Who's At The Helm? Lessons Of Lebanon

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Who's At The Helm? Lessons Of Lebanon

By Raymond Tanter
Westview Press, 1990
262 pp. $24.95

Students of U.S. policy and the policymaking process will be delighted with Tanter's study of how the U.S. government dealt with the crises in Lebanon in the early 1980s, for Tanter was on the National Security Council staff at the time and writes in fascinating detail, naming names and pinpointing bad decisions. His main proposition is that, with a hands-off president who had no overall strategy, decisions were left to the bureaucratic infighting of interested players and agencies. The result was inconsistency, incoherence and no rational coordination of force and diplomacy to achieve national aims. Such coordination is surely desirable-the spirit of Henry Kissinger is always hovering in the background-but not so easy to attain when the diplomacy is largely Washington's and the force on the ground is largely Israel's and not subject to U.S. control. It is a persuasive book, though one which fairly begs for other participants and observers to come forward with their own versions.

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