Monday, August 26, 2019

Donald Stoker's "Why America Loses Wars"

Donald Stoker was Professor of Strategy and Policy for the US Naval War College's Monterey Program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, from 1999 until 2017. The author or editor of eleven books, his Clausewitz: His Life and Work (2014), is on the British Army professional reading list.

Stoker applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Why America Loses Wars: Limited War and US Strategy from the Korean War to the Present, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book examines the reasons for and the effects of President Lyndon Johnson’s decision to restrict American ground forces to operations in South Vietnam. This decision is often criticized because it allowed the North Vietnamese to have a form of military sanctuary in North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia (an issue relevant to today’s war in Afghanistan). This gave the Communists abundant flexibility in how they waged their war against South Vietnam.

Johnson’s decision was not completely unsound. He rightly feared a repeat of the Korean War debacle when the U.S. and UN forces invaded North Korea and the Chinese intervened. Though Johnson did not know it, the Chinese had promised to support the North Vietnamese in a similar fashion. But does this preclude U.S. action against North Vietnamese sanctuaries in Laos and Cambodia? The Chinese also exploded their first atomic bomb in 1964, which raises the important consideration of whether or not the U.S. wants to risk war with another power possessing atomic and later nuclear weapons.

The Page 99 test works fairly well in this case as my book deals extensively with the problem of ambiguity in warfare, the problems of decision making and assessing their respective effects, and the fact that the political constraints placed upon the waging of wars intrude more fiercely in wars fought for limited aims, because the political object being pursued often has less value than an unlimited one.
Learn more about Why America Loses Wars at the Cambridge University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Clausewitz: His Life and Work.

The Page 99 Test: Clausewitz: His Life and Work.

--Marshal Zeringue