Halperin, Morton H.
January 1972
Foreign Affairs;Jan1972, Vol. 50 Issue 2, p310
This article examines the relationship of the U.S. presidency and the military. The President's dependence on the bureaucracy and his limited freedom to manœuvre are acute in all areas. The military, however, poses a unique set of problems for him. These arise in part from the limitations upon the President when he is seeking military advice. When the National Security Council or other presidential sessions are convened to discuss high-level foreign and national security matters, the President has a great deal of influence on the selection of all those who will attend, except the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who must be chosen from a small group of senior career military officers. Compare also the President's ability to appoint noncareer people to subcabinet and ambassadorial posts with the limitations on his range of selection for appointments to senior military positions or overseas military commands. The implementation of presidential decisions by the military works both for and against the Chief Executive. The military tradition of discipline, efficiency and a clearly delineated chain of command increases the probability that precise orders will be observed and carried out with dispatch. However, the fact that the military implements decisions according to standard procedures may cause presidential orders to be misconstrued through oversimplification. The Joint Chiefs will defer to the field commander and not monitor his compliance carefully. Moreover, Presidents find it difficult to develop alternate means to secure implementation of decisions in the domain of the military.


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