Book

Planning to fail (2019)

the US wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan

in: Bridging the gap

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Abstract

The US wars in Vietnam (1965-1973), Iraq (2003-2011), and Afghanistan (2001-present) stand out for their endurance, resource investment, human cost, and common decisional failings. Despite its planning, the US failed to meet its early objectives in every one of these conflicts. A profound myopia at four stages of intervention helps explain why the US fought; chose to increase, decrease, or end its involvement in the conflicts; encountered a progressively reduced set of options; and settled for suboptimal results. US leaders were effectively planning to fail, whatever their hopes and thoughts at the time. American decision makers struggled less than they should have when conditions permitted good choices, and then struggled more than could matter when conditions left them with only bad choices.