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Foreign Relations and the Presidency Series

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Foreign Relations and the Presidency Series

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Reagan on War

A Reappraisal of the Weinberger Doctrine, 1980-1984

Gail E. S. Yoshitani

Even at the time it was announced near the end of the first term of the Reagan administration, such luminaries as William Safire mischaracterized the Weinberger Doctrine as a conservative retreat from the use of force in U.S. international relations. Since that time, scholars have largely agreed with Safire that the six points spelled out in the statement represented a reaction to the Vietnam War and were intended to limit U.S. military action to “only the fun wars” that could be relatively easily won or those in response to direct attack. In this work of extensive original scholarship, military historian Gail Yoshitani argues that the Weinberger Doctrine was intended to legitimize the use of military force as a tool of statecraft, rather than to reserve force for a last resort after other instruments of power have failed. This understanding sheds much clearer light on recent foreign policy decisions, as well as on the formulation and adoption of the original doctrine. With the permission of the family of former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, Yoshitani gained access to Weinberger’s papers at the Library of Congress. She is the first scholar granted access to General (ret.) John Vessey’s archive at the Library, and her security clearance has made it possible for her to read and use a large number of materials still classified as secret or top secret.   Yoshitani uses three case studies from the Reagan administration’s first term in office—Central America and two deployments in Lebanon—to analyze how the administration grappled with using military force in pursuit of national interests. Ultimately, the administration codified the lessons it learned during its first term in the Weinberger Doctrine promulgated by Secretary of Defense Weinberger in a speech on November 28, 1984, two weeks after Reagan won reelection in a landslide. Yoshitani carefully considers the Weinberger Doctrine’s six tests to be applied when considering the use of military force as a tool of statecraft.   Just as the Reagan administration was forced to dance an intricate step in the early 1980s as it sought to use force as a routine part of statecraft, current and future administrations face similar challenges. Yoshitani’s analysis facilitates a better understanding of the Doctrine and how it might be applied by American national security managers today. This corrective to the common wisdom about the Weinberger Doctrine’s goals and applicability to contemporary issues will appeal not only to diplomatic and military historians, but also to military leaders and general readers concerned about America’s decision making concerning the use of force.  

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Search for Peace in Vietnam, 1964-1968

Edited by Lloyd C. Gardner and Ted Gittinger

The Search for Peace in Vietnam, 1964-1968, the newest edition in the Texas A&M University Press Series on Foreign Relations and the Presidency, is a collection of essays that analyze the Vietnam War in terms of its significance to the global arena. Under the guidance of editors Lloyd C. Gardner and Ted Gittinger, the contributors, representing both communist and capitalist backgrounds, examine whether the Vietnam War was responsible for the transformation of the international system, using a formula postulated by series editor H. W. Brands, which looks at the international system at the beginning of the war and at the end, and measuring how much of the difference in the two periods is the result of the war. Topics include Robert J. McMahon's assessment of the war's legacy to Southeast Asia; Xiaoming Zhang's analysis of Chinese involvement as an element in the Sino-Soviet rivalry; Ilya Gaiduk's account of the Soviet Indochina policy within the context of Moscow's relations with the outside world; Judith A. Klinghoffer's examination of the war's role in determining American foreign policy in the Middle East; Hiroshi Fujimoto's discussion of whether America's Cold War policy of regionalism affected Japan's economic prosperity; and other analyses by H. W. Brands, Lloyd C. Gardner, Robert K. Brigham, Frank Costigliola, Kil J. Yi, and Quang Zhai. John Prados ends the book questioning whether the Vietnam War was, in essence, just a sideshow in international relations and attempts to understand the war's place in the world and its impact on the place of the United States. The Search for Peace in Vietnam, 1964-1968 brings together a diverse group of scholars representing various viewpoints and backgrounds regarding the Vietnam War. The book breaks free from the mold of many American analyses of Vietnam, which place the war solely in the context of America's involvement and detriment, and endeavors to look further for both causes and effects. A true scholarly work, The Search for Peace in Vietnam, 1964-1968 challenges readers to think about this pivotal point in international history in a new way.

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