VICTORY IN WAR: Foundations of Modern Military Policy

By Pearlman, Michael | Military Review, September/October 2007 | Go to article overview

VICTORY IN WAR: Foundations of Modern Military Policy


Pearlman, Michael, Military Review


VICTORY IN WAR: Foundations of Modern Military Policy, William C. Martell, Cambridge University Press, NY, 2007, 436 pages, $35.00.

According to William Martell, professor of national security studies at Tufts University, the national discussion about planning and conducting war suffers from an imprecise definition of the word "victory," which has had three different meanings: defeating an opponent in battle, "tactical victory"; changing an enemy's policy, "political-military victory"; and replacing the enemy regime, "grand strategic victory."

As a consequence, the U.S. has not systematically examined the level of mobilization it must undertake, the force structure it must commit, and the post-conflict responsibilities it must assume to achieve the type of victory it pursues. Air and sea power, for example, are excellent instruments for changing a government's policy, as we saw in 1986 when the U.S. punished Libya for conducting terrorism. On the other hand, a far larger contingent of infantry and associated ground forces are necessary for stability and support operations, as recently demonstrated in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Martell's thesis is clear and virtually uncontestable. Greater clarity about what victory means will help inform the debate about the costs, benefits, and risks of war. …

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