Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Final Days 8

On page 246 of The Final Days, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein narrate the following:

"When you make a suggestion or proposal to the American military, [President Richard Nixon] explained, they say no, they say they can't do it.  He cited the 1970 invasion of Cambodia as an example.  The military had wanted to hold back, he said; they had thought the operation was too risky and of limited value.  He was the driving force, Nixon said, the one who had to say, 'Do it.'"

One would think that military people are the most hawkish people around, the first who would support using military force to solve the world problems.  There are cases in which that is probably accurate.  Not long ago, I was watching the American Experience documentary about President John F. Kennedy, and it said that General Curtis LeMay wanted to use nuclear weapons to solve the Cuban Missile Crisis.  I got a similar impression when I saw the movie Thirteen Days, which was about the Cuban Missile Crisis: that there were military people who thought that Kennedy was too soft and should use strong military force.

But it's not always the case that military people are trigger-happy----if that is the right word.  Because they know quite well the loss of life that war brings, there are plenty of times when some military people might be hesitant to support the government approaching a problem with military force, when they might not be particularly hawkish, when they might be especially sensitive to whether the exercise of military force accomplishes enough to merit the loss of life.  I vaguely recall Nixon making that sort of point in one of his books, but I forget where.

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