In This Review

The Mission: America's Military in the Twenty-First Century
The Mission: America's Military in the Twenty-First Century
By Dana Priest
W. W. Norton, 2003, 404 pp.

The proconsular role of the "cincs," America's operational commanders in chief who have the world divided among them, has figured prominently in contemporary U.S. foreign policy. In this substantial and important (if at times disjointed) book, Priest follows the cincs as they go about their business, observing their close interaction with local political and military leaders, often in some of the more chaotic parts of the world. She notes how they can use arms sales, training missions, and special operations forces to promote American objectives. The result is a fascinating and closely observed portrayal of life among the undergrowth of international affairs, including some vivid descriptions of the special forces at work in Afghanistan and the problems of nation-building in Kosovo. By and large the cincs get high marks, but Priest is right to observe a larger problem: the disproportionate resources available to the military, compared with civil agencies, introduces an inevitable distortion into how the United States deals with difficult parts of the world.