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How Wars End: Why We Always Fight the Last Battle Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 12, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Surveying the settlements of America’s wars since WWI, Rose analyzes reasons for the manner and substance of their conclusions. The way a war ended, he holds, can be tied to the quality of pre-armistice or -surrender planning for the postwar situation, a problem to which he applies concepts in international relations (realism, bureaucratic politics, domestic politics). Those terms don’t portend a wonk’s book, however. Rose, the editor of Foreign Affairs, writes with clarity for general readers puzzled by mistakes national-security experts seem to make over and over again. According to Rose, American generals, diplomats, and presidents, obsessed with the military endgame, often don’t clarify their political intentions until the shooting stops. Varied in its effects, such neglect ranges from surmountable, as in the aftermath to WWII, to intractable, such as in Vietnam or Iraq. Rose also identifies another factor complicating the termination of war: cherry-picking lessons from a previous war that have dubious applicability to the present one. Public spirited and accessible, Rose’s presentation should impress anyone hoping for better management of war and peace by Washington. --Gilbert Taylor


Advance Praise for

How Wars End

“This is a brilliant book on an important subject. Americans are always disappointed with the outcomes of wars and the troubled peaces that follow. Gideon Rose explains that this is because of the way we think—or don't think—about war and peace. The book is a masterpiece of historical analysis with lessons for our strategy in Afghanistan and beyond.”

--Fareed Zakaria, author of The Post-American World and editor of Newsweek International

“Gideon Rose’s wise, trenchant review of the last century of world conflict is one of the startlingly rare books that gets the connection between war and politics, means and ends.”

--Fred Kaplan, “War Stories” columnist, Slate

“Fred Ikle’s 1971 book Every War Must End has influenced analysts and policymakers for decades. Gideon Rose’s How Wars End is likely to be just as influential for generations to come. You may think you know something about the wars he writes about, but you are guaranteed to learn something new here. Rose is always accurate and fair, neither sycophantic nor unduly scathing. This is a book that should be read by everyone involved in military planning--and everyone affected by the decisions those planners make.”

--Max Boot, the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of The Savage Wars of Peace and War Made New

“In his trenchant study of how difficult it was to end wars in the past century, Gideon Rose draws fresh and persuasive lessons for how to define and achieve U.S. interests, both in Afghanistan and in the face of future challenges. A timely and important work.”

--Strobe Talbott, author of The Great Experiment and president of Brookings Institution

“By focusing on the intricate, often overlooked endgames of conflicts, Gideon Rose makes a compelling case that the unintended consequences of wars have overwhelmed even the best-intentioned plans of American leaders. Every top official contemplating military action should read this terrific book—and take its lessons to heart.”

--Andrew Nagorski, author of The Greatest Battle --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1St Edition edition (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416590536
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416590538
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #658,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a very special book that will change the way you think about war and U.S. foreign policy. The author argues that in all of the major wars America has fought in the 20th century--World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and Iraq--U.S. officials have screwed up the endings. Too often do they think more about defeating the enemy (the "day of") than planning for the result (the "day after").

Rose goes behind the scenes, using lots of primary sources to find out what decision-makers knew and when they knew it. In doing so, he creates a compelling case that in each "endgame," policymakers were haunted by the lessons they derived from the last war. Thus, for example, the lessons of Vietnam--don't get heavily involved in faraway drawn-out conflicts--cause the George H. W. Bush administration to bungle the end of the Gulf War and opt for an overly cautious and quick approach that failed to achieve the administration's own goals. George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq was, in some ways, a way to finish the job that his father had left undone. The research the author has done for each case is remarkable, and has the added benefit of providing many amusing anecdotes. (His stuff on Kissinger is particularly interesting.)

The most important contribution of "How Wars End" is its sketching of a grand strategy of pacification that has run through 20th-century U.S. foreign policy. In war after war, the United States has tried to put out fires in strategically important parts of the world. World Wars I and II were attempts to pacify Europe (by solving the Germany problem), Vietnam and Korea were attempts to calm East Asia, and the wars in Iraq were efforts to stabilize the Middle East.
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Format: Hardcover
There have been lots of books recently about how to bring the war in Afghanistan to an end. Anyone who thinks they have an answer (or anyone who is at a loss) should read this excellent new book. By bringing alive the decisions that American leaders from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush faced in the course of ending wars, Gideon Rose puts the Obama administration's current policy options in Afghanistan into context and offers sound, practical advice.

The chapters -- all of which are strong enough to stand alone -- open with engrossing vignettes that introduce the reader to each war's cast of characters and policy issues. His chapter on World War II in the Pacific, for example, begins with an almost unbelievable account of Japanese-U.S. negotiations over the status of Japan's monarchy and a last minute coup attempt to prevent the Emperor from airing his pre-recorded surrender message. Nuggets like this make "How Wars End" accessible and just plain fun to read.

In each chapter, Rose's analysis of where policy makers went wrong (or right) is fair and dispassionate, yet still provocative. Unsettlingly often, he argues, leaders got war endings wrong simply because they never made firm decisions about the political resolution they wanted the war to have. He makes a convincing case; this book is a must-read as we approach the tenth year of war in Afghanistan.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
as a professional Army officer, most of my personal and professional study has been focused on the tactical level of war. I have learned much from reading accounts of Soldiers facing adversity, of commanders determining the best tactics to defeat their enemy, of organizations working together to achieve their mission. This book is significantly different.

Gideon Rose connects the wars of the past century to their political purpose through an examination of how each war ended. He does this in a heavily footnoted academic work that is very accessible to non-academics, like me. He very briefly recounts some of the military action that led to the conclusion of combat and relies on the reader to know (or look up) the history of why the war began and how it progressed because that is not the purpose of this book. His purpose is to explain how political purpose is achieved as a war reaches its end.

What I found particularly enlightening was his discussion of how various administrations had to revise or update their political goals of a conflict given realities of the time and the political goals of their opponents. Even when war ends with "unconditional surrender" there are political realities to consider of our adversaries.

As a professional Army officer, it is important for me to remember that I'm not asked to participate in war for only military purpose. I'm part of the government of this great country and am asked to succeed at my assigned mission so our political leaders can achieve their goals. While my job isn't to determine those political objectives, it is my job to give my best to my organization within the Army, ensure my organization's objectives are linked to those of my higher command which ultimately are linked to the political objectives.
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Format: Hardcover
Rose is a master at taking a complex set of issues and explaining it to his readers in an understandable, yet nuanced way. He is a master of insightful dialogue and indepth discourse.

This is a must read for anyone interested in a war that will impact American policy for the next 50 years.
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