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Why America Loses Wars: Limited War and US Strategy from the Korean War to the Present

Donald Stoker

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Cambridge University Press
01 September 2019
History; History of the Americas; Military history; International relations; Warfare & defence
How can you achieve victory in war if you don't have a clear idea of your political objectives and a vision of what victory means? In this provocative challenge to US policy and strategy, Donald Stoker argues that America endures endless wars because its leaders no longer know how to think about war, particularly limited wars. He reveals how ideas on limited war and war in general evolved against the backdrop of American conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq. These ideas, he shows, were flawed and have undermined America's ability to understand, wage, and win its wars, and to secure peace afterwards. America's leaders have too often taken the nation to war without understanding what they want or valuing victory, leading to the 'forever wars' of today. Why America Loses Wars dismantles seventy years of misguided thinking and lays the foundations for a new approach to the wars of tomorrow.
By:   Donald Stoker
Imprint:   Cambridge University Press
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 235mm,  Width: 158mm,  Spine: 23mm
Weight:   620g
ISBN:   9781108479592
ISBN 10:   1108479596
Pages:   336
Publication Date:   01 September 2019
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active
1. Are we at war? What do we want? And do we want to win?; 2. The way we think about war (particularly limited war) is broken: here is how we fix it; 3. The political objective: why nations fight (limited) wars; 4. Constraints: or why wars for limited aims are so difficult; 5. Strategy: how to think about fighting for a limited political objective; 6. And you thought the war was hard: ending the war and securing the peace; Conclusion: is history rhyming?

Donald Stoker was Professor of Strategy and Policy for the US Naval War College's Monterey Program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, from 1999 until 2017. The author or editor of eleven books, his Clausewitz: His Life and Work (2014), is on the British Army professional reading list.

Reviews for Why America Loses Wars: Limited War and US Strategy from the Korean War to the Present

'At a time when threats to national and international security are increasing, Donald Stoker has produced a work vital to regaining the competence necessary to win in war. He exposes fundamental misunderstandings concerning the nature of 'limited' war - misunderstandings that have undermined America's ability to fight, to defeat enemies, to consolidate gains, and to achieve sustainable outcomes consistent with war aims. This is a book that should be read not only by students of military and diplomatic history but also by those in government charged with the development of national security policy. Citizens of democratic nations should read Why America Loses Wars so that they might demand strategies that achieve outcomes in war consistent with vital interests and worthy of the costs in blood and treasure.' H. R. McMaster, author of Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam 'In Why America Loses Wars, Donald Stoker offers an impassioned, deeply informed, and all-too-convincing critique of certain US strategic practices since the 1950s. A bracing, powerful, even urgent argument against confused concepts of limited warfare. Highly recommended.' Colin Dueck, author of The Obama Doctrine 'Donald Stoker's insistence that since Korea, America has been able neither to define limited war, nor to evolve a viable strategy to fight them is sure to ignite a lively debate.' Douglas Porch, author of Counterinsurgency: The Origins, Development and Myths of the New Way of War 'Donald Stoker provides an insightful, sobering, and provocative study on what makes for victory in war and for the winning of peace. America's frustrating and costly experience in recent wars underscores the timeliness and importance of Stoker's analysis of today's policy and strategy debates about the use of force by the United States on the world stage.' John H. Maurer, author of The Outbreak of the First World War 'A withering critique of US political and military decision-making from Korea to Iraq and an audacious attempt to construct a useable theory of limited war for confronting contemporary conflict within a Clausewitzian paradigm - a thoughtful and provocative contribution.' Edward B. Westermann, Retired Colonel and formerly of the US Air Force Academy 'Why America Loses Wars insightfully examines the strategic level of war. Written in an engaging style that carefully blends theory and practice, this thought-provoking book will be of real value to all concerned with studying and making war.' Peter Layton, author of Grand Strategy 'Stoker's analysis of the United States' failures is convincing.' Lawrence Freedman, Foreign Affairs 'Stoker's Why America Loses Wars is an ambitious book that does a superb job of serving as a starting point to a sorely needed conversation on current limited war strategy. Reading it should hopefully spark conversation among policymakers and strategy practitioners on how to approach Americas future wars.' Travis Zahnow, Small Wars Journal 'At a time when threats to national and international security are increasing, Donald Stoker has produced a work vital to regaining the competence necessary to win in war. He exposes fundamental misunderstandings concerning the nature of 'limited' war - misunderstandings that have undermined America's ability to fight, to defeat enemies, to consolidate gains, and to achieve sustainable outcomes consistent with war aims. This is a book that should be read not only by students of military and diplomatic history but also by those in government charged with the development of national security policy. Citizens of democratic nations should read Why America Loses Wars so that they might demand strategies that achieve outcomes in war consistent with vital interests and worthy of the costs in blood and treasure.' H. R. McMaster, author of Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam 'In Why America Loses Wars, Donald Stoker offers an impassioned, deeply informed, and all-too-convincing critique of certain US strategic practices since the 1950s. A bracing, powerful, even urgent argument against confused concepts of limited warfare. Highly recommended.' Colin Dueck, author of The Obama Doctrine 'Donald Stoker's insistence that since Korea, America has been able neither to define limited war, nor to evolve a viable strategy to fight them is sure to ignite a lively debate.' Douglas Porch, author of Counterinsurgency: The Origins, Development and Myths of the New Way of War 'Donald Stoker provides an insightful, sobering, and provocative study on what makes for victory in war and for the winning of peace. America's frustrating and costly experience in recent wars underscores the timeliness and importance of Stoker's analysis of today's policy and strategy debates about the use of force by the United States on the world stage.' John H. Maurer, author of The Outbreak of the First World War 'A withering critique of US political and military decision-making from Korea to Iraq and an audacious attempt to construct a useable theory of limited war for confronting contemporary conflict within a Clausewitzian paradigm - a thoughtful and provocative contribution.' Edward B. Westermann, Retired Colonel and formerly of the US Air Force Academy 'Why America Loses Wars insightfully examines the strategic level of war. Written in an engaging style that carefully blends theory and practice, this thought-provoking book will be of real value to all concerned with studying and making war.' Peter Layton, author of Grand Strategy 'Stoker's analysis of the United States' failures is convincing.' Lawrence Freedman, Foreign Affairs 'Stoker's Why America Loses Wars is an ambitious book that does a superb job of serving as a starting point to a sorely needed conversation on current limited war strategy. Reading it should hopefully spark conversation among policymakers and strategy practitioners on how to approach Americas future wars.' Travis Zahnow, Small Wars Journal


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