WAGING WAR, PLANNING PEACE: U.S. Noncombat Operations and Major Wars

By Anderson, Lt Col David A. | Military Review, March/April 2016 | Go to article overview

WAGING WAR, PLANNING PEACE: U.S. Noncombat Operations and Major Wars


Anderson, Lt Col David A., Military Review


WAGING WAR, PLANNING PEACE: U.S. Noncombat Operations and Major Wars Aaron Rapport, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, 2015, 280 pages

Aaron Rapport, a lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge, argues that conventional singularly centric theories on why U.S. political leaders make the decisions they do in war planning- particularly for postconflict stabilization and reconstruction operations-are limited by their inability to account for the complex nature of war. He asserts that construal level theory (CLT) from the field of psychological research can better explain how political leaders consider noncombat operations in war planning.

The author believes long-term war planning by political leaders routinely emphasizes a desired military outcome while discounting the role of postconflict operations in achieving a strategic end state. Furthermore, their nearterm planning focuses almost exclusively on achieving combat objectives-discounting the time and costs associated with postconflict stabilization and reconstruction. There is a direct correlation between the future distance in time when an operation is conducted and the propensity among leaders to discount its risks and associated costs. Poor planning of postconflict operations produces less than desired outcomes often resulting in other enduring destabilizing activities, such as civil war.

Political leaders establish aspirational goals but fail to diligently consider the military means necessary to accomplish them. This lack of engagement leads to political ends that are disconnected from the military realities on the ground. Rapport notes that U.S. history shows that military occupations have succeeded less than one-third of the time since 1815. The premise here is that political leaders fail to adequately listen to and consider the advice of military leaders and intergovernmental or intragovernmental organizations and institutions before making policy that leads to war.

Rapport applies CLT while comparing and contrasting prevailing theoretical models to four historical war efforts led by the United States. Those cases include World War II (Germany), the Korean War, Vietnam, and Iraq. His analysis supports his argument and proves CLT as a better means of accounting for the U.S. policy decision-making process and the political strategic assessments involved in those military endeavors. …

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