Presidents Under Fire: Commanders-In-Chief in Victory and Defeat

James R. Arnold, Author
James R. Arnold, Author Crown Publishers $27.5 (352p) ISBN 978-0-517-58863-5
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Arnold ( The First Domino: Eisenhower, the Military, and America's Intervention in Vietnam ) here offers four case studies of American presidents as commanders in chief while the country was at war. He suggests that there is no single blueprint for success. For example, George Washington led America in the 1792-1794 war against the Indians of the Northwest Territories, until the Battle of Fallen Timbers brought the new nation victory. In 1848, James K. Polk won a war of conquest against Mexico, despite his initial lack of interest and expertise in military affairs. Jefferson Davis kept the Confederacy fighting against a better-armed enemy until the South's capital at Richmond was occupied. Lyndon Johnson is ranked at the bottom of Arnold's list because he failed to define a coherent Vietnam strategy. LBJ sought to ``micromanage'' the war without possessing the skills, which resulted in a loss of credibility with his military chiefs and the American people. Arnold strongly makes his point that a president at war must maintain public and political support, and retain the respect of the military. Photos not seen by PW. (July)
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