Document created: 15 October 2003
Air University Review, November-December 1974
John Adams committed to his diary in 1770: “Pen, ink and paper and a sitting posture are great helps to attention and thinking.” Many pens, flowing ink, more than 200 pages of paper, and much thought and attention characterize the monograph study entitled Soldiers and Statesmen. * Published in 1973, this compact, medium-sized volume is worthy of attention for its penetrating insights into the important historical relationship between soldiers and statesmen.1 The study has special significance in that it provides an elongated perspective of military-civilian relations, achieved through that useful historical phenomenon, the history symposium. Actually, the study embodies the printed “Proceedings of the Fourth Military History Symposium,” held in October 1970 at the United States Air Force Academy.2
* Monte D. Wright and Lawrence J. Paszek, editors, Soldiers and Statesmen (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1973, $1.60), vi and 211 pages.
The symposium provided a forum for a critical examination of documentary sources, scholarly presentations, and empirical observations concerning the complex subject of civil-military ties from 1815 to the cold war era. Historical conferences, when well organized about a single topic, as this symposium was, usually achieve historical conceptualization by assembling a representation of early and late period scholars. This range leads to more effective historical inquiry and broadens the perspective of the subject under review.
One may ask, Was it necessary even to consider this subject? The answer is obviously in the affirmative. The history of human society has always been punctuated by war; but the study of military history has all too often been undertaken as if war existed in a vacuum. In our historiography until only recently and with few exceptions, there has been a lack of sense perception in the subtlety of civil-military relations. The symposium significantly contributed to the literature of this fascinating and labyrinthine subject. Every generation, as Mark Pattison once said, requires that the facts be recast in its own mold and demands that history be rewritten from its own point of view. This is essential, because ideas change, and the whole mode and manner of looking at things alters in every age. Thus, the task of those scholars attending the Academy symposium was formidable and ambitious, but history is both an ambitious and a formidable discipline.
The symposium searched for basic factors or principles regarding the relationships between soldiers and statesmen, and it sought to comprehend the past in order better to understand and cope with the future.
At the symposium that produced the study Soldiers and Statesmen, the participants had excellent academic credentials and impressive professional backgrounds.3 Their extensive publications are testimony to their productivity and scholarly contribution, covering such subjects as the Third Crusade in the 12th century, Maryland during and after the Revolution, the historian and the diplomat, Hindenburg and the Weimar Republic, total war and cold war, national security in the nuclear age, and a host of other significant topics. Organizationally, the papers were presented in chronological order. The selected period emphasis was effective.
The two key papers in the opening session treated the theme of soldiers and statesmen from 1815 to 1919 in France and Germany. In the first paper, Professor Gordon Wright, analyzing the French experience, emphasized the relative neglect of this topic by French historians as compared to those of Germany. Generally speaking, there was an absence of crises in French civil-military relations in the 19th century. Wright maintained that routine-minded, unimaginative soldiers, abetted by ineffective and weak politicians, largely contributed to this situation. The French Republic made little headway between Waterloo and Sarajevo toward creating a viable system of civil-military relations. The contrast with Germany during this same period is indeed striking. While French scholars virtually neglected the subject, substantial reference was being made to it in Germany.
In the second paper Professor Andreas Dorpalen noted the great significance of the relative position of soldiers and statesmen in German history. He shows that by the 1870s the German army had become, to a large degree, an integral part of the nation, “the trailblazer of the united empire.” Within this frame of reference were laid the foundations for the so-called phenomenon of “Prussianism,” the quasi-military organic structure of civil society and the vital role of the army and its elite officer corps. Dorpalen suggests that the main conclusion to be drawn from Prusso-German experience is a reaffirmation of the Clausewitzian doctrine that the military should be subordinated to political leadership in all matters pertaining to national policy. Dorpalen rightly concludes that militarism is a civil-political problem and that every country is the recipient of the kind of civil-military relations it deserves.
Commenting on the Wright and Dorpalen papers, Professor Weigley viewed them from the perspective of American military history. Weigley, who is both eloquent and persuasive, maintains that the period from Vienna to Versailles is one of contrasts rather than comparisons between the French and German experience, with soldiers and statesmen on the one hand and the American encounter on the other. Weigley’s summary emphasizes that in the United States during the 19th century the roles of soldier and statesman did not become clearly differentiated. This, in effect, is the basis of his thesis that, in the United States during this period, soldiers and statesmen were interchangeable; their roles had not become clearly separated as in fact they had in Europe, especially in Germany. Although the historical record corroborates Weigley’s proposition, civil-military relations in the United States from 1815 to 1919 were such that it was generally agreed that the control and direction of war are the function primarily of the statesman. Only the established government can begin a war and decide on the measures necessary to bring it to a successful conclusion. Thus, policy is the master and strategy the servant. Our own Civil War was indeed an object lesson in this regard. Working out a proper balance between the civil and military requires statesmanship of a high order on the part of both the civil executive and the military commander.
The second session covered the period from 1919 to 1945, and the focus was entirely on the American scene. Dr. Forrest Pogue, who opened the second session, concentrated on observing particular soldiers and statesmen.
