and as much accountable to Congress as to the commander-in-chief.
Ultimately, The Pentagon and the Presidency illuminates how our leaders devise strategies for dealing with threats to our national security-and how the success of that process depends so much upon who's in charge and how that person's perceived by our military commanders.