The Mission: America's Military in the Twenty-First Century

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Walk with America's generals, grunts, and Green Berets through the maze of unconventional wars and unsettled peace.

Four-star generals who lead the military during wartime reign like preconsuls abroad in peacetime. Secretive Green Berets trained to hunt down terrorists and wage guerrilla wars are assigned to seduce ruthless authoritarian regimes. Teenage soldiers schooled to seize airstrips instead play detective and social worker in a gung-ho but ill-fated attempt to rebuild a ...

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Overview

Walk with America's generals, grunts, and Green Berets through the maze of unconventional wars and unsettled peace.

Four-star generals who lead the military during wartime reign like preconsuls abroad in peacetime. Secretive Green Berets trained to hunt down terrorists and wage guerrilla wars are assigned to seduce ruthless authoritarian regimes. Teenage soldiers schooled to seize airstrips instead play detective and social worker in a gung-ho but ill-fated attempt to rebuild a nation after the fighting stops. The Mission is a boots-on-the-ground account of America's growing dependence on the military to manage world affairs. It describes a clash of culture and purpose through the eyes of soldiers and officers themselves. In the aftermath of September 11, this trend has only accelerated, as the country turns to its warriors to solve the complex international challenges ahead. People in the military understand that they are on an unheralded, unnamed mission -- The Mission -- one largely unknown to most Americans.

Through the author's unparalleled access to all levels of the military, much of the book unfolds in front of her eyes. The Mission blends Ernie Pyle's worm's-eye view with David Halberstam's altitude. Full of scoops, insider dialogue, and insight into the nation's top military leaders, the stories bring you to battlefields with Special Forces A-Teams in Afghanistan and Kosovo, palaces in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the jungles of Colombia and Nigeria, and the Byzantine politics of Indonesia. To write this book, Dana Priest, who covered the military for the Washington Post, traveled to twenty countries, visiting the military's most important arenas of engagement. The result is the first full examination of new and historic policy -- the ever-widening role of our soldiers as America seeks to change and to pacify the world.

