The recent conclusion to the war in Afghanistan — America’s longest and one of its most frustrating — serves as a vivid reminder of the unpredictability and tragedy of war.
In this timely book, esteemed military expert Michael O’Hanlon examines America’s major conflicts since the mid-1800s: the Civil War, the two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Now updated with a new preface that addresses the Revolutionary War and brief observations on three other conflicts in U. S. History, O’Hanlon’s unique book — combining brevity and clarity with a broad conceptual approach —serves as an important treatment of America’s military history at the strategic and theater of operations levels. It should appeal to students of security studies and military history at universities and war colleges as well as generalists. He addresses profound questions. How successful has the United States been when it waged these wars? Were the wars avoidable? Did America’s leaders know what they were getting into when they committed to war? And what lessons does history offer for future leaders contemplating war?
O’Hanlon looks for overarching trends and themes, along with the lessons for the military strategists and political leaders of today and tomorrow, including the observation that war is usually far more difficult than expected, and that its outcomes are rarely predictable.
Michael O’Hanlon holds the Phil Knight Chair in Defense and Strategy at Brookings, where he also is director of research and director of the Talbott Center in the Foreign Policy program. He teaches at Columbia and Georgetown universities and elsewhere. Earlier in his career, O’Hanlon worked for the Congressional Budget Office, the Peace Corps, the “gravity group” at Princeton University, and dairy farms in upstate New York. He is the author of some 20 books, most recently The Art of War in an Age of Peace: U.S. Grand Strategy and Resolute Restraint (Yale, 2021).
Preface to the Updated Edition
Preface and Acknowledgments
1 The American Civil War
2 World War I
3 World War II
4 Korea and Vietnam
5 America’s Wars in the Middle East since 1990
6 Three Lessons