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Ikle, Every War Must End

Notes from Gloves / don’t seek revenge xii / “to pacify a conquered country, the victor’s prestige and dignity is absolutely critical” xiv / restraint is the most essential characteristic required to win the peace xx / too much effort on the means and not enough on the ends 1 / politicians choose military plans that don’t consider endings because those are the plans militaries advance 8 / once war starts, tolerance for risk of future war diminishes 9 / sunk costs contributes to decisions prolonging war 12 / wars break down democracy, and empowered military staffs seldom view things the same way as the politicians did 13 / tendency to stay committed to a course, even after culmination 16 / war should advance as the most important question how the enemy can be compelled to surrender or otherwise terminate hostilities 17 / traditional measures of military success are insufficient or misleading 19 / partial mobilizations make strategic calculations more difficult 27 / secondary effects can be foreseen, but not their strength or influence 28 / metaphors like “knockout blow” are inaccurate and dangerous 30 / eavesdropping informs, but not trustworthily 32 / influence can be shock rather than military effects (Tet) 37 / escalation is bad if: counterescalation is expected, cost increases too much, it anticipated destruction of homeland, it anticipated internal dissention, it costs too much of the reserves 40 / prolonging the same war is a kind of temporal escalation 41 / question assumptions , especially if the assumptions are predictions 44-6 / question ends, especially if they seem to be driving means which increase risk 49 / gov’ts have a hard time cutting losses 83 / wars are hard to stop, so don’t start them 107 / two ways to prevent war: resolve conflicts in other ways , or make arms use so bad nobody will choose it 108 / only two ways to end terror war – kill everyone, or give up 131

seminar notes / campaign planning begins with the end in mind – does that limit my ability to take advantage of other possibilities? / mission creep is a bad connotation of iterative “end states” / victory is a terminal word – but war never ends / redefinition of US goal in Iraq means a move from “strategic success” to “strategic advantage”


1 - The Purpose of Fighting

  • War is intensely demanding in resources, so it is carefully planned at the execution level, but not strategically: "most of the exertion is devoted to the means...and far too little is left for relating these means to their ends." (1) and "governments tend to lose sight of the ending of wars and the nation's interests that lie beyond it." (2)
  • The Japanese preparation for war with the US depended on seizure of strategic resources at the outset, and then the IJN CoS concluded that "what happens thereafter...will depend to a great extent on overall national power--including various elements, tangible and intangible--and on developments in the world situation." (quoted, p. 3) They overlooked the ending.
  • Even those who opposed the Pearl Harbor attack missed the point--they should have asked for a script on how the war would end, instead of focusing on how/when it should begin.
  • Pearl Harbor "was one of the most successfully planned military operations in history. Yet this planning effort was similar to designing an elaborate and expensive bridge that reached only halfway across a river. Such a gap is perhaps excusable...if fighting offer the only alternative to national extinction." ..(Finland vs. Soviet Union, 1939, fight for national existence, hope for miracle) (5)
  • The other extreme to a fight for national survival is knowing for absolutely certain that you will definitely overpower a weaker nation and that no one will assist it. (6)
  • British vs. Nasser, 1956: Civilians can be just as boneheaded as military men. (6-7) "In deciding whether or not to initiate hostilities, statesmen may attempt to weigh the risks and costs of avoiding war, on the one hand, against the dangers and possible gains of war, on the other." (7)
  • Civilians, too often, base their decision on the military's war plans. It looks militarily feasible to invade Country X, so hey let's do it. (8)
  • "In a period of prolonged struggle between enemies of roughly equal strength, the aim of preventing future wars sometimes comes to overshadow the initial reasons why the nations chose to fight." (Gain the upper hand at the negotiating table through military victory) Problems:
    • Prolongation of war to improve your footing vis-a-vis some future conflict risks defeat (Germany, WWI). (10)
    • Reconciliation works well, too, but invasion undermines reconciliation
    • Reconciliation can mean today's enemy is a future ally.
  • Don't "go down in defeat while fighting for a 'lasting peace.'" (11)
  • Militaries are designed to fight, and so they'll tend to seek battlefield victory.
  • So why do nations fight?
    • 1) Nations fight in pursuit of postwar objectives: everything, start to finish, is based on this calculus of achieving X goal(s). (14)
    • 2) Nations grope bureaucratically at a postwar goal. Various institutions each have different objectives. (14-15)
  • In the bureaucratic method, "Increasing the performance of a new fighter aircraft or acquiring the latest nuclear engines for a naval carrier is most often the kind of objective about which military services exert their energies in peacetime. The question of how these implements will serve to terminate future wars may be considered only in passing, since the means are desired for themselves." (15)
  • "fighting often continues long past the point where a 'rational' calculation would indicate that the war should be ended." and "If the decision to end a war were simply to spring from a rational calculation about gains and losses for the nation as a whole, it should be no harder to get out of a war than to get into one." (16)

