Small Wars Journal

New Book - War and the Art of Governance: Consolidating Combat Success into Political Victory

War and the Art of Governance: Consolidating Combat Success into Political Victory - Paperback or Hardback, February 12, 2017, Georgetown University Press, by Nadia Schadlow

Success in war ultimately depends on the consolidation of political order. Nadia Schadlow argues that the steps needed to consolidate a new political order are not separate from war. They are instead an essential component of war and victory.

The challenge of governance operations did not start with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US Army's involvement in the political and economic reconstruction of states has been central to all its armed conflicts from large-scale conventional wars to so-called irregular or counterinsurgency wars. Yet, US policymakers and military leaders have failed to institutionalize lessons on how to consolidate combat gains into desired political outcomes. War and the Art of Governance examines fifteen historical cases of US Army military interventions, from the Mexican War through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Improving future outcomes will require US policymakers and military leaders to accept that plans, timelines, and resources must be shaped to reflect this reality before they intervene in a conflict, not after things go wrong.

Schadlow provides clear lessons for students and scholars of security studies and military history, as well as for policymakers and the military personnel who will be involved in the next foreign intervention.

"Why is American military success on the battlefield not yielding successful political outcomes? In this critically crafted must-read before we enter another war, Dr. Schadlow lays out the post-combat challenges no amount of denial will excuse, persuasively charting what history tells us is required for our military victories to achieve a better peace."

-- General James Mattis, USMC (Ret.), Secretary of Defense

Nadia Schadlow is a senior program officer in the International Security and Foreign Policy Program of the Smith Richardson Foundation. She has published articles about national security in the Wall Street Journal,, The American Interest, Parameters, War on the Rocks, and elsewhere. She has a PhD from Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.

Order War and the Art of Governance at Amazon.


Bill M.

Sun, 02/26/2017 - 11:32am

In reply to by Bill C.

I now question if we won the Cold War, or if the USSR simply defeated itself by embracing an unacceptable system, and imposing population control measures that alienated their own populace. Either way we were left standing, but in hindsight it is questionable if we were prepared to be the sole superpower and global sherif. We embraced an odd combination of reluctance to engage and hubris underpinned by an End of History ideology.

As to assumptions about our ability to achieve sustainable political ends using military force during WWII, it is important to remember we almost failed in Europe. A combination of factors contributed to this. Japan was a smoother operation (fewer cooks in the kitchen), but Asia as a whole was still on fire, and arguably WWII hasn't ended in Asia in some regards.

We need to embrace realistic goals, where idealism is constrained by pragmatism. This is an important topic, I hope this book is to the challenge.

Bill C.

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 10:50am

Here is an essay -- with the same general title and topic -- that Ms. Schadlow did in 2003.…

My thought:

Why were we successful in earlier times -- in undertaking and achieving postwar stability operations -- but unsuccessful in the Iraq and Afghanistan cases?

This, I believe -- in the Iraq and Afghanistan cases -- is due to such things as our erroneous "universal values," "overwhelming appeal of our way of life" and "end of history" thinking. Thinking, thus, that did not get in the way, and/or "screw the pooch," in earlier times.

This cir. 2003 thinking suggested that, once major combat operations had been concluded (a) the populations, primary on their own and with little assistance from us, would adopt our modern western political, economic, social and value institutions and norms and, because of this, (b) the normally onerous requirements of stability operations; these would, in large part, no longer be required.

(This argument stated another way: Post-the Old Cold War, and cir. 2003, we came to believe that our grand political objective -- our "better peace" requirements -- of transforming outlying states and societies more along modern western lines; these could be achieved simply by regime change/regime decapitation. This, given our belief that, post-the Old Cold War, such things as "universal western values," etc., had obtained throughout the world,.)

Thus, these such erroneous concepts (see "universal values," etc. above); this was the post-Old Cold War conceit that (a) caused us to decide that we should (and cheaply could) go into these wars in the first place and (b) made us believe that such things as "stability operations" would not now, as they had been in the past, be a major requirement/a major concern re: "war."

Bottom Line:

Post-our winning of the Old Cold War, the basic character of war did not change.

And, accordingly, our "better peace" requirements (for the U.S./the West: transformation of outlying states and societies more along modern western lines); these would still have to be achieved the old hard way.

The reason for this being that --just because the U.S./the West had won the Old Cold War -- this did not mean that such things as "universal western values," "the overwhelming appeal of our way of life" and the "end of history"-- that these had become manifest throughout the world.

And minus these such attributes, thus becoming manifest throughout the world, then both the cautions, and indeed the requirements -- which make up the "basic character of war" -- these must still be given their normal, and necessarily due, consideration.