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War Termination And Our Cultural Heritage

War Termination And Our Cultural Heritage

 

CSC 1992

 

SUBJECT AREA National Military Strategy

 

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

Title: War Termination and Our Cultural Heritage

 

Author: MAJOR Daniel E. Cushing, USMC

 

Thesis: The American view of war termination in recent

times has overwhelmingly required victory as the principle

consideration; this is an end result of the major conflicts

that the society has participated in.

 

Background: Eliminating all the elements of societies in

conflict reduces the contest to two or more peoples fighting

a war. War termination involves so many variables that each

element has a different impact in each war. Cultural

heritage is the only relevant constant. Americans have

certain behavior patterns that are part of their cultural

heritage; they always participate in wars with a

predetermined mind set. This paper identifies critical

periods that have shaped the way American's think about war.

The intention is to identify the cultural predisposition for

victory in war.

 

Discussion: The major military events of the past century

have instilled the requirement for total victory in war.

Even when a conflict does not have a clearly defined

objective, Americans replace the war aim with victory.

Socially, we accept this attitude and our planners start

with this precept. Understanding ourselves is as critical

to our success as understanding the enemy.

 

WAR TERMINATION AND OUR CULTURAL HERITAGE

 

Outline

 

Thesis: The American view of war termination in recent

times has overwhelming required victory as the principle

consideration; this is an end result of the major conflicts

that the society has participated in.

 

 

I. War Termination.

A. Background of American attitudes.

B. Nature of hostilities.

C. Impact of "total" war.

D. Why wars are fought.

E. Wars with no planned end.

 

II. Victory and the shaping of wars end state.

A. Impact of the Revolutionary War.

B. Impact of the Civil War.

C. Impact of the World War I.

D. Impact of the World War II.

 

 

War Termination and Our Cultural Heritage

 

INTRODUCTION

 

 

Democracies do not start wars. A continuous debate

 

over the reasons wars begin is evident in our literature and

 

our society. Ensuring our national security causes us to

 

focus on the nature of war and how to deter conflicts.

 

However, war termination is an area that receives little or

 

no coverage in our contemporary literature even though every

 

war must end. Americans are predisposed with involvement

 

only in successful wars. This has shaped our cultural

 

heritage to consider wars as a matter of a victorious effort

 

to achieve our war aims. This oversimplifies the problem

 

and can lead to dissatisfaction when overt victory is not

 

rapidly attained.

 

War termination is dependent on innumerable factors.

 

Political decision making, national support for the war,

 

economic power of the nations involved, competency of

 

generalship and the effectiveness of the country to mobilize

 

the nation's productivity are but a few. These factors are

 

also involved in the prosecution of the conflict. The

 

factors alone can be totally consuming, creating difficulty

 

when trying to relate them to a national objective and war

 

termination.

 

Current thought considers the conduct of war to be an

 

extension of policy. This doctrinal approach uses force or

 

the threat of force as a means to secure a national

 

objective. The cultural bias assumes victory in conflict

 

will allow terms to be dictated to achieve the war aims. To

 

Americans, dominance on the battlefield is a necessary

 

aspect of ending the war. Noted historian B. H. Liddell

 

Hart points out:

 

If you concentrate exclusively on victory, with

no thought for the after-effect, you may be too

exhausted to profit from the peace, while it is

almost certain that the peace will be a bad one,

containing the germs of another war. This is a

lesson supported by abundant experience. The

risks become still greater in any war that is

waged by a coalition, for in such a case a too

complete victory inevitably complicates the

problem of making a just and wise peace

settlement. Where there is no longer the

counterbalance of an opposing force to control

the appetites of the victors, there is no check

on the parties to the alliance. The divergence

is apt to become so acute as to turn the

comradeship of common danger into the hostility

of mutual dissatisfaction - so as the ally of

one war becomes the enemy in the next.1

 

This is the dilemma that faces Americans as problem

 

solvers for war termination: the single-minded

 

concentration on victory as the end state. The intent of

 

this paper is to explore aspects of war termination. It

 

will examine what caused the American people to adopt their

 

cultural ethos and how ultimately the political leadership

 

was forced to identify a means to codify a method for

 

finding a solution that varied from our heritage. The

 

understanding of elements of war termination and our

 

cultural predispositions will make the war planners more

 

efficient in identifying how to terminate a conflict.

