Why has America stopped winning wars?
For nearly a century, up until the end of World War II in 1945, America enjoyed a Golden Age of decisive military triumphs. And then suddenly, we stopped winning wars. The decades since have been a Dark Age of failures and stalemates-in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan-exposing our inability to change course after battlefield setbacks.
In this provocative book, award-winning scholar Dominic Tierney reveals how the United States has struggled to adapt to the new era of intractable guerrilla conflicts. As a result, most major American wars have turned into military fiascos. And when battlefield disaster strikes, Washington is unable to disengage from the quagmire, with grave consequences for thousands of U.S. troops and our allies.
But there is a better way. Drawing on interviews with dozens of top generals and policymakers, Tierney shows how we can use three key steps-surge, talk, and leave-to stem the tide of losses and withdraw from unsuccessful campaigns without compromising our core values and interests.
Weaving together compelling stories of military catastrophe and heroism, this is an unprecedented, timely, and essential guidebook for our new era of unwinnable conflicts. The Right Way to Lose a War illuminates not only how Washington can handle the toughest crisis of all-battlefield failure-but also how America can once again return to the path of victory.
According to Tierney (How We Fight), Swarthmore College professor and senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, underlying America's inability to fight modern wars is a quintessentially American hubris that does not accept failure as an option, refusing to either plan for or study it. "Military fiascos don't repeat themselves, but they do rhyme," he writes, and American planners must learn from the past and realize that today's wars will not be decisively won. Over the past 50 years, he explains, the "golden age" of interstate wars has passed and the world has entered an age of civil and guerilla warfare to which America has been slow to adapt. As a result, the U.S. has become embroiled in unwinnable wars such as those in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan that cost unnecessary lives and money. In order to avoid a quagmire, exits from these conflicts must be planned much as a chess master plans an endgame. Tierney proposes a strategy centered on the tactic of "surge, talk, and leave," which requires a seismic shift in understanding the metrics of waging war. Though Tierney's sensible and clearsighted recommendations come from careful study, American military intractability and the dominance of the military-industrial complex may make his idealic notions difficult to implement.