Zero-Sum Victory: What We're Getting Wrong About War [Hardback]

Christopher D. Kolenda (Author)

ISBN: 9780813152769 | Published by: University Press of Kentucky | Year of Publication: 2021 | Language: English 400p, H229 x W152 (mm) 15 charts

Zero-Sum Victory


Why have the major, post-9/11, US military interventions turned into quagmires? Despite huge power imbalances, major capacity-building efforts, and repeated tactical victories by what many observers call the world's best military, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq turned bloody and intractable. The US government's fixation on zero-sum decisive victory is an important part of the explanation why successful military operations to overthrow two developing-world regimes failed to achieve favorable and durable outcomes.

In Zero-Sum Victory, Christopher D. Kolenda identifies three interrelated problems that have emerged from the government's insistence on a zero-sum victory. First, the US government has no organized way to consider successful outcomes alternative to decisive military victory and, thus, selects strategies that overestimate the prospects of such a victory. Second, the US is slow to recognize and modify or abandon losing strategies. In both cases, US officials believe their strategies are working even as the situations deteriorate. Third, once the US decides to withdraw, bargaining asymmetries and disconnects in strategy undermine the prospects for a successful transition or negotiated outcome.

By making powerful historic comparisons and drawing from personal experience, Kolenda draws thought-provoking and actionable conclusions about the utility of American military power in the contemporary world.

Table of Contents

Introduction The Past as Prologue Part I Further Defining War Termination The Decisive Victory Paradigm Undermines Strategy for Irregular War Part II Light Footprints to a Long War Plans Hit Reality The Fall of the Taliban and the Bonn Conference America's Bureaucratic Way of War Conclusion to Part II Part III Accelerating Success, 2003-7 Failing to Keep Pace with the Insurgency, 2007-9 The Good War Going Badly Surging into the Good War More Shovels in the Quicksand Misapplying the Iraq Formula Assessments and Risks Conclusion to Part III Part IV Reconciliation versus Transition Reconciling Reconciliation Competing Visions: Karzai, Taliban, Pakistan Exploratory Talks: Building and Damaging Confidence Coming off the Rails Fall-Out: BSA, Bergdahl, and the 2014 Elections Conclusion to Part IV Part V Operation Iraqi Freedom A Complicated Approach to a Complex Situation From Decisive Victory to Transition Conclusion to Part V Part VI Achieving Milestones while Losing the War Trapped by Partners in a Losing Strategy Mirror imaging civil-military relations To Surge or Not to Surge A New Plan on Shaky Foundations Conclusion to Part VI Part VII Surge Misunderstood The Absence of a Political Strategy Erodes U.S. Leverage New Administration, Similar Challenges Conclusion to Part VII Part VIII Iraq and Afghanistan Compared Implications for U.S. foreign policy Implications for scholarship Appendix Abbreviations Glosssary of Key Actors Key Events in the Afhanistan Conflict Key Events in the Iraq Conflict

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