With a straightforward writing style, containing both comment and solid interpretation, Dr. Pogue’s analysis of the wartime Chiefs of Staff and the President has practical potential application for future similar situations. The necessity for teamwork in Washington was recognized early in the war. Accordingly, the Joint Chiefs of Staff was created to coordinate the operations of our armed forces on a worldwide basis. Dr. Pogue took as his central theme an examination of the Samuel P. Huntington thesis that the Joint Chiefs, rather than President Roosevelt, conducted World War II and that they did it by abandoning military values in favor of civilian ones. Pogue’s paper illuminates with varying intensities of light and shadow that “the full facts concerning the activities of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” including such key personalities as Marshall, Arnold, and King, do not substantiate the position that the conduct of the war rested, as Huntington has suggested, primarily with senior military staff. With historical sensibility and factual accuracy, Pogue has attempted to put the role of the Joint Chiefs into a meaningful relationship with that of the President though, in the main, the functions and duties of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were not formally defined during the war. The Joint Chiefs advised the President with regard to military strategy, the requirements, production, and allocations of munitions and shipping, the manpower needs of the armed forces, and matters of joint Army-Navy policy. Further, the Joint Chiefs made strategic plans and issued the implementing directives, but essential policy and decision-making remained with the President. Pogue concludes that differences arose, to be sure, between the views of the Chiefs and those of the President; but in the main, the Chiefs followed the guidance laid down by the Commander in Chief, and the fundamental principle of civilian control survived the war intact.
What also clearly emerges in the Pogue paper is that Marshall actually became the principal spokesman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the President, and thus by the early part of 1945 President Roosevelt relied upon Marshall extensively. General Marshall, by any measure, must be considered one of history’s great leaders. He had the imagination, foresight, and ability to prepare and guide this nation to victory in the Second World War. He served his President and the nation well, but, perhaps more important, he had tremendous leadership qualities and was a man of enormous moral authority.
In the first of two scheduled commentaries, Dr. Maurice Matloff concluded “that in the last year of the war, perhaps the war itself outran both the military and statesmen, as problems of winning the peace began to come up against those of winning the war.”
In the second commentary, Professor Gaddis Smith, with a synthesizing intelligence, supports Pogue and further blunts the Huntington thesis, which he categorized as “just plain wrong.” Smith asserts that in order to create an atmosphere more suitable to better civil-military relations, it is imperative that there be a “broad continuing education of military officers in history and the social sciences,” on the one hand, and “broad education, including some education in military history and principles, for the civilian side of national leadership,” on the other.
After the traditional evening banquet, General Sir John Winthrop Hackett, Principal of King’s College, London, delivered the 13th Annual Harmon Memorial Lecture, which constituted the third session. Sir John addressed his topic, “The Military in the Service of the State,” from the standpoint of “what the relationship between the military and the state looks like today, what changes have taken place in it in our time, and what factors are at work leading to further change.” As an old soldier trained in the best tradition of the British army, the ethical aspects of the soldier-statesman relationship were of particular concern to Sir John. Concentrating on the American experience, Sir John suggested that future historians will view the period 1945 to 1952 as a landmark in civil-military relations. He advised that until 1945, the United States approach to war was fundamentally anti-Clausewitzian, the national ethic being “not greatly in favour of the application of armed force to a political end.”
However, events from 1945 to 1952 considerably changed the military dimension. It was clearly seen that military preparedness, perhaps more than ever before, required a military establishment capable of supporting the foreign policies pursued. In effect, military power is most meaningful only in direct relation to strategy, and strategy is most meaningful only in relation to national objectives. Under these circumstances, the military leadership is usually the first to recognize the inherent limitations of their profession.
Within this context, students of the soldier-statesman relationship doubted whether Clausewitz’s aphorism that “war is nothing but the continuation of political relations by other means” retains its original meaning. Serious doubts have been raised as to whether all-out war can still be contemplated as a viable alternative in pursuit of national objectives. Sir John indicates that military force is quite clearly very much a part of current world affairs and has become not only an instrument but an end in itself. This situation requires a fresh look at the leadership roles and purpose of both soldiers and statesmen where the “wars of tomorrow will almost certainly be limited wars, fought for limited ends.”
Although Sir John presented a highly intelligent interpretation of the symposium theme, his confessio fider—a confession of faith—was in the judgment of this reviewer the most significant aspect of his lecture. This soldier-academician stressed that the military life is a good life. “The human qualities it demands include fortitude, integrity, self-restraint, personal loyalty to other persons, and the surrender of the advantage of the individual to a common good.” Emphasizing that the military is a mirror of its parent society, reflecting strengths and weaknesses, Sir John has correctly concluded that the armed forces form a repository of moral resource that should always be a source of strength within the state. This distinguished soldier concluded with the conviction that the highest service of the military profession to the state probably lies in the moral sphere.
