Presidential Control of Force

The Korean War and the Cuban Missile Crisis

by Alexander L. George


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An analysis of the rationale and necessity for presidential direction and control of limited military conflicts, as demonstrated by the Korean experience and the Cuban missile crisis. The Korean War emphasized that it is the President's responsibility not merely to indicate the objectives to be pursued in conflict, but to set a limited ceiling on the acceptable costs and risks. He must retain tight control over all decisions and developments, including the military strategy and tactics employed by the theater commander. The Cuban missile crisis showed that a small and carefully applied amount of force can suffice to secure an objective under certain conditions.

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