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How Wars End

How Wars End

Dan Reiter
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    How Wars End
    Book Description:

    Why do some countries choose to end wars short of total victory while others fight on, sometimes in the face of appalling odds?How Wars Endargues that two central factors shape war-termination decision making: information about the balance of power and the resolve of one's enemy, and fears that the other side's commitment to abide by a war-ending peace settlement may not be credible.

    Dan Reiter explains how information about combat outcomes and other factors may persuade a warring nation to demand more or less in peace negotiations, and why a country might refuse to negotiate limited terms and instead tenaciously pursue absolute victory if it fears that its enemy might renege on a peace deal. He fully lays out the theory and then tests it on more than twenty cases of war-termination behavior, including decisions during the American Civil War, the two world wars, and the Korean War. Reiter helps solve some of the most enduring puzzles in military history, such as why Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, why Germany in 1918 renewed its attack in the West after securing peace with Russia in the East, and why Britain refused to seek peace terms with Germany after France fell in 1940.

    How Wars Endconcludes with a timely discussion of twentieth-century American foreign policy, framing the Bush Doctrine's emphasis on preventive war in the context of the theory.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3103-6
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Ending Wars
    (pp. 1-7)

    How, when, and why do belligerents end wars? Why do some losing belligerents, such as the United States in the early months of the Korean War, the Confederacy in the twilight of the American Civil War, Britain during the dark night of May 1940, and the United States in the first months of World War II, refuse to consider negotiating to end their wars on acceptable terms and instead fight on in pursuit of victory? Why do some winning belligerents, such as the Soviet Union in the latter months of its 1939–40 and 1941–44 wars against Finland, elect...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Bargaining, Information, and Ending Wars
    (pp. 8-21)

    War is fundamentally political. It is launched, fought, and ended in pursuit of political goals. This was the fundamental insight of nineteenth-century Prussian thinker Carl von Clausewitz. He opposed the more traditional view that war is an exercise in military engineering, a fulfillment of one nineteenth-century German general’s wish that, “The politician should fall silent the moment that mobilization begins.”¹

    War is about politics, and politics, especially in this context, is essentially about the allocation of scarce goods. Goods are phenomena valued by political actors. Goods are scarce if there is not an optimal or infinite supply of the good,...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Credible Commitments and War Termination
    (pp. 22-50)

    There is no world government to enforce laws, treaties, or promises. Conspiracy theories notwithstanding, there is no fleet of black helicopters or blue-helmeted stormtroopers at the ready to carry out the rulings of institutions like the United Nations (UN) or the World Trade Organization (WTO). Without such support, state-to-state promises can be as fragile as Lenin’s pie crusts. This absence of government, literally anarchy, has severe and often tragic consequences, as it makes the maintenance of international order and the prevention of crimes against humanity such as genocide much more difficult. More generally, anarchy is perhaps the single most important...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Conducting Empirical Tests
    (pp. 51-62)

    Chapters 2 and 3 developed these central hypotheses: battle outcomes affect war-termination offers; third-party activities affect war-termination offers; severe postwar commitment fears encourage a state to ignore combat outcomes and pursue absolute victory; fears of escalating costs can push a fearful state to accept a limited outcome; if a fearful state sees almost no chance of eventual victory, it will make concessions to end the war; capture of a good that reduces the commitment problem can encourage a belligerent to accept a limited war outcome. This book tests these central hypotheses (the cases did not lend themselves to testing the...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Korean Wars
    (pp. 63-91)

    The Korean War is a monument to the inefficiency of war. The war dragged on for three years after North Korea’s June 1950 invasion of South Korea, killing millions of people and ending essentially with the reestablishment of the status quo ante, a roughly even split of the Korean peninsula between a Communist North and a non-Communist South. Why did the war drag on for so long? How did the belligerents try to end it, and on what terms?

    The war aims and war-termination behavior of the belligerents in the Korean War were fundamentally shaped by both commitment and information...

  10. CHAPTER SIX The Allies, 1940-42
    (pp. 92-120)

    Nazi Germany posed the most serious threat of world conquest since ancient Rome. It conquered more territory in shorter order than any country in world history, sweeping aside any lingering thoughts that entrenchments would slow down the advance of armies in the Second World War as they did in the First. What made this threat even more frightening was Germany’s alliance with Japan, who in the blink of an eye asserted control of half the Pacific Ocean.

    How did the Allied powers, especially Britain in 1940, the United States in 1942, and the Soviet Union in 1941, react to the...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN The Logic of War: Finland and the USSR, 1939-44
    (pp. 121-139)

    Prior to World War I, Finland was one of many ethnic regions that fell under the rule of the Russian tsars. After war broke out between Russia and Germany in 1914, many Finns saw that a German victory might provide political independence from Russia. About two thousand Finns traveled to Germany in 1915 and 1916 for military training and to serve in the Imperial German army to fight Russia. Following its exit from the war, Russia disgorged several new states, including Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Finland. Finland emerged as independent and non-Communist in May 1918, and with assistance from...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT The Amercian Civil War
    (pp. 140-164)

    The Civil War is the single most important event in American history since the Revolutionary War. In December 1860, several Southern states seceded from the United States of America (the Union), aiming to avoid federal intrusion into state-recognized rights of whites to own individuals of African descent as slaves. These seceding states formed the Confederate States of America (CSA) in early 1861. Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the Union in November 1860, taking office the following March. During his presidential campaign he had reaffirmed the rights of southern states to allow their citizens to own slaves, although he vehemently...

  13. CHAPTER NINE Germany, 1917-18
    (pp. 165-185)

    By early 1918, after three and a half years of the worst war in world history, the stage seemed to have been set for Germany to declare victory and go home. Germany had acquired a titanic slab of Russia—including a full third of Russia’s population, some 55 million people—through the one-sided March 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.¹ Fresh American military forces had not yet arrived in the West to bolster the battered French and British armies.² And yet Germany’s thirst for war was not yet quenched. It launched a major new offensive on the Western Front in spring 1918,...

  14. CHAPTER TEN Japan, 1944-45
    (pp. 186-210)

    Japan's plan for victory against the United States in World War II was straightforward. Run up a string of decisive victories in the first several months of war, smash American military and naval power in the Pacific, establish a stout defensive perimeter, and then present America with the prospect of a long and bloody war. Japan hoped that America would become discouraged and sue for peace, accepting a Japanese empire covering most of the Pacific and East Asia. Japan understood America’s tremendous industrial advantages, and recognized that in a long war, America would eventually be able to wield considerable material...

  15. CHAPTER ELEVEN Conclusions
    (pp. 211-230)

    What is the function of war? Poets, artists, and ordinary people have long agreed with the words of the popular song that war is good for “absolutely nothing,” providing only death and destruction. And yet wars continue to occur by the deliberate choices of national leaders, encouraging the conclusion that wars must have some purpose, must be politics “by other means.”

    This book has described two functions of war, two purposes that fighting is meant to serve: providing information and solving commitment problems. These answers undergird a single theoretical approach to war termination focusing on how states seek to maximize...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 231-266)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 267-288)
  18. Index
    (pp. 289-301)