Yogi Berra once pointed out, "In theory, theory should work in practice. In practice, it doesn't!" Nowhere does this truism apply more than in the mistaken theory espoused by both military and civilian leaders that the job of the military ends when the shooting stops. In "War and the Art of Governance", Nadia Schadlow does a masterful job of detailing the long history of American failures and successes in consolidating “combat gains into desired political outcomes.” With each of the 15 examples Dr. Schadlow cites, beginning with the Mexican-American War, through to Iraq and Afghanistan, she addresses how the ever-present debate and angst over the role of the military versus the role of civilian authority in establishing post-conflict order typically cause (i) a failure to adequately plan for the “day after,” (ii) a lack of adequate resources to conduct such activities, (iii) a lack of unity of command, (iv) the lack of a cadre of people trained to execute such objectives and (v) a lack of retention of lessons learned and general expertise. The author acknowledges the theoretical concerns on both sides of the military/civilian authority debate, but points out, in case after case, that no other organization but the Army has the capacity, structure and understanding of the domain to map an organizationally seamless transition to a post-conflict stabilization.
With respect to the current wars in which the U.S. continues to be engaged after nearly 16 years, Dr. Schadlow points out how both the Bush and the Obama administrations failed to address the critical ongoing requirements for stabilization strategies. Further, Schadlow, indicates that the U.S. made the same mistakes yet again when we overthrew Qadaffi without a plan to stabilize Libya. Such judgments by Schadlow are not from 20/20 hindsight but follow detailed official Army assessments of prior experiences in our history and the importance of not repeating such mistakes. Of particular note is the report she references by COL Irwin L Hunt after WWI, “American Military Government of Occupied Germany, 1918-1920,” in which he challenged the Army to develop competence in civilian administration among its officers in peacetime, and not wait until the responsibility was thrust upon it. As described in post WWII US Army history publications such as “The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Germany, 1944-1946”, written by Dr. Earle Ziemke, senior military leaders took Hunt’s warnings to heart and began planning for post-war occupations of Italy, Germany and Japan in the spring of 1942, a full three years prior to the end of the wars in both theatres. Given the commitment by the Army to preparation for occupation and its allocation of people and resources, the radical transformation of Italy, Germany and Japan from totalitarian adversaries of the U.S. to stable allies stand as strong testaments to the competence of the U.S. Army to conduct such complex and essential operations.
Dr. Schadlow does not make the case that the U.S. must impose its system or always engage in elaborate state building. However, she argues that the use of military force, described by practitioners as “the management of violence”, removes and destroys but does not reconstruct. And, without reconstruction, the use of violence can perpetuate (or increase-my words, not hers) rather than reduce the national security threats the force was intended to eliminate. These are the hard but necessary evaluations that civilian and military leaders must make when considering the use of military force. Put simply by Dr. Schadlow, “It is an opprobrious waste of lives if nothing better results.”
Anyone, professional or amateur, who claims to have an interest or role in military strategy should read this book. In fact, before he came out of retirement into the SecDef role, James Mattis described Dr. Schadlow’s book on the back cover as a “must read before we enter another war,” where she “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." Given the reputation Mattis has as a scholar with an extensive collection of books, I suspect that he had already read the Hunt Report and Ziemke’s book before he read “War and the Art of Governance.” My guess is that any officer or political leader who brings a plan into Secretary Mattis’ office that involves taking and holding land for any period of time will want to have read this book, committed to memory the five recommendations Dr. Schadlow sets forth in her conclusions, and have a detailed plan for the “day after” that addresses what, why, who, how and when.