Finalist for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
What does the military do in a "peaceful" time of nation-building? According to Washington Post reporter Dana Priest, they become de facto rulers. Drawing on first-person research in more than a dozen countries, she shows that Americans soldiers, ranging from hardened generals to raw recruits, have assumed authority and responsibilities for which they are ill prepared. Measured and well documented, The Mission addresses a troubling trend that only grows more important in this post–September 11th world.
The New York Times
Ms. Priest's work is a powerful testimony of the unparalleled breadth and depth of the mission facing American soldiers. It is extremely well researched, vividly written and should be read by all those interested in the central issues of the world today. — Dmitri V. Trenin
Publishers Weekly
Military affairs correspondent for the Washington Post, Priest won the 2001 Gerald R. Ford Award for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense. She argues, in what is essentially a series of expanded columns, that the military, steadily and by default, has been assuming a spectrum of authority and responsibility in international affairs that it is ill-prepared to exercise wisely. Central to the process has been the growing power of regional commanders-in-chief, who since Desert Storm have been acting as virtual proconsuls for successive administrations unwilling to develop and assert coherent foreign policies. Priest's defining figure is Gen. Anthony Zinni, the maverick Marine who thoroughly enjoyed the perquisites of his appointment as commander-in-chief of U.S. forces in the Middle East, central Asia and east Africa, and in the process seemed to regard himself as a bridge between the states of the Middle East and a Washington that persistently failed to understand the region. Arguably even more useful is Priest's treatment of the deployment of a battalion of the 82nd Airborne Division as peacekeepers in Bosnia-the event that led Condoleeza Rice to say that the U.S. did not maintain elite combat forces to escort children to school. There is a good human interest essay focusing on a civilian woman who served as a contract interpreter in Kosovo. The work concludes with a survey of the shortcomings of the U.S. effort in post-Taliban Afghanistan. The individual pieces, however, never quite add up to an integrated work. From general criticism of the concept of overseas military satrapies, Priest turns to a critique of the system that gives soldiers on the ground poorly defined missions and little specific instruction on how to proceed. This is a legitimate criticism, but Priest does not advocate any particular solution. As reportage, The Mission has merit, but as defense analysis, it falls short. Author tour. (Mar.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
The proconsular role of the "cincs," America's operational commanders in chief who have the world divided among them, has figured prominently in contemporary U.S. foreign policy. In this substantial and important (if at times disjointed) book, Priest follows the cincs as they go about their business, observing their close interaction with local political and military leaders, often in some of the more chaotic parts of the world. She notes how they can use arms sales, training missions, and special operations forces to promote American objectives. The result is a fascinating and closely observed portrayal of life among the undergrowth of international affairs, including some vivid descriptions of the special forces at work in Afghanistan and the problems of nation-building in Kosovo. By and large the cincs get high marks, but Priest is right to observe a larger problem: the disproportionate resources available to the military, compared with civil agencies, introduces an inevitable distortion into how the United States deals with difficult parts of the world.
Library Journal
A Washington Post reporter and the recipient of the 2001 Gerald R. Ford Award for Distinguished Defense Reporting, Priest here assesses the changing role of the U.S. military in the present world. At one time, the military simply fought wars, but as recent conflicts reveal, it must now deal with problems that are socioeconomic or political in nature. In addition, argues Priest, the position of regional commander in chief (CINC) has grown substantially in power and prestige since the Cold War. Priest assesses the role of each CINC in recent conflicts, showing that each has had to use a military solution that was too often limited and shortsighted. In this regard, Priest's book recalls Gen. Wesley Clark's Waging Modern War (Clark himself is a CINC). This engrossing work is a real eye-opener concerning the role of the CINCs, something which lay readers probably know little about-though they should. Recommended for public and academic libraries, especially those with military history collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/02.]-Mark Ellis, Albany State Univ., GA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A clear-eyed portrait of American military culture, and a subtle critique of the civilian leadership that governs the armed forces. Washington Post military affairs reporter Priest has clearly spent a great deal of time among warriors; she writes not only from the corridors of the Pentagon and the briefing rooms of faraway theaters of operations, but also from the pillboxes, bunkers, and command posts very near to where the bullets are flying. At the heart of her study lies a subject of great debate: How can fighters whose mission is to kill people, break things, and, in the words of one warrior, commit massive "hate crimes" be put into the essentially diplomatic role of nation-building and peacekeeping? This question now divides the military and its civilian overseers, though it was nothing new in the time of Eisenhower and Truman, who thought nothing whatever of putting the army to work rebuilding Europe and Japan and "reestablishing political life at the local level," such as the military recently tried to do in Kosovo and Bosnia. Yet the current leadership, headed by an apparently unengaged George W. Bush and a perhaps too-engaged Donald Rumsfeld (who, by Priest’s account, is none too beloved in the Pentagon, yet respected for actually having served in the military, unlike many in the previous administration), has little interest in nation-building or making the world safe for democracy, a matter troubling to some American warriors in Afghanistan who believed that such work was the only way to keep the fighting from starting all over again. ("You promised many things for Afghanistan," one mujahadeen remarks to an American officer, "and we want you to keep your promise.") Profilingmembers of the highest command echelons as well the dirtiest-trousered of frontline troops, Priest does a fine job of exploring some of the contradictions involved in maintaining a citizen army and keeping peace in a world bent on killing itself. Rich instruction for policymakers, soldiers, and politics junkies alike. Author tour
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393010244
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/1/2003
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.36 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: Pax Americana 11
1 A Different Kind of World 21
2 The Rise of the American Military 41
3 The CinCs: Proconsuls to the Empire 61
4 The Royal CinCdoms of the Persian Gulf 78
5 The Invisible Front Line of Central Asia 99
6 Inside the Wire with Special Forces 121
7 A-Teams in Afghanistan 141
8 Below the Radar in Nigeria 175
9 Gambling with Green Berets in Colombia 195
10 The Indonesian Handshake 216
11 Force Trumps Diplomacy in the Balkans 247
12 Waging Peace in Kosovo 275
13 Drita's Kosovo 292
14 Ellerbe's 82nd Airborne Division 303
15 Vitina and the New Mafia 320
16 Dishonoring Merita 343
17 Vitina, One Year Later 366
Afterword: The Mission 385
List of Interviews 395
Acknowledgments 397
Notes 399
Index 407
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2003

    a view from someone allowed close, not fully inside

    I give this item four stars for reasons still not clear as I believe the grunts, berets and staff NCOs are wise in their trade and scholars in their abilities to show a reporter/author only the outer surface of the first layer of their hardened shells. To get a accurate, pull no punches look you HAVE to give justice where justice has been done, books that have been penned by men who CHOSE to step away from the pack, away from the ability to return to steak and showers each night...men who are not reporters or newsmen, the men who ARE the grunts, berets and other valued positions in today's voluntary service to this country. There, and by their hand only, will you find the deeper layers that make the service and the brotherhood building so rare and never untrenched by even the smartest of 9-5 reporters. I recommend books that came from the men that this author reports about from the outside looking in... one in particular is Stand By to Fall Out (P. Chadz) a non- combative book that shows the intertwining and brother making for a four year, 700 page stretch. So yes, in many accounts 'the Mission' is a good lead in, yet the true story will only come from the soul and the pen of then men who endure the stresses and struggles by their own request and reason.

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