Reagan on War: A Reappraisal of the Weinberger Doctrine, 1980-1984.

Author:Ahlberg, Kristin L.
Position:Book review
 
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Reagan on War: A Reappraisal of the Weinberger Doctrine, 1980-1984. By Gail E. S. Yoshitani. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 2012. 250 pp.

On November 28, 1984, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger spoke before the National Press Club and elucidated six "tests" for policy makers to use when weighing U.S. military involvement. In committing forces abroad, administration officials needed to ascertain if the commitment proved vital to national interests, positioned the United States for victory, reflected clear political and military objectives, allowed for the continual adjustment of the relationship between objectives and force, enjoyed the support of Congress and the American public, and placed the use of military force as a last resort. In Reagan on War: A Reappraisal of the Weinberger Doctrine, 1980-1984, Yoshitani asserts that while, at the time, observers viewed the Weinberger Doctrine as "restrictive and a departure," in terms of Ronald Reagan's foreign policy, the doctrine "codified principles" Reagan and his advisors had internalized from the beginning of Reagan's first term "in deciding when and how to use military force" (p. xiii). The doctrine's importance lay in its interpretation of civil-military relations, one that "synthesized the administration's concerns about potential threats and requirements of world involvement with domestic political realities and social norms" (p. 114).

Yoshitani traces the origins of the Weinberger Doctrine by describing Reagan's early efforts in articulating a foreign policy and then develops three case studies that demonstrate the administration's application of force. Reagan's 1981 inaugural address illustrated his desire to reclaim America's global role in the wake of the Iranian hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Reagan asserted that his foreign policy would restore "confidence" in U.S. leadership and promote peace and stability (p. 8). Reagan also intertwined peace with strength. During the early months of 1981, Reagan, Weinberger, Secretary of State Alexander Haig, and other officials grappled with the form American strength should assume: would the military function as a tool of last resort after other political or economic approaches had been exhausted, or would it be deployed as a critical component of diplomacy? Yoshitani places this internal and ongoing administration debate within a larger historical examination of civil-military relations, noting...

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