 

 

ASPECTS OF WAR TERNINATION

 

 

 

We accept this war for an object - a

worthy object - and the war will end

when that object is attained. Under

God I hope that it will never end

until that time.

-- Abraham Lincoln

 

The first aim in war is to win, the

second is to prevent defeat, the

third is to shorten it, and the

fourth and most important, ... is to

make a just and durable peace.

-- Lord Maurice Hankey

 

 

The American concept of war termination has been

 

reactive in nature. This is not an uncommon occurrence

 

internationally. In part this is due to the limited number

 

of wars America has initiated. This is also relevant

 

because many American wars have involved coalitions, which

 

complicates the termination process. Currently it is

 

complicated by the dissymmetry in the relationship between

 

America's military power and her opponents military

 

strength. Asymmetrical wars are difficult to terminate

 

because of the considerable differences in objectives

 

between the parties involved. To understand war termination

 

we must understand who or what is the nature of the

 

participants.

 

Another aspect that must be thoroughly understood is

 

the nature of the hostilities. Is the nation to use force

 

to achieve a cease-fire for later negotiations to resolve

 

the conflicting issues? If this is the case, once

 

hostilities have terminated will national resolve allow for

 

a resumption of hostilities? Even if the nature of the war

 

does not change and total military defeat of the enemy is

 

not the goal, how does a nation determine what is sufficient

 

force? This aspect of the issue is critical, since wars

 

have a tendency to escalate. Neither side will be willing

 

to sue for peace before achieving a clear advantage2

 

In "total" war, such as World War I, the escalation of

 

the war prevented a reasonable peace from ever being

 

achieved. The erroneous calculations in the conduct of the

 

war caused all participants to "up the ante" until the

 

survival of any or all of the governments involved was

 

threatened. This again caused greater military commitment.

 

The greater the cost in personnel, the greater the need for

 

attainment of one of the original war aims.

 

In approaching the subject of war termination, one

 

must first consider why wars are fought. One theory is that

 

nations fight wars to achieve specific post war objectives.

 

This notion postulates strictly practical thinking, since a

 

government is assumed to have clearly identified a specific

 

aim and determined that a military course of action is the

 

most practical means in attaining it. A second view is that

 

the government in power is influenced by elements that are

 

pursuing their own self interest.3 In this interpretation,

 

no grand design exists, and most important national

 

decisions are nothing more than the by-product of influence

 

pedalling. This latter view renders the prospect of

 

negotiated war termination almost impossible, as the terms

 

that will satisfy the combatants are almost impossible to

 

determine. The former is equally as difficult since

 

external sources cannot accurately assess the opponents

 

level of commitment to their war aims.

 

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is good example

 

of a war started without any pre-planned method of war

 

termination. In the fall of 1941, the Emperor of Japan

 

sought to answer the question of how long it would take to

 

defeat the United States. The Army Chief of Staff stated

 

that operations would be completed in three months. His

 

answer did not particularly address the question, nor did it

 

state the method, of how the United States would be

 

defeated. The final staff discussion stated that Japan

 

would establish such a superior position that the United

 

States would quit the war. The logic of this argument was

 

not unanimously accepted by members of the government.

 

Nevertheless, Japan's leadership prosecuted the attack on

 

U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor.

 

At the same time Japan was planning the attack on the

 

U.S., the war in China was rapidly developing into a

 

stalemate. Again, the staff brief had indicated that only a

 

month or two of further effort would be needed to bring the

 

war to an end. The campaign in China was strongly supported

 

by a political faction that saw war as the only method to

 

achieve political objectives. Political factions caused two

 

wars to be started with no idea on how to end them, other

 

than having the opponent quit. Yet as Clausewitz notes, the

 

changing nature of war causes shifts in war aims, changes

 

strategies, and frequently impacts on the opponents in ways

 

far different from those originally planned.

 

Eventually political survival becomes an element in

 

war termination. Unless war aims are achieved at the

 

expected cost, which is rare, then a reevaluation of

 

objectives must occur, normally while the war is going on.

 

Typically this reassessment involves a calculation of the

 

survivability of the party in power. The increased cost of

 

the war causes a shift in the end game, ultimately driving

 

two parallel aims. Political survival and war termination

 

become so intermixed that the original reasons for conflict

 

are often lost.

