Cohen, Eliot A(sher) 1956-
COHEN, Eliot A(sher) 1956-
PERSONAL: Born April 3, 1956, in Boston, MA; son of Felix M. (a physician) and Frieda S. Cohen; married Judith G. Rosenberg, June 26, 1977; children: Raphael, Michal, Rebecca. Education: Harvard University, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1977, M.A., 1979, Ph.D., 1982.
CAREER: Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, assistant professor of government and Allston Burr Senior Tutor in Quincy House, 1982-86; U.S. Naval War College, Newport, RI, visiting professor, 1985-86, Secretary of the Navy senior research fellow, beginning 1986; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, professor of strategic studies. Military service: U.S. Army Reserve, 1982—; became second lieutenant.
MEMBER: International Institute for Strategic Studies, American Political Science Association, Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society.
Commandos and Politicians: Elite Military Units in Modern Democracies, Center for International Affairs, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA), 1978.
(Contributor) Samuel P. Huntington, editor, The Strategic Imperative, Ballinger, 1982.
Soldiers and Citizens: Dilemmas of Military Service, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1985.
(With John Gooch) Military Misfortunes: The Anatomy of Failure in War, Free Press (New York, NY), 1990.
Making Do with Less; or, Coping with Upton's Ghost, U.S. Army War College (Carlisle Barracks, PA), 1995.
(With Thomas A. Keaney) Revolution in Warfare?: Air Power in the Persian Gulf, Naval Institute Press (Annapolis, MD), 1995.
(Author of foreword) U.S. Civil-Military Relations: In Crisis or Transition?, Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1995.
(With Michael J. Eisenstadt and Andrew J. Bacevich) Knives, Tanks, and Missiles: Israel's Security Revolution, Washington Institute for Near-East Policy (Washington, DC), 1998.
Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen and Leaders in Wartime, Free Press (New York, NY), 2002.
(Editor, with John Baylis, James Wirtz, Colin Gray, and David Papineau) Strategy in the Contemporary World: Introduction to Strategic Studies, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Director of Gulf War Air Power Survey, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force (Washington, DC), 1993. Contributor of articles and reviews to journals and other periodicals, including New Republic, Foreign Affairs, Public Interest, Commentary, and International Security.
SIDELIGHTS: Eliot Cohen, a professor of strategic studies, focuses his writing on military issues in the United States and abroad. In his controversial study Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leaders in Wartime, Cohen challenges the view that wars are fought best by those on the battlefield, without civilian (read: political) interference. In the author's research, it was precisely the strategic acumen of four national leaders—U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, and Israeli leader David Ben-Gurion—that ensured victories for their respective causes. The author "does not quite convince the reader that his four heroes—so different in age, culture, and circumstance—had anything very specific in common," noted an Economist reviewer. "But all of them had to make bold and controversial decisions which were certain to provoke bewilderment and horror at the time."
Cohen's assertion runs counter to those who would argue, for instance, that the Vietnam War was lost by the United States because of President Lyndon Johnson's attempt to "micro-manage operations personally," as William O'Neill put it in a New Leader review. The author "thinks otherwise," O'Neill continued. "Far from micromanaging the [conflict] . . . , Johnson paid little attention to military operations beyond setting sensible limits designed to keep China and/or the Soviets from intervening. In his four and a half fruitless years as commander of American troops in Vietnam, General William C. Westmoreland hardly ever visited, or was visited by, [Secretary of Defense William] McNamara or Johnson." The author compares Johnson's approach to leaders of the past, and decides, according to O'Neill, that "Lincoln would have dismissed [Westmoreland], Clemenceau would have been constantly on his back, and Churchill would have brutally questioned the general until he started producing answers that made sense."
The fallout from indecisive political leadership during wartime can be wide-ranging. During the Persian Gulf War of 1990, "not only did the civilian leadership seek not to interfere with military operations, it allowed the military to make important political judgments," commented National Review contributor Richard Lowry. U.S. General Colin Powell "had an integral role in calling an end to the ground war at its 100th hour, and in keeping its goals from stretching beyond merely removing Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. The first President Bush . . . disastrously bowed to the illusion that war was a matter of mere battlefield management." Whether or not the Gulf War was actually "won" remained a question that haunted President George W. Bush in 2002 as the United States again faced war with Iraq as part of the U.S. war on terrorism.
Washington Times critic Alan Gropman noted that Supreme Command "will be read as often by the professional military and the civil servants and politicians that employ them as is Samuel Huntington's The Soldier and the State and Morris Janowitz's The Professional Soldier." Gropman added, "Cohen's historical synthesis is an argument for civilian control of the military, sure to be discussed in Washington, in the Pentagon, at all of the country's six war colleges, and at every unified Command under the control of the secretary of defense." Gropman's prediction proved correct: London Daily Telegraph writer David Rennie reported in August of 2002 that Supreme Command was read by President Bush, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and members of the U.S. State Department—including Secretary of State Colin Powell. The book was also presented to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, "whose recent bursts of Churchillian rhetoric and the talk of the need for politicians to lead, could have come straight from its pages," in the opinion of Rennie.
