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We Band of Brothers Woodrow Wilson's War Managers ROBERT D. CUFF One of the central questions which run through the vast literature generated by recent interest in the so-called military-industrial complex is how to characterize the relationship among the major institutional orders of American society and the nature of the elites who predominate within them. Early writing on the subject, such as C. Wright Mills's The Power Elite(New York, 1956) and Fred J.Cook's The Warfare State (New York, 1962), reflected a contemporary preoccupation with the dramatic rise of military leaders in central government councils during and after World War II. Recent critics, in contrast, assign comparatively more influence on defense matters to civilian advisors, though interpretations vary as to the characteristics of this state-based, civilian elite, including differences over its location within the state, its relationship to private business interests, and the general motivation of its members. Seymour Melman, for instance, singles out the civilians in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as the dynamic force behind an expanding defense budget, while Richard Barnet and Gabriel Kolko cast a wider net to include among their sample the occupants of top posts in the State Department , the CIA, the Atomic Energy Commission and the White House as well as the Pentagon. On the question of business-government relations Kolko holds that the state managers are necessarily subordinate to structures of private power, while both Melman and Barnet attribute real autonomy to them despite their private backgrounds in business, corporate law and high finance. Melman and Barnet are very explicit in claiming a power for their respective groups superior to both the services and business interests, though Barnet emphasizes commitment among both business and government elites to a common ideology of economic expansion. With regard to the issue of motives, Kolko finds economic considerations paramount among decision-makers; Melman underscores commitment to such values as efficiency and predictability characteristic of a managerialist ideology; while Barnet gives far more emphasis to personal power drives and national interest considerations which frequently conflict with specific business goals. And so while the authors cited here agree that THE CANADIAN REVIEW OF AMERICAN STUDIES VOL. V, NO. 2, FALL 1974 military spokesmen are not so influential as once was thought, they remain divided on how best to characterize the social sources, values and goals of the national security bureaucracy's civilian elite.1 Research in an earlier period of American history cannot solve these analytical and interpretative problems, but consideration of an analogous group may provide a useful perspective on the current debate. At the very least, a comparative frame of reference can highlight some of the distinctive features of groups in each period and draw attention to the kinds of changes which might account for the differences. Alternatively, a retrospective glance might also reveal complementary angles of vision on the civilian war managers which deserve greater attention in the current critique. That, at least, is the purpose of the following description and analysis of the Wilsonian war managers of World War I. Responding to the unprecedented challenges of total war, the Wilsonians designed and administered America's first experiment in national mobilization in a modern industrial setting. Warmaking was not then, as it is now, an institutionalized process; advance planning was the exception, not the rule. It followed too that a war ostensibly fought to end war itself was not informed by an underlying thrust toward permanent mobilization. The Wilsonians, for instance, only reluctantly groped their way toward the kind of integration of state policy and planning provided for now by such agencies as the Executive Office of the President (1939) and the National Security Council (1947). Not until March 1918, for example, did President Wilson create a central War Council. Even then, unlike its British counterpart, the War Cabinet, Wilson's Council lacked a secretariat; and it possessed none of the institutional mechanisms available to current war planners. 2 But the Council, though revealing general deficiencies in Wilsonian war organization, was important nonetheless. It brought the President far closer than ever before to the operational problems of his chief subordinates . One of them described the Council...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 135-148
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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