 

 

VICTORY AND THE SHAPING OF WARS END STATE

 

 

War is an ugly thing, but not the

ugliest. The decayed and degraded

state of moral and patriotic feeling

which thinks nothing is worth a war

is worse. A man who has nothing

which he cares about more than his

personal safety is a miserable

creature and has no chance of being

free, unless made and kept so by the

exertions of better men than

himself.

-- John Stuart Mill

 

War's objective is victory - not prolonged

indecision. In war there is no substitute for

victory.

-- General Douglas MacArthur

 

The U.S. was born of men willing to risk everything to

 

escape the insane wars of kings. The system that evolved

 

was explicitly designed to avoid the tyranny of the monarchy

 

and the wars of kings that would bleed the country for

 

unknown objectives. Americans today are the product of a

 

succession of pioneering peoples that rejected an outdated

 

form of government in order to create a society that would

 

improve the quality of life for all. Yet, along with a

 

language and a cultural heritage, the original American

 

founding fathers brought with them a European definition of

 

war.4 This definition would stay with the country for the

 

next two hundred years.

 

The original means of strategy is

victory - that is tactical success;

its ends, in the final analysis are

those objects which will lead to

peace... All these ends and means

must be examined by the theorist in

accordance with their effects and

relationships to one another.

-- Carl von Clausewitz, On War5

 

American readily identified that the purpose of war

 

was the tactical defeat of the enemy. Arranging the peace

 

was a complex issue to be worked out later. This was the

 

approach used by George Washington in the Revolutionary War

 

and set the stage for all other wars to follow. Washington

 

knew that Britain could only be defeated if her government

 

would not support a colonial war. He determined that

 

although a strategic defensive would best attrite the

 

British forces in America, conventional victories on the

 

battlefield would be needed to influence Parliament's views

 

on the American rebellion. Therefore, deliberately avoiding

 

a partisan-style war. Instead the focus was on establishing

 

the predominance of a regular standing army, thus ensuring

 

the legitimacy of the United States in the world arena.

 

Clearly Washington used military power to influence the

 

decision making process in England.

 

This narrow definition of war termination has

 

continued in the American thought process throughout the

 

Nation's history. Disregarding the political process and

 

ignoring all other elements of power, the Nation's leaders

 

have routinely placed the responsibility for war termination

 

with her military leaders.

 

Wars planned exclusively to defeat the enemy on the

 

battlefield are efforts that involve only narrow aspects of

 

war termination. The predilection of American leaders to

 

see only military solutions was the norm until the Civil

 

War, when the two factions determined that the only way to

 

achieve their objectives was by war. This faulty logic can

 

be explained by a societal predisposition of having military

 

leaders solve political objectives.

 

The Union refused to accept the concept of the

 

Confederacy and ultimately sought military reunification.

 

The Confederates determined that it would engage in a war in

 

which its industrial potential was less than its opponents

 

and its manpower was less than the Union's. All aspects of

 

the conflict favored maintaining a peace with the North.

 

Yet the South initiated the conflict by firing on Fort

 

Sumter, unifying their opponents' will and eliminating a

 

chance for peaceful resolution of the crisis. The South's

 

military objective was to create an environment that would

 

exhaust the Union's will to fight. This strategy resulted

 

in a prolonged and bloody conflict. The cultural habit of

 

allowing military leaders to determine the end of a conflict

 

proved devastating to both sides.

 

The Civil War changed American thinking with regards

 

to war termination. By impacting every member of the

 

society, the war forced a realization of the immense

 

challenges and issues at stake in fighting a war for

 

principles.

 

In this century two major events have shaped American

 

social attitudes towards war termination. The first was

 

U.S. involvement in World War I. War termination decisions

 

reflect the interaction between political factions, the role

 

of public opinion, and the goals of the society. Since WWI

 

was not an American war, U.S. commitment was initially slow

 

to develop. Despite the war's clear geopolitical issues,

 

the only way in which President Wilson could stimulate

 

broadbased commitment to support his political objectives

 

was by publicizing the war aim of "making the world safe for

 

democracy," thus creating an ideological war.6 This would

 

create commitment which paralleled the U.S. Civil War

 

experience. Many factors influenced the end product, but

 

the war aim of creating a "lasting peace," or "a war to end

 

wars" resulted in a war of annihilation. This event shaped

 

a generation of Americans that would be decision makers for

 

the next war.

