Best Defense

Who is right about how our nation wages war, Samuel Huntington or Eliot Cohen?

Michele Flournoy, the person most likely to become defense secretary in a future Democratic administration, dissed the hell out of Samuel Huntington’s theory of civil-military relations the other day at the Future of War Conference.

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Michele Flournoy, the person most likely to become defense secretary in a future Democratic administration, dissed the hell out of Samuel Huntington’s theory of civil-military relations the other day at the Future of War Conference. There is not a neat separation of civilian and military realms, she was saying. It is not like the civilians decide to go to war and then get out of the way of the military.

Rather, Flournoy said, “It is an Eliot Cohen world.” I took this to be a reference to the messy system he describes in his study Supreme Command. (Full disclosure: I met Huntington once, but Eliot Cohen is a friend. In a way, I thought of my book The Generals as an appendix to his book.)

In other news, I recently learned that Flournoy’s father worked on I Love Lucy.

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Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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