The fourth and final session dealt with “John Foster Dulles: The Moralist Armed.” This paper was presented by Professor Richard D. Challener. Dulles is a contradiction in terms. Claimed by some to be a man of immense courage and stoutness of heart, he has been classified by others as a querulous, dropsical man with a shrill, ungoverned ambition—a man of outraged morality. Neither a saint nor a senile scoundrel, Dulles is a figure of considerable fascination—a “magma” erupting in the cataclysm of the cold war. With ample evidence of detached, objective assessment, Professor Challener carefully examines the record of Secretary of State Dulles. He devotes particular attention to those special qualities of the man that made him both the spokesman for and the symbol of the foreign policies of the Eisenhower Administration. Challener points up that the Secretary absorbed—if not inherited—the Puritan conscience and that this, together with his religious background, colored his perception of “atheistic communism.” Dulles held fast to the concept of a coherent moral order in the world; and he believed that the Soviets were the enemy of a just and lasting peace. Preaching a vigorous foreign policy, Secretary Dulles denounced more “containment” of communism and advocated “liberation” of subject peoples behind the Iron Curtain. Although Challener mentions that Dulles was the apostle of “massive retaliation” and “brinkmanship,” it should be noted that in actual practice the foreign policy of the Eisenhower Administration was far more cautious than Secretary Dulles’s slogans would suggest. To President Eisenhower and to the more responsible military leadership during this period, nuclear war was unthinkable, since it might mean the destruction of Western civilization.
On balance, Challener suggests that Dulles was “no innovator but rather a man who carried inherited policies to their logical conclusion.” Although this may be true, insofar as the soldier-statesman relationship is concerned, the military adapted its strategy to the Dulles concept of massive retaliation. In keeping with this broad policy, conventional ground forces were cut, and military-civil relations seemed to be fairly well orchestrated as the United States concentrated on developing nuclear weapons and airplanes to deliver them to their targets. In his commentary, Professor William Appleman Williams reminded the audience that Dulles was not the first amateur theologian with a hand in foreign policy. He mentioned Woodrow Wilson and William Jennings Bryan as examples of others who also held similar beliefs. In further discussion of this paper, Professor Louis Morton suggested that Dulles’s legacy could lead one to conclude that the major problem today would appear to be not whether the civilian leadership can control the military but whether civilian leadership is being militarized in outlook. The militarization of civilian leadership is a rich area for serious historical research and would be a profitable topic to explore in the ongoing drama of soldiers and statesmen.
The Fourth Military History Symposium, as reflected in the printed proceedings, thus made an effort, through historical perspective, to cope with the vital roles of soldiers and statesmen in attaining the pre-eminent goal of national security. The symposium tried to evoke, not just explain, the past, but to fill the pages of the proceedings with real people and ideas. Through solid effort and knowledgeable discussion, the symposium brought a fresh dimension to a topic of considerable interest to those concerned with the soldiers and statesmen. The final lesson as perceived by this reviewer is that perfectibility in the soldier-statesman relationship is to be continually sought, not as an end to be achieved necessarily but as an ideal. This is perhaps the real message of the Fourth Military History Symposium.
Air University Institute
for Professional Development
1. This reviewer is appreciative of the excellent introduction to the “Proceedings” written by Major David MacIsaac, USAF, Executive Director, 1970, Fourth Military History Symposium. The Introduction was very helpful in preparing this review.
2. The First Military History Symposium, held at the U.S. Air Force Academy on 4-5 May 1967, considered the topic “Current Concepts in Military History.” Its proceedings were not published. The Second Symposium met on 2-3 May 1968 and discussed “Command and Commander in Modern Warfare.” Its proceedings were published and have gone through a second printing. The third meeting in the series, held on 8-9 May 1969, was also published and analyzed. It was entitled “Science, Technology, and Warfare,” The fourth meeting considered “Soldiers and Statesmen,” the subject of this review. The fifth meeting was held on 5-6 October 1972 and discussed “The Military and Society.” Its proceedings were also published. The Sixth Military History Symposium of the USAF Academy is scheduled for 10-11 October 1974, treating “The Military History of the American Revolution.” Publication of the proceedings originated with the Office of Air Force History, Headquarters USAF, and the USAF Academy.
3. The principal participants in the symposium were Richard D. Challener (Ph.D.), Princeton University; Philip A. Crowl (Ph.D.), University of Nebraska; Andreas Dorpalen (Dr. Jur.), Ohio State University; General Sir John Winthrop Hackett (M.A.), Principal of King’s College, London; Maurice Matloff (Ph.D.), Chief Historian, Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army; Louis Morton (Ph. D.), Dartmouth College; Noel F. Parrish (Ph.D.), Trinity University; Forrest C. Pogue (Ph.D.), Director, George C. Marshall Research Library; Richard A. Preston (Ph.D.), Duke University; Theodore Ropp (Ph.D.), Duke University; Gaddis Smith (Ph.D.), Yale University; Russell F. Weigley (Ph.D.), Temple University; William Appleman Williams (Ph.D.), Oregon State University; Gordon Wright (Ph.D.), Stanford University.
Dr. Richard I. Lester (Ph.D., Institute of Historical Research, University of London) is Director of Curriculum and Evaluation, Institute for Professional Development, Air University. Previous assignments have been as Chief, Social and Behavioral Sciences, United States Armed Forces Institute (USAFI), and education officer with SAC and USAFE. Dr. Lester has also served on the faculties of the University of Maryland and Auburn University.
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.