In examining the influence of historical analogies on decisions to use--or not use--force, military strategist Jeffrey Record assesses every major application of U.S. force from the Korean War to the NATO war on Serbia. Specifically, he looks at the influence of two analogies: the democracies' appeasement of Hitler at Munich and America's defeat in the Vietnam War. His book judges the utility of these two analogies on presidential decision-making and finds considerable misuse of them in situations where force was optional. He points to the Johnson administration's application of the Munich analogy to the circumstances of Southeast Asia in 1965 as the most egregious example of their misuse, but also cites the faulty reasoning by historical analogy that prevailed among critics of Reagan's policy in Central America and in Clinton's use of force in Haiti and the former Yugoslavia.
The author's findings show generational experience to be a key influence on presidential decision-making: Munich persuaded mid-twentieth-century presidents that force should be used early and decisively while Vietnam cautioned later presidents against using force at all. Both analogies were at work for the Gulf War, with Munich urging a decision for war and Vietnam warning against a graduated and highly restricted use of force. Record also reminds us of the times when presidents have used analogies to mobilize public support for action they have already decided to take. Addressing both the process of presidential decision-making and the wisdom of decisions made, this well-reasoned book offers timely lessons to a broad audience that includes political scientists, military historians, defense analysts, and policy makers, as well as those simply curious about history's influence.
~ Praise for Making War, Thinking History ~
“If we ignore history, we are bound to repeat it. But history so easily misleads. . . . Jeffrey Record cuts the knot with surgical precision, exposing present fallacies as well as past decisions.”
— Edward N. Luttwak, author of Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace
“Making War, Thinking History is must reading for both historians and national security analysts because it not only offers unusual insights into past American use of force, but also provides valuable instruction for the future.”
— Former Senator Sam Nunn , Co-chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
“A splendid analysis of the ways history is used—and misused—by policy makers in reaching crucial decisions to employ military force. Should be required reading for those who seek to understand the value and limitations of historical analogy as a tool of decision making.”
— George C. Herring , Professor of History Emeritus, University of Kentucky
“Count me in as an enthusiastic admirer of Making War, Thinking History. It’s an exceptionally clear-eyed, well-reasoned work, with timely lessons to teach. Jeff Record carefully and lucidly reminds us of the facts of America’s wars in the last century and uses those facts—with excellent effect—to take on the false memories, partisan posturing, muddy reasoning, and faulty assumptions that pollute current thinking not just about the past, but about America’s role in the world today.”
— Arnold R. Isaacs , author of Vietnam Shadows
“Record provides novel and compelling interpretations of the Munich and Vietnam War analogies. He offers an original and important distinction between lessons regarding whether to fight and those regarding how to fight, and his interpretation of the lessons of Vietnam is unique, convincing, and helps to illuminate some otherwise confusing decisions.”
— Christopher Hemmer, author of Which Lessons Matter?
“An experienced congressional staff member, a seasoned academician with a command of the secondary literature, and a faculty member of a service war college, Record effectively blends a policy maker’s ear with a scholar’s eye in a serious attempt to teach about the promise and problem of historical analogy in decision-making.”
— Thomas Alexander Hughes , author of Overlord