The “End State” Fallacy: Setting the Wrong Goals for War Fighting

The “End State” Fallacy: Setting the Wrong Goals for War Fighting by Anthony Cordesman, Center for Strategic & International Studies

The U.S. involvement in the fighting in Afghanistan and in four wars in the Middle East—Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Syria—has led to a necessary focus on the military dimension and the tactical need to defeat given extremist movements and “enemies.” This focus, however, cannot bring stability either to the country at war or to the countries around it, and this leads almost inevitably to questions such as “how does this war end?” It also leads to talk about how to shape the “end state” of a given conflict.

The United States and its allies do need to look beyond the fighting, and beyond tactical victory. They also, however, need to understand that they cannot control the end state, that conflict termination agreements almost never shape the aftermath of a conflict even when it actually ends, and that the real world challenges of moving from conflict to stability are far greater and involve far longer time periods…

Read on.

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