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Review Essay

Calling the Shots: Should Politicians or Generals Run Our Wars?

In This Review

Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime

Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime
By Eliot A. Cohen
Free Press, 2002, 288 pp. $25.00 Purchase

What qualities should we look for in our political leaders in a time of war? The standard answer these days is that they must be able to set precise objectives for the military to meet and then resist any inclination to meddle as the military meets them. They must also sustain popular support and international understanding without revising war aims or interfering in the conduct of operations, for the only thing worse than mission creep is micromanagement.

It is no surprise to find that military organizations, at least, take this position. The supposed spinelessness and ineptitude of politicians is often one of the few things about which military officers can agree. Coping with a resolute and wily enemy is difficult enough without having to deal with pesky and often amateurish civilians on one's own side, especially now that modern communications have made it possible for politicians to keep in touch

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