Date of Award

Spring 2023

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Kurk Dorsey

Second Advisor

Fredrik Meiton

Third Advisor

Lionel R Ingram


When President William Jefferson Clinton took office, the United States had entered into a new era, though it was heavily influenced by almost a half-century of Cold War. Foreign policy staples had been embedded into United States foreign policy habits, influencing American decisions even as it tried to transition to a new global environment. The Cold War had left America, but America had a hard time leaving the Cold War. The nation had difficulty transitioning away from applying containment, relying on mutually assured destruction in preventing weapons of mass destruction attacks, and focusing on major conventional warfare when small-scale contingencies dominated American use of the military. Vietnam’s institutional and cultural memory was especially a major influence, affecting America’s entire approach to employing military force. In particular was its impact on leadership’s the hyper-sensitivity to casualties affecting public opinion. In addition, there were too many competing priorities and not enough resources, especially given the military downsizing after America’s Cold War victory, which adversely affected those in the armed forces. Without the Soviet Union as a consistent and stable enemy, America had to come to grips with a very different world full of chaos, disorder, and possibilities. The solution the Clinton Administration put forth was the strategy of Engagement and Enlargement, which drove increased military involvements in multiple small-scale military contingencies. Mid-level American military officers, the majors, commanders, and lieutenant colonels, had a front row seat to how this strategy unfolded. They implemented the military arm of national policy at the lower levels, while still maintaining a more strategic outlook on events. They saw and felt the impacts of foreign policy decisions to use military force. Their writings while attending their advanced military service schools illuminate many aspects of America’s foreign policy during the Clinton Administration that other scholarship could not capture. Their opinions regarding American involvement in Iraq after Desert Storm, Somalia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo, as well as its response to the rise in anti-American Terrorism, reveal many aspects of this new era. In spite of increased global engagement spreading the military thin, increasing stress on the force, mid-level officers demonstrated that they did not have the disdain towards President Clinton that scholarship attributes to the military. They came to accept, and even support, the president’s overall approach. For these officers, Engagement and Enlargement was a policy that was a better strategic fit for the new era than relying on Cold War approaches. However, they consistently felt that American leadership did not implement it well tactically. A significant shortfall of increased American engagement, especially during military budget cuts and downsizing, was that it drew America’s attention towards a multitude of overseas interests and allowed a direct threat, terrorism, to assail the homeland. Mid-level officers plotted the trajectory of American foreign policy from the aftermath of Desert Storm and the intervention in Somalia to these 9/11 attacks, and like their superiors, only a few understood the magnitude of the rising tide of terrorism.