Tuesday, February 16, 2010

War Failure

[B]y just about any measure, his war was on the verge of failure. The strategy of winning an enduring peace had failed. The strategy of defeating terrorism had failed. The strategy of spreading democracy throughout the Middle East had failed. The strategy of at least bringing democracy to Iraq had failed."

David Finkel, The Good Soldiers

Did the surge turn things around? Much of the failure literature is about war, including the distinction between constructive and non constructive failures put forth by Eliot Cohen and John Gooch in Military Misfortunes: The Anatomy of Failure in War. The failures of war are certainly harder to hide -- although we have witnessed many creative measures taken to disguise failure in plain sight. And, arguably ,the military wants to learn from mistakes, although fighting today's war with the lessons from the past seems to be a common affliction.

I like the constructive/non constructive failure distinction despite its either/or quality that sometimes misrepresents our fuzzier reality. It also represents a kind of bureaucratic and ethical distancing from the underlying truth that war is a bad thing that seldom wins the peace.

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