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How Wars End: Why We Always Fight the Last Battle
by Gideon Rose
IN 1991 THE UNITED STATES trounced the Iraqi army in battle only to stumble blindly into postwar turmoil. Then in 2003 the United States did it again. How could this happen? How could the strongest power in modern history fight two wars against the same opponent in just over a decade, win lightning victories both times, and yet still be woefully unprepared for the aftermat ...more
Hardcover, 413 pages
Published October 12th 2010 by Simon & Schuster
(first published October 1st 2010)
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How wars end. They end in peace. It's not clear from Rose's title or from anything I read about this book beforehand, but this is a history of American grand strategy in the 20th century. Grand strategy is the direction steered in to enable you to win the stable peace you desire when the fighting ends. So this is a history of how America has achieved its brand of peace during the last century. It tells how political and military leaders have handled the endgame of war in making force serve polit ...more
Jul 01, 2013 Peter Mcloughlin rated it 4 of 5 stars
The book is about how wars end. Most histories of war talk mostly about how they are fought but there is another component the political objectives and constructive outcomes the warring country wish to achieve. This part as much as the fighting is key to winning a war but it gets much less attention. This book looks at major wars the U.S. has fought since world war one and how they ended including WWI, WWII (Europe and Pacific), Korea, Vietnam, The Gulf War, The Iraq war and briefly Afghanistan ...more
I didn't feel that the book said anything new. He analyzes the ending to each of our major wars and tries to see what went wrong and what went right and why. His main points are 1) think about the ending before beginning and 2) don't learn the wrong lessons from the past or the right lessons for the wrong situation. Before we make war, we should respond to what he calls the "Clausewitzian challenge" of making "force serve politics." As he writes, “World War I and the Iraq War, meanwhile, testify ...more
Rose's book has a fairly simple premise: that U.S. administrations frequently learn the wrong lessons from the past, and mistakenly apply them to the wars of the present. The book also argues that endgame negotiations, from WWI to Iraq, repeatedly lacked coordination between military strategy and political outcome. To illustrate these points, Rose takes the reader on a tour of U.S. wartime decision-making, attempting to interpret the motives and intentions of politicians as they sought to bring ...more
I thought Rose did a pretty good job at being balanced, he seemed unbiased, one could not tell if he learned to the political right or to the left. i liked that. I learned a few things here and there. It was interesting how presidents trying to avoid mistakes steered them into whole new blunders. I learned some things from the book, it was far more history then opinion, i expected the opposite. I do wish he focused more on when it seemed to work, like with Germany and Japan after WWII become str ...more
'How Wars End' is quite an interesting book, especially for one who has pretty much lived through most of the history Rose writes about. Of particular interest is Roosevelt and WWII, and Kissinger and Nixon discussions re: getting out of 'Nam. This latter bit explains, to a great degree, why or how this country didn't accomplish what it should have, and why our current actions in Iraq and Afghanistan are familiar.
Another excellent book for your reference library.
Another excellent book for your reference library.
This wasn't a terribly exciting read; but it was very informative and very well researched. Just the endnotes are practically a book in and of itself. As a military guy it's always interesting to get a glimpse behind the scenes of what's happening at the strategic and national level.
Most books on war or diplomacy seem focused on why wars begin, but in this more practical approach Rose turns his eye to how they end. Placing WW1 to Afghanistan in this perspective and linking them together in brilliant historical analysis studying the different players' mindsets and emphasizing the central place of strategy in sustained winning, this book is an absolute must if you're contemplating a war in the near future :)
A bit dry, but insightful and thorough. My favorite take away is the partial refutal of the old maxim that if you fail learn history you are bound to repeat it. That may be true occassionally, but not enough to be statistically relevant so as to be referred to as universal wisdom. Instead, trying to solve modern day problems using solutions for past mistakes is often a recipe for disaster.
So if you wanted one book to summarize the ups and downs of the major American wars of the past century, this is it. The chapter on Iraq gives the most succinct explanation of the war's mismanagement that I have read to date. The chapter would work for someone with no interest in foreign policy who felt a need to suddenly learn about that war. Amazing, amazing read.