2 - The Fog of Military Estimates

  • "government leaders frequently fail to acknowledge these uncertainties or to take them into account in their decisions." (17)
  • Most important question "is how the enemy might be forced to surrender" or otherwise brought to terms. (17)
  • Military too focused on tactics, civilians not focused enough on tactics. Hitler, for example, was unconcerned about how actually to fight U.S.
  • Even if military planers and politicians had the right foci, there's still a huge problem knowing which questions to answer and which metrics to use for "victory." (19)
  • Considerations: (outlined on p. 20)
    • Potential for mobilizing men, [women,] and resources
      • You can mobilize XY&Z, but what can the enemy do? (Chinese in Korean War) (23)
    • Possible outside help
      • Br in WWII vs. Fr in WWII. "The weaker a country, the more ought its military planning to take account of the possibilities of outside help, both for itself and for its enemy." (24)
      • Finns resuming conflict with the Russians in WWII after Barbarosa was a mistake. 
    • Effect on public morale
      • Iklé seems to be a proponent of strategic bombing's negative effect on morale, (28) but then argues that the British decision to bomb German cities was less effective than promised (29)
      • You have to make your best guess how the violence will affect your enemy's population: "And because they must be guesses...they can provide easy opportunities for self-deception." (30)
      • Germany's 1918 offensive, example.
  • Which estimates to believe? "It often happens in wars that the weaker party makes no attempt to seek peace while its military strength can still influence the enemy, but fights until it has lost all its power to bargain." (34)
  • Leaders can suddenly change their mind when they have been brushing aside unfavorable data through a process of confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance, but then a sudden crisis brings everything into focus (Ludendorff, Aug. '18). (36)
  • "The outcome of a single battle...can bring about the termination of a war in either or two ways."
    • Destroy the enemy's ability to resist, open them up to annihilation
    • Or convince an enemy the war is lost, and bring him to the table. (37)

3 - Peace through Escalation?

  • "The more the leadership fears the costs and risks of continued fighting, the more urgently will it seek a design for the war that promises to end the fighting quickly." (38)
  • The terms on which settlement may be reached can be just as foggy as the course of the fighting itself. (38-39) Peace terms are tough because there is usually more an enemy can do: "Each side has at its disposal both more carrot and more stick." (39)
  • "Escalation" is misleading. Where and how do we escalate? More troops? More ships? New fronts?
  • Five motives to limit war:
    • 1) fear of counter-escalation or third party intervention (Korea)
    • 2) expanding violence to intolerable levels (A-H vs. Serbia, July-August 1914)
    • 3) damage to our own countrymen and territory
    • 4) internal dissension and cost
    • 5) no desire to diminish strategic reserves (all on p. 40)
  • Germany's unlimited sub warfare, 1916-1917.  The decision was not reached lightly, the Germans did plenty of analysis, but that analysis was deeply flawed and "is highly instructive today" as a result. (42)
    • Estimated 600,000 tons sunk; actually, was 658,000 on average and the Brits were critically short on food! (43)
    • Germans (correctly) estimated American impact to be negligible, in 1917. Their critical mistake was the assumption that Britain would bleed out in five months, before American, Dutch, or Danish entry could have any real effect. (44-45)
    • "mistake number one...was to treat a prediction...as if it were a certainty." (45, emphasis added)
    • The Germans did nothing to couple political incentives with military/economic pressure. (46)
    • Plus, they missed the psychological effect of American entry for the Brits. Even if the Americans didn't do anything militarily in 1917, at least they were committed now.
  • The mistake comes from "using metaphorical language--a common source of error in political analyses: 'If it is possible to break England's back, the war will be decided in our favor… England's backbone is her shipping.'" (47)
  • Br's determination may have come from the shock of 'German aggression.' (cf. strategic bombing) (48)
  • Another mistake is to fail to recognize that you have other options open than your original war aims; one "fail[s] to examine whether one's ends ought to be changed." (49)
  • The Threat Is Better than Its Execution: Sweden's cowardice in WWII as it watched both Finland and Norway get demolished by two different powers.
  • "When escalation...has succeeded...it has consisted of an extraordinarily powerful move." (55)
  • The Plunge of Desperation: escalation as a last measure for success in a losing fight. (French premier Paul Reynaud proposed bombing Soviet oil fields in March 1940 to defeat the Nazi-Soviet pact!!) (57-8)

