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Would you consider the JCS to be "an Institution?"


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I know the JCS is connected to the Department of Defense. and that they also have to work with the Sec. of Defense appointed by the president.

The reason I ask this question is I am unclear about the degree of autonomy of the JCS. Can it maintain elements of continuity independent of what president is in charge? If so what elements of continuity?

My motive in formulating my queston this way stems from my reading of a recent book by the historian of the Vietnam war Gareth Porter called Perils of Dominance.

Porter's arguments are

1. There was no real balance of power between the U.S. and USSR; rather there was a strategic imbalance, and all they key players, including China by1960, knew it.

2. What Porter sometimes calls the "military intelligence bureacracy" became aware of this imbalance and was hell bent on pushing the envelope.

3. Porter definitely agreew with John Newman in concluding that JFK was being pressured by the JCS into a deeper commitments than he wanted to make, and even states that JFK was trying to bget out of Vietnam. The best part of this book is how Porter deftly puts JFK's public comments in the context of his inside power struggle with the NSC. especially with how Laos and Cuba effected JFK's public Vietnam pronouncements and private struggle to keep a reign on the bellicose JCS.

4. However,Porter sees THE SAME STRUGGLE BETWEEN THE JCS AND THE PRESIDENT UNDER JOHNSON TOO. I am much more sceptical of his argument here, given what I have learned on this forum, and elsewhere.

In short, Porter's narative goes president vs "Military Buraucracy'

as opposed to

contrasts between JFK 's Administration vs. Johnson's

In fact he sees all there presidents--Ike, JFK and LBJ-- as basically resisting bellicose bureacractic pressures.

Has anyone else read Porter's book? Did the JCS have the degree of instituional independence to push presidents where they didn't want to go? I know that there were changes in personnel in the JCS, but could there be institutional continuity anyway?

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