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Book Launch: Anatomy of Failure: Why America Loses Every War It Starts

  • CSIS 1616 Rhode Island Avenue Northwest Washington, DC, 20036 United States (map)

Book Launch: Anatomy of Failure: Why America Loses Every War It Starts

Why, since the end of World War II, has the United States either lost every war it started or failed in every military intervention it prosecuted?

Harlan Ullman’s new book addresses this most disturbing question, one Americans would never think of considering because this record of failure has been largely hidden in plain sight or forgotten with the passage of time.

The most straightforward answer is that presidents and administrations have consistently failed to use sound strategic thinking and lacked sufficient knowledge or understanding of the circumstances prior to deciding whether to employ force. To succeed, sound strategic thinking must transcend or minimize the vagaries of politics, ideologies, simplistic campaign slogans, wishful ideas, and the inexperience that have handicapped so many of the nation’s commanders in chief over the past six decades and almost certainly will affect future presidents.

Ullman makes this case with an in-depth analysis of the records of presidents from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama and Donald Trump in using force or starting wars. His recommended solutions begin with a “brains-based” approach to sound strategic thinking to mitigate one of the major causes of failure—the inexperience of too many of the nation’s commanders-in-chief. Ullman reinforces his argument using autobiographical vignettes that provide a human dimension and insight into the reasons for failure, in some cases making public previously unknown history.

The clarion call of Anatomy of Failure is that sound strategic thinking and judgment and sufficient knowledge and understanding of of the circumstance that may lead to using force are vital. Without them, failure is virtually guaranteed.


Event Details

  • Date: December 12, 2017

  • When: 5:00 - 6:30 PM

  • Where: CSIS HQ

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