Mastering the Endgame of War

November 18, 2014

Hosted by Dominic Tierney, Fellow, SAIS Foreign Policy Institute and Associate Professor of Political Science, Swarthmore College


In 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor with little idea how a war against the United States could ultimately be won. Indeed, throughout history, statesmen have often plunged countries into war without thinking through the outcome. Leaders focus on the initial rounds—capturing the hill— rather than achieving strategic success. In recent years, the United States has been particularly prone to this problem. In 2003, Washington invaded Iraq without adequate planning for the post-war stabilization phase. This talk explains why the United States adopts a short-term horizon when the stakes are so high. And it outlines a strategy for mastering the endgame of war based on “reverse engineering victory” or working backward from success.

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The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)
The Johns Hopkins University