4 - The Struggle Within: Patriots against "Traitors"

  • "The process of ending a war almost inevitably evokes an intense internal struggle if it means abandoning an ally" etc. "When the fighting comes to an end, the heavy toll that the war has taken--like a debt that comes due--may suddenly contribute to dissension at home." (59)
  • When something other than unconditional surrender comes to light, "powerful men and their supporters may...try to maintain their private advantages...by objecting to the disappointing settlement." (60)
  • "peace with honor" vs "betrayal" of an ally or a value, etc. Hawks = peace with honor; doves = betrayal
  • It is right to despise treason, in the sense of actively aiding an enemy, but English lacks a concept of 'treason' in continuing to prolong a lost and pointless war (echoes of Vietnam, here). "'Adventurism'--much too weak a word--is perhaps the best term to describe this 'treason of the hawks.'" (61)
  • "Treason can help our enemies destroy our country by making them stronger; adventurism can destroy our country by making our enemies more numerous." (61)
    • A-H's self-destruction in WWI, even after its primary enemy, Russia, had been eliminated.
    • Finland and a separate peace from Germany against the Bear. "Had those Finnish leaders who wanted to remain loyal to Germany prevailed, Finland as an independent nation would almost certainly have been extinguished more completely than the old Austrian Empire." (65)
    • The French capitulation to Germany, 1940.
  • "In a war where the enemy's forces invade the homeland, any government that tries to make peace with the enemy while facing military defeat will almost inevitably come apart at the seams." "The crisis can become so acute that those who wish to continue...will use violence against each other." (69)
  • Both hawkish and dove revolts, Germany 1918: Admirals plan a unilateral seaborne offensive. But seamen mutiny.
  • Japan's militarists, 1945.
  • Germany's peace party, 1945, and assassination attempts on Hitler.
  • "Most men would agree that the value of loyalty depends on the object of loyalty. But does the value of courage also depend on what the acts of courage are aimed at?" (73) 
  • "the struggle between 'doves' and 'hawks' over when and under what terms the fighting should stop is preceded by disagreements over what the war is all about." (74)
    • The British democratic process, 1914-1918: "The English Ludendorffs are less revolting to our taste, for they had better manners and--until recently--were better protected by the secrecy of British archives." (79)
  • "The long-term consequences of World War I might have been less damaging for both sides if the public and the parliaments had been allowed to participate in the formulation of war aims and to discuss strategies for ending the fighting, not just to approve budgets for continuing it." (80)
  • Hawks are self-destructive, politically. In that sense, they may be called "'apolitical,' if being political' means to have a keen sense for the survival of one's power." (81)
  • "Cutting one's losses,...a common notion in everyday life, appears to be a particularly difficult decision for a government to reach in seeking to end a prolonged and unsuccessful war." (83)
  • One, perhaps only, positive example from WWI is Lenin. He knew enough to call it quits, even at the loss of immense Russian territory, which he would later gain back. (82)

