Should Deterrence Fail:
War Termination in Campaign Planning


From Parameters, Summer 1993, pp. 41-52.

Among those who occupy themselves with matters of military strategy and operational art, war termination has been a neglected topic both for academic study and, more particularly, for doctrinal development.[1] The American strategic culture, with its tendency to view war and peace as wholly distinct states, has left little room for consideration of war termination as a bridge between the two. Moreover, our strategic thinking has for good reason given preference to deterrence, while our operational thinking has focused more on concepts of warfighting that would allow us to "win" without resort to nuclear escalation. Recent events, however, suggest that discussion of war termination should perhaps be assigned a higher priority in our thinking about strategic and operational matters.[2]

This is not an essay about the Gulf War against Iraq, but growing dissatisfaction with the apparent outcome of that war suggests a need for more refined thinking about how we end our involvement in wars.[3] Nor do we need to refer to the Gulf War to find instances where Americans were dissatisfied with the end state resulting from a particular war; in fact, postwar debate over a given war's ending has always interested Americans more than prewar debate. As our national military strategy evolves away from a fixation on global war with the Soviets toward a focus on ethnic and other forms of regional conflict, war termination will likely become an increasingly salient issue.

As the link between a war's end state and the post-hostilities phase, conflict termination poses one set of difficult issues for the grand strategist and different but equally challenging questions for the operational commander. In the broadest sense, the question for the theater commander is how to connect military means to the larger political objectives of a conflict. As it relates to campaign planning, the issue is this: how does the operational commander, generally a theater commander-in-chief, translate the political objectives of a conflict into military conditions to be achieved as the product of a campaign?

Our current operational doctrines display a serious blind spot with regard to the issue of conflict termination. The argument offered here is simple and straightforward: war termination deserves equal billing with other aspects of the campaign planning process and should be guided by a set of principles or guidelines which, like other dimensions of that process, are best considered in the earliest stages. Existing strategic theory, leavened by the empiricism of historical example, provides clues to those guidelines on conflict termination that should become part of our operational art and doctrine.[4]

A Military Role?

It is not self-evident that the business (or, more exactly, the politics) of ending a war is one which properly admits the military commander. Paralleling a Western tendency to see a clear division between war and peace, many observers tend also to see an equally sharp demarcation between political and "purely military" activities. Under such a view, the process of war termination displays greater political than military content and, thus, is more properly the province of civilian policymakers rather than military leaders. During the Franco-Prussian War, for example, Moltke urged upon the German Crown Prince his view that, even following the fall of Paris, Prussian military forces should continue to "fight this nation of liars to the very end . . . [so that] we can dictate whatever peace we like." But when asked by the Crown Prince for the longer-term political implications of such an approach, Moltke replied merely, "I am concerned only with military matters."[5]

Both theory and practice, however, suggest the interrelationship between warfighting and the post-hostilities result. The chaotic aftermath of the 1989 US invasion of Panama makes the point: a decapitated government initially incapable of managing basic governmental functions, a sizable refugee problem, and a widespread lapse in civil law and order all threatened to mock the attainment of the operation's stated objectives.

The process of war termination should be viewed, then, as the bridge over which armed conflict transitions into more peaceful forms of interaction. War termination may, in some circumstances, lead initially to a cease-fire followed by negotiations during which the original political objectives are pursued at lower cost. The process of war termination displays a strong military as well as political component. To deny the political component is to risk making war something other than the servant of policy; equally, to deny the military dimension is to risk failure to attain the policy aims for which the war was fought. As William Staudenmaier correctly observed, "If the goal of the political decisionmaker is to resolve the political issues for which the war was begun, then the emphasis of military strategy should shift from its narrow preoccupation with destroying enemy forces to a consideration of how military means may be used to resolve political issues."[6]

Military strategy properly concerns itself with applying military means to attain political ends; as these ends go beyond the mere destruction of enemy forces, it is equally appropriate that our operational doctrine address matters of war termination.

The State of the Art

In the past, consideration of war termination has centered almost exclusively at the strategic level. Such studies have typically identified various patterns by which wars end. These patterns may include: attrition or exhaustion of one side; capitulation by one party; imposition of a settlement by a third party; or the internal dissolution of one of the belligerents.[7] Clausewitz reminds us, however, that political interactions do not cease with the onset of war, and either implicit or explicit bargaining and negotiation--Schelling's "diplomacy of violence"--occur as an inherent and continuing aspect of war, extending even beyond the cessation of hostilities. Empirical data bear out this observation: historically, fully two-thirds of interstate conflicts have ended as a result of negotiations either before or after an armistice.[8]

Classical strategists have thus typically viewed conflict termination as a process of bargaining or negotiation. From this perspective, such theorists have generally agreed upon several broad principles designed to steer the process of war termination toward successful outcomes, including:

From this broader strategic perspective, military forces contribute to conflict termination not only by direct measures designed to achieve particular policy objectives, but also by supporting the tacit endgame bargaining process through infliction of losses on the adversary that affect his cost-versus-benefit calculus and create an incentive to cease hostilities.