Cohen once told CA: "I do not know precisely how I became interested in military and national security affairs: I do, however, know that their importance is only matched by the relative dearth of academic experts on the subject. My major research interests lie along three broad paths: first, the relationship between military institutions and political culture; second, the relationship between political objects and military means; third, the determinants of military success.
"My work is characterized, I hope, by an absence of jargon and by frequent reference to historical experience. Nonetheless, I consider it to fall in the domain of political science, for, as [nineteenth-century Prussian military strategist] Clausewitz taught, war is but the continuation of policy with other means."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Political Science Review, March, 1986, review of Soldiers and Citizens: Dilemmas of Military Service, p. 361.
American Spectator, November, 1985, review of Soldiers and Citizens, p. 41.
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, January, 1986, review of Soldiers and Citizens, p. 176; May, 1991, George Quester, review of Military Misfortunes: The Anatomy of Failure in War, p. 180.
Booklist, March 15, 1990, review of Military Misfortunes, p. 1398; May 15, 2002, Gilbert Taylor, review of Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leaders in Wartime, p. 1558.
Bookwatch, May, 1990, review of Military Misfortunes, p. 5.
Byte, October, 1990, review of Military Misfortunes, p. 95.
Choice, June, 1985, review of Soldiers and Citizens, p. 1548; September, 1990, review of Military Misfortunes, p. 186.
Commentary, February, 1986, Philip Gold, review of Soldiers and Citizens, p. 66; July, 1990, Williamson Murray, review of Military Misfortunes, p. 61; October, 1998, Hillel Halkin, review of Knives, Tanks, and Missiles: Israel's Security Revolution, p. 58.
Daily Telegraph (London, England), August 29, 2002, David Rennie, "New History Book Read by All the President's Men."
Defense Daily, May 13, 1993, "Study Says That Air Power Was Decisive in Gulf War," p. 243.
Economist, June 15, 2002, review of Supreme Command.
Encounter, February, 1987, review of Soldiers and Citizens, p. 45.
Foreign Affairs, spring, 1985, Andrew Pierre, review of Soldiers and Citizens, p. 913; winter, 1991, Gregory Treverton, review of Military Misfortunes, p. 184; July-August, 1996, Andrew Krepinevich, Jr., review of Revolution in Warfare?: Air Power in the Persian Gulf, p. 144.
Harvard Business Review, July-August, 1990, Joseph Bower, review of Military Misfortunes, p. 48.
Issues in Science and Technology, winter, 1990, Robert Pirie, Jr., review of Military Misfortunes, p. 107.
Journal of American History, March, 1991, Allan Millet, review of Military Misfortunes, p. 1324.
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, summer, 1991, Robin Higham, review of Military Misfortunes, p. 120.
Journal of Military History, April, 2002, Richard Swain, review of War over Kosovo: Politics and Strategy in a Global Age, p. 638.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2002, review of Supreme Command, p. 539.
Library Journal, February 1, 1985, Edward Gibson, review of Soldiers and Citizens, p. 100; April 1, 1990, Raymond Puffer, review of Military Misfortunes, p. 127; June 1, 2002, Daniel Blewett, review of Supreme Command, p. 170.
Middle East Policy, June, 2000, Joshua Sinai, review of Knives, Tanks, and Missiles, p. 176.
National Review, April 1, 1990, review of Military Misfortunes, p. 48; July 15, 2002, Richard Lowry, "The Politics of Victory," p. 48.
Naval War College Review, autumn, 1997, review of Revolution in Warfare?, p. 151.
New Leader, May-June, 2002, William O'Neill, "Where the Buck Stops," p. 15.
New York Times, June 27, 2002, Frank Bruni, "On Letting the Military Wage War, Not Lead It," p. B8.
Parameters, December, 1990, review of Military Misfortunes, p. 44.
Political Science Quarterly, spring, 1987, Sue Berryman, review of Soldiers and Citizens, p. 151.
Review of Politics, fall, 1986, review of Soldiers and Citizens, p. 655.
Society, November, 1990, review of Military Misfortunes, p. 91.
Survival, autumn, 1997, Daniel Kuehl, review of Revolution in Warfare?, p. 177.
U.S. News and World Report, May 20, 2002, Michael Barone, "Lessons of History," p. 24.
Wall Street Journal, June 15, 1990, review of Military Misfortunes, p. A8; June 27, 2002, John Lehman, "A Battle over Who Leads in War," p. D9.
Washington Times, July 7, 2002, Alan Gropman, "Civilian Leaders and Wars They Won," p. B06.
Whole Earth Review, summer, 1993, Stewart Brand, review of Military Misfortunes, p. 85.*