Reassuring the Reluctant Warriors: U.S. Civil-Military Relations and Multilateral Intervention.

Reassuring the Reluctant Warriors: U.S. Civil-Military Relations and Multilateral Intervention.

Cornell University Press, 2015.

Why did American leaders work hard to secure approval from the United Nations or regional multilateral bodies for armed interventions in the Balkans (1995, 1999), Haiti (1994, 2004), and Libya (2011), while making only limited efforts to gain such approval for the 2003 Iraq War? Drawing on declassified documents and more than 100 interviews that I conducted with senior policymakers, I demonstrate that the first instinct of pro-intervention civilian officials in Washington is often to bypass multilateral bodies such as the UN and NATO to maximize U.S. freedom of action. But the calculus of these civilian officials is likely to change when senior generals and admirals, as “reluctant warriors,” push back against plans to intervene unilaterally by clearly expressing their concerns about the risks and operational costs. In such circumstances, pro-intervention civilian officials can be expected to become more favorable to multilateralism; indeed, they may seek support from the UN and NATO, to reassure the military and their bureaucratic allies about the likelihood of international burden and risk sharing and to ensure that the intervention will go ahead. By contrast, when top military officers fail to vigorously express their concerns, as happened in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq War, the most pro-intervention civilian officials are empowered. The United States is then more likely to bypass multilateral bodies, and it may end up shouldering a heavy stabilization burden largely by itself.

H-Diplo/ISSF Roundtable Review, with contributions by Anrew Bennett, Risa Brooks, and Joel Westra. 

Review by Terrence Chapman (Political Science Quarterly)
Review by Peter Feaver (Journal of Strategic Studies) 
Review by David Forsythe (Choice magazine)
Review by Jason Davidson (European Review of International Studies)
Review by David Fitzgerald (International Affairs)
Review by Marybeth Ulrich (Parameters)
Review by Harvey Sapolsky (Perspectives on Politics)

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