The Pentagon and the Presidency: Civil-Military Relations From FDR to George W. Bush
By Dale R. Herspring
University Press of Kansas, 2005, 512 pp.
Herspring has a proposition about civil-military relations: he thinks the military should be viewed as just another of the U.S. government's many interest groups, bound at times to conflict with civilians, and that presidents and secretaries of defense who are sympathetic to military culture can manage this conflict more effectively than those who are not. This is not a startling new insight, but at least, Herspring would argue, it captures the reality better than some of the more well-known theories of civil-military relations. And in order to make his case, he has produced a fine, and extremely useful, summary of civil-military relations since Franklin Roosevelt. Herspring recognizes that it is, in the end, up to the military to adjust to the president rather than the other way around, and he worries about the conservative trend in military culture. Yet he shares the military's frustration with Bill Clinton's chaotic decision making and Donald Rumsfeld's brutal disregard for its opinions, in contrast to George H.W. Bush's more collegial approach.