9780393010244 / 0393010244

The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America's Military


Publisher:W. W. Norton & Company



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About the book:

Since the end of the Cold War, writes Dana Priest in The Mission, "U.S. leaders have been turning more and more to the military to solve problems that are often, at their root, political and economic." Priest contends that "long before September 11, the U.S. government had grown increasingly dependent on its military to carry out its foreign affairs. The shift was incremental, little noticed, de facto.... The military simply filled a vacuum left by an indecisive White House, an atrophied State Department, and a distracted Congress." In this important book, Priest describes how and why the military has recently been called upon to combat drug trafficking, deal with terrorism, oversee humanitarian disaster relief, and even carry out disarmament programs--a major increase in responsibility that has not always been welcomed by military leaders. Indeed, in what seems like role reversal, civilian political appointees, particularly in the Bush administration, have repeatedly called upon the military to deal with nation building, while most military leaders have pushed for overwhelming use of political and economic force instead. As Priest points out, this shift in responsibility comes at a time when both the American public and decision-makers "understand less and less about their military." Part of this ignorance stems from the fact that U.S. special forces (from all branches of the military) often carry out critical policy missions in secret and without clear objectives from Congress or the president.

Priest spent considerable time in the field with top military brass and foot soldiers alike in such hot spots as Colombia, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Indonesia, and the Balkans, where she got the inside scoop on how operations are carried out and what those in the military think of their expanded roles. Priest's description of the culture of the various special forces units and their leaders is particularly fascinating. The Mission is a revealing look at the consequences of substituting warriors for diplomats on the frontline of U.S. foreign policy. --Shawn Carkonen

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