Q&A With Gideon Rose on How Wars End

In Gideon Rose's new book, How Wars End, he argues that American leaders have repeatedly ignored the need for careful postwar planning. But they can and must do a better job -- making the creation of a stable and sustainable local political outcome the goal of all wartime plans, rather than an afterthought to be dealt with once the "real" military work is over.

Drawing on vast research, including extensive interviews with participants in recent wars, Rose re-creates the choices that presidents and their advisers have confronted during the final stages of each major conflict from World War I through Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tom Kneeland: Isn't it true that most wars actually end when both sides get sick and tired of the killings?

A: Yes and no. Wars involve the use of force to achieve political goals, and they end when the belligerents stop using force. But that can happen in several ways. Sometimes one side simply loses the ability to continue, because it has been completely defeated (Nazi Germany in World War II). Sometimes one side can choose to walk away from the fight and does so, giving up whatever was at stake (the United States in Vietnam, considering 1973-75 as a single case). And sometimes the key belligerents on both sides agree to stop and call it a draw (essentially what happened in Korea in 1953). At some point, every war, with the general outcome starting to become clear, enters what might be called its endgame, which is best thought of as a discussion over what the details of the final settlement will be and what will happen after the shooting stops. In my book, How Wars End, I tell the stories of the endgames of American wars over the last century.

Michael Muhammad (via Facebook): Does the rest of the world view America as an empire?

Register for free to continue reading.
Registered users get access to two free articles every month.

Or subscribe now and save 55 percent.

Subscription benefits include:
  • Full access to ForeignAffairs.com
  • Six issues of the magazine
  • Foreign Affairs iPad app privileges
  • Special editorial collections

Latest Commentary & News analysis