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M A R C H 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L
A Tandem Couple
State vs. Defense: The Battle
to Define America’s Empire
Stephen Glain, Crown Publishers,
2011, $26, hardcover, 485 pages.
D. B
Is American foreign policy becom-
ing too militaristic? The last decade
has witnessed a blurring of the roles of
the Foreign Service and the U.S. mil-
itary in Iraq and Afghanistan, among
other locales. Even casual observers
can’t miss this trend, whether they’re
reading recent articles in the
Service Journal
or viewing the ubiqui-
tous pictures of helmeted, flak jacket-
clad FS personnel on Facebook or
Finding the proper balance be-
tween diplomacy and force has be-
come a particularly pressing challenge
since 9/11, one that makes Stephen
State vs. Defense: The Battle to
Define America’s Empire
a worthy ad-
dition to any foreign affairs practi-
tioner’s bookshelf.
The author’s prose is crisp and
lively, and I found myself absorbed in
his sometimes novelistic treatment of
the heroes, villains and fools of U.S.
foreign policy since World War II.
Using examples from the early days of
the Cold War to the 2003 invasion of
Iraq and its aftermath, Glain weaves a
narrative showing how the American
national security complex has built a
legacy of “fraud, falsehood and decep-
tion” in a relentless pursuit of its self-
serving interests. He also does an
excellent job of citing specific exam-
ples to support his thesis that “the
Pentagon has all but eclipsed the State
Department at the center of U.S. for-
eign policy.”
Glain’s highly personal account be-
gins with vignettes about growing up
near Camp Pendleton and frequently
draws on his experiences as a foreign
correspondent. Reflecting on his life-
long personal and professional deal-
ings with military personnel, he
concludes that their “growing preva-
lence relative to their civilian counter-
parts was more consistent with an
empire than a republic.”
Otherwise, for all its virtues
vs. Defense
is hardly original. While
Glain quotes 39 individuals he has in-
terviewed over the course of his ca-
reer, these sources don’t reveal much
new. Similarly, much of his subject
matter has already been covered by
such luminaries as George Kennan
and David Halberstam.
The book’s title, evoking a tug of
war between the Pentagon and Foggy
Bottom for control of U.S. foreign pol-
icy, is a bit misleading, as well. While
it suggests a boring tome full of bu-
reaucratic disputes over budgets, re-
plete with graphs and figures, this
book centers on the personalities in-
volved in shaping postwar U.S. foreign
Furthermore, some of Glain’s vil-
lains never worked for DOD, while a
few of his heroes — George Marshall
and Dwight Eisenhower, for example
—were military men by training. His
comparison of Colin Powell and
Madeleine Albright illustrates another
difficulty in typecasting. Glain hails
Powell, a general, as a hero, particu-
larly in comparison with his predeces-
sor, whom Glain views as a hawk even
though she was an academic.
Nor do all the author’s points hit
their mark. For example, emphasiz-
ing the fact that President Lyndon
Johnson appointed Walt Rostow as na-
tional security adviser on April 1, 1966
— April Fool’s Day — is gratuitous
and petty.
Glain also makes some glaring er-
This book
illuminates the perils
of employing the
wrong combination
of strength and
diplomacy to promote
U.S. interests.