ARMED FORCES: Lavelle's Private War

No tradition is more sacred and vital to the U.S.—or any democracy —than the supremacy of civilian authority over the military. Limited wars such as Korea and Viet Nam put unusual strain on the bonds of the tradition. In Korea, it cost General Douglas MacArthur his command; in Viet Nam, it led General William Westmoreland to liken his job to fighting with one hand tied behind his back. But until General John Lavelle, Viet Nam had produced no outright defiance of presidential strictures on the conduct of the war.

In August 1971, Lavelle took command of all U.S. Air Force...

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