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International History ReviewHess's writing is clear, each chapter is sharply focused, and his comparisons are deft, all of which we have a right to expect from an historian of his stature.
— Warren I. Cohen
Following World War II, Americans expected that the United States would wage another major war against a superpower. Instead, the nation has fought limited wars against much weaker states, such as North Korea, North Vietnam, and Iraq. This revised and updated edition of Presidential Decisions for War analyzes the means by which four presidents have taken the nation to war and assesses the effectiveness of each president's leadership during those conflicts.
Gary Hess recreates the unfolding crises in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq to probe the reasons why Presidents Truman, Johnson, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush and their advisors decided in favor of war. He compares the performance of the commanders-in-chief and evaluates how effectively each understood U.S. interests, explored alternatives to war, adhered to constitutional processes, and built congressional, popular, and international support. A new conclusion points out, that unlike the administrations of Truman, Johnson, and the elder Bush, George W. Bush's White House actively sought to change the international order through preemptive war and aggressive democracy building.
Fully revised and featuring an examination of how each of the presidents learned from history and juggled the demands on diplomacy, this comparative study of presidential war-making elucidates how effective executive leadership—or its absence—directly affects the outcome of wars.
Johns Hopkins University Press
— Warren I. Cohen
— Dan Koprowski
This book admirably introduces an historical cross-analysis that allows some assessment of US leadership during these critical times.
Hess's writing is clear, each chapter is sharply focused, and his comparisons are deft, all of which we have a right to expect from an historian of his stature.
A solid work... Hess has packaged three historical vignettes in a thorough, concise, and readable primer on wartime presidential leadership.
Series Editor's Foreword ix
Preface to the Second Edition xi
Introduction: Presidential Leadership and International Crises 1
1 Harry S. Truman and the Korean Crises: "We can't let the U.N. down" 8
2 Harry S. Truman as Commander in Chief: Decision by Indecision 41
3 Lyndon B. Johnson and the Vietnam Crisis: "America keeps her word" 75
4 Lyndon B. Johnson as Commander in Chief: The Strategy of Wishful Thinking 113
5 George H. W. Bush and the Persian Gulf Crisis: "This aggression will not stand" 153
6 George H. W. Bush as Commander in Chief: The Imperatives of Coalition Warfare 199
7 George W. Bush and the Second Crisis with Iraq: "Time is not on our side" 221
8 George W. Bush as Commander in Chief: History Overpowers Ideology 249
Conclusion: Four Presidents and Their Wars 278
Bibliographical Essay 291