Book Review: War and the Art of Governance by Robert H. Scales, Wall Street Journal
During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, then commander of the 101st Airborne Division, turned to Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Rick Atkinson and said: “Tell me how this ends.” Mr. Atkinson, who was covering the division for the Washington Post, offered no reply. Nadia Schadlow offers one now, perhaps 14 years too late. “War and the Art of Governance” consists of a collection of case studies, beginning with the Mexican-American War and ending in Iraq. Each examines how the U.S. attempted, too often with only limited success, to translate battlefield victory into a lasting and beneficial political outcome.
At first glance, it seems odd that a book on war and governance would stretch so far across the historical landscape. Yet the approach makes a lot of sense. While technology has changed the art of war radically from muskets in Mexico to fighter jets over Iraq, the task of postconflict governance is primarily a humanitarian and political enterprise whose variables have not changed for millennia.
Ms. Schadlow’s case studies tell an often doleful story of America allowing victories to fall apart, leaving behind a suffering populace that should have been rewarded with a better peace. She asserts convincingly that postconflict governance can only be done well by soldiers. As battle lines move forward, only the Army retains the authority and the resources to keep the enemy from re-entering conquered spaces. Generals control the means of feeding and sheltering civilians who have been left suffering in the wake of war…