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By Taryn McPherson, U.S. Naval War College Public Affairs
July 17, 2012

NEWPORT, R.I. – U.S. Naval War College Professor and author Carnes Lord’s newest book, “Proconsuls: Delegated Political-Military Leadership from Rome to America Today,” was recently published by the Cambridge University Press.

The book explores both the origin of and America’s history with proconsulship, a form of political-military leadership involving one nation’s occupation of another foreign nation. Proconsulship is historically associated with extending a nation’s influence over independent nations.
Lord decided to explore U.S. proconsulship in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks and subsequent American involvement in Iraq.

"After 9/11 and especially our occupation of Iraq in 2003, there was a lot of loose talk in Washington as well as abroad about an ‘American Empire’ and its supposed ‘proconsuls,’ that is, the increasingly empowered U.S. regional combatant commanders. While much of this I thought exaggerated, it did seem to me worthwhile investigating the reality behind the supposed outsized role of these commanders in making or influencing U.S. policy and strategy.”

According to Lord, he discovered a surprising scarcity of proconsular analysis in relevant literature, even in the history of republican and imperial Rome, where the term itself originated.

As his research furthered, he was struck by the strategic leeway given to American military leaders throughout the nation’s history in terms of proconsular leadership. His book examines the positive and negative outcomes of such leeway, ranging from American involvement in Cuba and Vietnam to the current war in Iraq.

Lord’s book has caught the attention of several academic experts.

Eliot Cohen of Johns Hopkins University thought Lord’s investigation of American military commanders’ roles was both novel and extremely relevant.

“Many observers have noted with unease the rise of America’s combatant commanders as figures who often seem to overshadow their civilian masters in Washington; until now, no one has studied them in depth, or with the historical perspective, of Carnes Lord” said Cohen.

Prof. Paul Rahe of Hillsdale College also thought Lord’s book contributes greater academic knowledge to national strategy and policy.

“This riveting book is a pioneering study of a neglected subject of vital and permanent importance, from which we Americans would be foolish to avert our gaze,” said Rahe.

A Professor of Military and Naval Strategy in the Center for Naval Warfare Studies, Lord holds doctorate degrees from Cornell University and Yale University. In addition to the Naval War College, Lord has taught at Yale, the University of Virginia, and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy; he has also held multiple senior government positions. His previous works include “The Presidency and the Management of National Security, The Modern Prince: What Leaders Need to Know Now”, and “Losing Hearts and Minds? Strategic Influence and Public Diplomacy in the Age of Terror.”

NOTE: The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not reflect the position of the U.S. Naval War College, the Department of the Navy or Department of Defense or any other organization of the U.S. government.

posted by Alyssa Menard