Grand Strategy in the Afghan, Pakistan, and Iraq Wars

  • The End State Fallacy
    Oct 13, 2010

    Grand strategy is not an American strength, and it is far too easy to become obsessed with day-to-day issues. In the case of Iraq, this means a focus on US withdrawal and the formation of a new Iraqi government. In the case of Afghanistan and Pakistan, it means a focus on the status of reconciliation talks, whether the current strategy in Afghanistan will work in achieving short term goals like “Afghan good enough,” and whether Pakistan will become a true partner in the ongoing fighting in its border areas.

    The cost of wars in blood and dollars, however, can only be justified by their grand strategic outcome over time, and not by whether enough progress can made to claim a temporary victory or pull out most of our troops. We need to look further into the future in all three of our current wars, or we risk making all of them an exercise in futility.  We cannot predict the future, but a successful grand strategy requires, at the least, that we look at the four most likely outcomes in each conflict, and prepare for them as best we can.

    A new Burke Chair report examines these issues, and can be downloaded at:

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Anthony H. Cordesman