Victory in War, Foundations of Modern Military Policy

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Victory in War, Foundations of Modern Military Policy


Victory in War, Foundations of Modern Military Policy. By William C. Martel. New York City: Cambridge University Press, 2007, 436 pages, $35. Reviewed by Brigadier General (Retired) Curtis H. O'Sullivan.

Delendo est Carthago seemed the ultimate in imposing defeat until mutual assured destruction (MAD) came along, but salted soil and radioactive residue both raise doubts about such successes. Victory is a tricky word with many imprecise meanings. More important is what comes next. What makes a satisfactory outcome after the surrender, cease-fire, and peace treaty? There are a number of events that may happen: disarmament, reparations, loss of sovereignty and/or territory, change of government and/or system of government both political and economic, and imposition of a new religion. Getting away with minimum damage may be a sort of victory. All of these may sow the seeds of future discord.

Martel uses case studies of the conclusion of past conflicts to illustrate the complexity of deciding when there is a winner but fails to extract the full value of these lessons. We celebrate the achievement of our independence but forget the failure to accomplish a major war aim. Despite the valiant efforts of Montgomery and Arnold, we did not add the Canadian provinces to these United States. We failed again in the War of 1812 (didn 't even get close this time) and settled for a draw. Luckily, impressment and the blockade had become moot questions and the British had their second string at Ghent, so the peace terms were better than we deserved. The invasion of Mexico was an unprovoked war of conquest where we limited our objectives only because we didn't want to chew off more than we could handle. The highly populated area of Nova Espana had shown what they could do against an imperial power in securing their independence. Our Civil War was supposedly to preserve the Union and abolish slavery, but the evil of Jim Crow persisted for another century. …

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