Presidential Decisions for War: Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf

Overview


In 1950, Americans expected that the United States would wage another major war in the near future. Instead, over the course of the next half-century, they fought limited wars against minor powers: North Korea, North Vietnam, and Iraq. In Presidential Decisions for War, Gary R. Hess explores the ways in which Presidents Truman, Johnson, and Bush took America into these wars. He recreates the unfolding crises in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf, explaining why the presidents and their advisers concluded that ...
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Overview


In 1950, Americans expected that the United States would wage another major war in the near future. Instead, over the course of the next half-century, they fought limited wars against minor powers: North Korea, North Vietnam, and Iraq. In Presidential Decisions for War, Gary R. Hess explores the ways in which Presidents Truman, Johnson, and Bush took America into these wars. He recreates the unfolding crises in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf, explaining why the presidents and their advisers concluded that the use of military power was ultimately necessary to uphold U.S. security. The decisions for war are then evaluated in terms of how effectively the president assessed U.S. interests, explored alternatives to war, adhered to constitutional processes, and built congressional, popular, and international support.

Once at war, each president as commander in chief faced the challenge of waging a limited war, which imposes restrictions on military operations and objectives and on the extent to which popular emotions can be aroused. After tracing how Truman, Johnson, and Bush responded to unfolding military developments, Hess evaluates the wartime leadership of each president in terms of his effectiveness in coordinating political and military objectives, managing civilian-military relations, communicating objectives and sustaining popular and congressional support, gaining and sustaining international backing, and responding to diplomatic initiatives and opportunities for peace.

Presidential Decisions for War concludes that the quality of presidential leadership directly affected the different outcomes of these three wars, each of which remains a topicof ongoing controversy among historians and the public.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1 Truman and the Korean Crisis: "We can't let the U.N. down"
2 Truman as Commander in Chief: Decision by Indecision
3 Johnson and the Vietnam Crisis: "America keeps her word"
4 Johnson as Commander in Chief: The Strategy of Wishful Thinking
5 Bush and the Persian Gulf Crisis: "This aggression will not stand"
6 Bush as Commander in Chief: The Imperatives of Coalition Warfare

Conclusion: Three Presidents and Their Wars

AUTHOR BIO:
Gary R. Hess is Distinguished Research Professor of History at Bowling Green State University. He is the author of The United States at War, 1941-1945; Vietnam and the United States: Origins and Legacy of War; The United States' Emergence as a Southeast Asia Power, 1940-1950; America Encounters India, 1941-1947; and numerous essays. He was president of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations in 1991 and has served on the Board of Editors of Diplomatic History. He has been a four-time Fulbright Scholar/Lecturer in India.

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Editorial Reviews

David W. Levy
The basic conception for this book is a stroke of genius . . . Hess gives a fine sense of how various pressures operated to shape both a president's decision for war and the way in which the decision was carried out. The book is genuinely comparative,frequently drawing parallels and showing what one president learned from his predecessors. Hess's evaluations are always thoughtful and measured.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801865152
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2001
  • Series: American Moment Series
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary R. Hess is Distinguished Research Professor of History at Bowling Green State University. He is the author of The United States at War, 1941-1945; Vietnam and the United States: Origins and Legacy of War; The United States' Emergence as a Southeast Asia Power, 1940-1950; America Encounters India, 1941-1947; and numerous essays. He was president of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations in 1991 and has served on the Board of Editors of Diplomatic History. He has been a four-time Fulbright Scholar/Lecturer in India.

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Table of Contents

Editor's Foreword
Preface
Introduction: Presidential Leadership and International Crises 1
1 Truman and the Korean Crisis: "We can't let the U.N. down" 8
2 Truman as Commander in Chief: Decision by Indecision 41
3 Johnson and the Vietnam Crisis: "America keeps her word" 75
4 Johnson as Commander in Chief: The Strategy of Wishful Thinking 113
5 Bush and the Persian Gulf Crisis: "This aggression will not stand" 153
6 Bush as Commander in Chief: The Imperatives of Coalition Warfare 199
Conclusion: Three Presidents and Their Wars 221
Bibliographical Essay 231
Index 257
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