 

World War II was an ideological war from the

 

beginning. The war was initiated by an event that

 

galvanized public opinion. After a decade of watching

 

problems in Europe and Asia, America knew that complete

 

involvement would be the only solution. The Arcadia

 

conference produced the war aim of destroying the enemies'

 

governments and securing a victory at all costs. For over

 

four years the American people committed the resources of

 

the Nation for this goal. The concept paralleled past

 

experience. The attitudes of the Nation were reforged into

 

the thinking of war leaders to determine the course of the

 

war.

 

It takes a smart person and an educated society to

 

learn from its environment. The conflicts in Korea and Viet

 

Nam caused an intellectual reevaluation of our societal

 

predisposition for war termination, yet even with the

 

political upheaval of the 1960's American attitudes on war

 

termination remain affected more by the two World Wars than

 

by the later events. Victory is a cultural heritage, "All

 

Americans love a winner."

 

 

CONCLUSION

 

 

 

Winning isn't everything, it's the-only thing.

-- Vince Lombardi

 

 

The overwhelming complexity of war causes American

 

society to focus on the immediate need to solve the problem

 

of the war itself. The tasks of mobilization, marshalling

 

political support, training or creating an army are all-

 

consuming. We need to clearly understand the nature of the

 

participants. Inherently Americans fully committed to a war

 

will see the requirement for a complete, unqualified

 

victory. We carry this attitude to war in much the same way

 

as we unquestiongly seek to use newly developed technology

 

to its fullest capability. The attitudes of the military

 

leaders influence the political decision makers.

 

Understanding our own nature is as critical to success as

 

knowing the nature of the enemy.

 

As a people, we declare war on many things; the war on

 

poverty, the war on drugs, the war against big government.

 

All these concepts imply that we will expend every effort to

 

win. Victory is our overriding concern, but victory should

 

never be a political aim in isolation. The relationship of

 

victory to the end state in war consists of nothing more

 

than a consideration of how we will define the effort

 

expended on our objective.

 

Events defined by one society are not often understood

 

in the same context when communicated across cultural lines.

 

The obvious example is the Persian Gulf War: America

 

clearly believed that the destruction of the Iraqi army and

 

the freeing of Kuwait defined a victory. Baghdad stated

 

otherwise. America had a clearly defined end state, however

 

the events that we shaped did not necessarily have the same

 

impact in Baghdad.

 

The end state for war is now clearly defined by our

 

cultural heritage, to include the rights of a society for

 

self-determination. As a people we take elements of

 

Clausewitz's dictum to heart: apply all elements of

 

national power, do not start until the end is determined,

 

and understand the commitment of your society. America has

 

always had a concept of war termination in her national

 

strategy. The primary differences in cultural attitudes

 

between the beginning of this country and the current times

 

are the end products of the shaping by major societal

 

events.

 

The War for Independence put the responsibility of war

 

termination in the hands of the war leader. The Civil War,

 

WWI, and WWII shifted the focus to the pursuit of a total

 

victory, an orientation which still prevails as a cultural

 

belief. The political and military leaders of today

 

understand the differences in objectives, but social

 

sentiment underlies our attitudes and shapes the way we

 

think of war. Understanding our cultural predispositions on

 

war will prevent us from falling prey to our heritage.

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

1.                Craig, Gordon A. and George, Alexander L.

Force and Statecraft: Diplomatic Problems of

our Time. New York: Oxford University Press,

1990.

 

2.                Hobbs, Richard. The Myth of Victory: What is

Victory in War? Boulder: Westview Press, 1979.

 

3.                Ikle', Fred C. Every War Must End. New York:

Columbia University Press, 1971.

 

4.                Luck, Edward C. and Albert, Stuart. On the Endings of

Wars. Port Washington: Kennikat Press, 1980.

 

5.                Weigley, Russell F. The American Way of War.

Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973.

GP Putnam's Sons: 1975.

 

 

ENDNOTES

 

1. Richard Hobbs, The Myth of Victory: What is Victory

in War? (Boulder: Westview Press, Inc, 1979), p.4.

 

2. Fred Charles Ikle', Every War Must End. (New York:

Columbia University Press, 1971), p. 12.

 

3. Ibid., p. 14.

 

4. Russell F. Weigley, The American Way of War.

(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973), p. XVIII.

 

5. Carl Von Clausewitz, On War, trans. 2nd ed. Michael

Howard and Peter Peret (Princeton: Princeton University Press,

1989), p. 143.

 

6. Major General J.F.C. Fuller, The Conduct of War,

(Westport: Greenwood Press, 1961), p. 180.



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