5 - The Struggle Within: Search for an Exit

  • "The political struggle within each country affects everything that matters in ending a war. It intrudes into the formulation of war aims, it colors and even distorts military estimates, and it inhibits negotiation with the enemy." (84)
  • Mil and pol can cooperate very effectively in most cases when it comes to fighting, but "planning to end a war where victory seems out of reach is not a task on which men can easily collaborate." (85)
  • Negotiating while Fighting 
    • Govts often eschew talks while fighting is underway (shows weakness)
    • It also underlines political problems among allies: Potsdam Declaration, WWII, meant primarily to maintain the Grand Alliance
    • "The more that negotiation with the enemy is present officially as something that is natural--indeed desirable--in the midst of a war, the less will the civilian population and the troops respond to the opening of talks by questioning or rejecting a continued war effort." (86) 
    • In contrast to the Finns, obstinate leaders who avoid talks until it's too late risk backlash domestically. (1917 French mutiny)
    • One side refuses a ceasefire as a precondition for talks, the other refuses to talk while fighting continues. (87)
    • Korean stalemate (a long example): the DMZ was insurance for the communists; Americans threatened escalation (a new front); meanwhile Americans were dying.
    • Korea vs. WWII: "In conflicts that are predominantly civil wars, however, outcomes intermediate between victory and defeat are difficult to construct." (95)
  • Debate over prospects as difficult as debates over tactics, etc.: "To bring the fighting to an end, one nation or the other almost always has to revise its war aims." (96)
  • "Every expert is a human being," writes A.J.P. Taylor, and so generals can always find ways to justify a fight when they want to do so. (96-7)
  • Lord Asquith: The War Office "kept three sets of figures, one to mislead the public, another to mislead the cabinet, and third to mislead itself." (97)
  • A big problem is that "the civilian and military leaders in deciding how to end the war cannot have a frank debate on how to abolish each other." (98)
  • Devices used in debate:
    • Argue over timing, but not whether it should be done at all
    • Argue over "treason" and "honor" instead of what is pragmatically best for the nation. (98)
  • "The task of bringing an unsuccessful war to an end demands such a soul-searching reordering of objectives that many government leaders respond to it with failure of nerve." Strong men tap out, and background men may come to the fore. (102)

Epilogue: Ending Wars before They Start (Appeasement vs. Deterrence, the case of Germany in the 1930s)

  • "Those with power to start a war frequently come to discover that they lack the power to stop it." (106)
  • "the use of violence itself engenders new obstacles to the reestablishment of peace," namely fear and skepticism about conciliation. (107)
  • "there are basically two ways to prevent war: by eliminating the sources of conflict that would lead a nation to resort to the use of arms, and by rendering the use of arms so unattractive that a nation would rather tolerate existing conflicts or frustrations than start a war." (108)
  • The above dualist model represents APPEASEMENT vs. DETERRENCE.
  • WWI = deterrence (Oops); WWII = appeasement (Oops). (110)
  • "Those who try to avoid appeasement by threatening war must think about how such a war might end… One can sympathize with British lack of confidence that Hitler would be deterred by the prospect of the French army carrying out 'a series of limited offensives.'" (112)
  • What if coercion fails? (113)
  • What if concessions fail? (114)
  • "Deterrence must reinforce appeasement to prevent war." (118) You have to "establish a line." (SYRIA)
  • Sometimes one or the other can work alone, but without both, one by itself can only be a temporary measure. "the success of deterrence depends on whether the many individuals who hold keys to war and peace think coherently--or think at all--about how fighting, if started, would come to an end." (118)
  • Nuclear deterrence has a lot in its favor, but also has serious limits: can a retaliatory strike, once it's failed as a threat, be beneficial in practice? (121-122)
  • Also, a conventional war between two nuclear powers carries the very serious risk of employing nukes rather than accepting defeat. (Sino-Soviet war, 1969) (123)
  • WWI cult of offensive = Cold War MAD (125) 
  • MAD assumes harmony between different powers with respect to strategic views. (128) Cultural disconnect.      

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