Transitioning from the strategic to the operational level, one might expect to find somewhat less ethereal guidance on the incorporation of war termination considerations into campaign planning. However, to the extent current policy or doctrinal publications address conflict termination at all, they offer little to the operational planner that is of any greater use than the classical strategic precepts. The National Military Strategy addresses the issue only in the broadest strokes by stating that, should deterrence fail, we seek to "end conflict on terms favorable to the United States, its interests, and its allies."[10]

Nor does the armed forces' principal doctrinal publication on joint warfare offer guidance on how to translate this national objective into operational terms.[11] In fact, Joint Pub 1's conceptual division of the joint campaign planning process into four distinct parts (the operational concept, the logistic concept, the deployment concept, and the organizational concept) is perhaps most striking for what it omits--that is, any explicit reference to war termination--than for what it includes.

A review of service doctrines reveals little more in the way of operational insight into the problem of war termination. In suggesting fundamental questions that define the nature of operational art, the Army's keystone doctrinal manual hints at least indirectly at the war termination issue: "What military conditions must be produced in the theater of war or operations to achieve the strategic goal?"[12] That fundamental question cannot be fully answered without addressing equally crucial considerations related to war termination. Having posed the central question, however, the Army's doctrine stops short in at least two respects: it fails to offer guidance on how to relate military conditions to strategic aims; and, equally important, it falls silent on the question of how those military conditions serve the transition from war to peace, a fundamental aspect of conflict termination.

Marine Corps doctrine similarly recognizes the importance of war termination considerations in the campaign planning process:

As with the Army's operational doctrine, however, Marine Corps doctrine does little more than cite the necessity to determine a "desired end state" that is somehow related to larger strategic purposes. In contrast to their treatment of, for example, logistical, deployment, or organizational concepts, neither joint nor service doctrine currently suggests principles according to which war termination should be integrated into the campaign planning process. To ensure that our operational planning effectively serves the requirements of our national military strategy, this doctrinal gap is one we can ill afford to ignore.

Expanding the Doctrinal Frontier

A concern for war termination suggests three fundamental requirements that our joint and separate service operational doctrines must address. First, conflict termination doctrine must assist planners in defining military conditions and relating those conditions to strategic aims; second, it must contribute to the tacit bargaining process inherent in the terminal phases of a war; and finally, it must offer guidance on how best to make the transition from active hostilities back toward a state of peace. Let us discuss these in turn.

Since it is highly dependent upon the nature of the conflict scenario, defining terminal military conditions that relate to overall strategic aims--the first of our fundamental requirements--is perhaps the most challenging of these tasks. The difficulty of the task, however, also underscores its importance. Morton Halperin asserts that, at the strategic level, "unspecified, non-rigid objectives increase the chances of arriving at an acceptable compromise and eliminate the domestic costs which would stem from a failure to gain a stated objective."[14] The American experience in Lebanon in 1983, however, suggests that flaccid strategic objectives are perhaps more likely to produce confusion and failure at the operational level. Clarity of strategic objectives is the essential precondition to the adequate definition of operational military objectives; there is, after all, little to be gained by confusing or deceiving ourselves. Of course, it must be recognized that conditions defined early in a war--ideally, even prior to the outbreak of hostilities--may change as events unfold. Nonetheless, the process of explicitly and clearly defining terminal conditions is an important one, since it requires careful dialogue between civilian (strategic) and military (operational) leadership which may, in turn, offer some greater assurance that the defined end state is both politically acceptable and militarily attainable.[15]

Our second requirement for doctrine explicitly recognizes that war termination is a game within a game involving aspects of bargaining and negotiation. Warfighting doctrine must be cognizant of this less visible aspect of war termination which aims at the opponent's decision process. Simply stated, by manipulating the cost-versus-gain equation, a commander's operational decisions can influence an opponent's strategic decisionmaking. In the recent Gulf War, for instance, the US Central Command's sweeping envelopment maneuver was brilliantly effective not only because it neutralized the Republican Guard forces, the Iraqi army's center of gravity. It also placed a significant allied force in position to threaten Baghdad, thus creating added incentive for Iraq to agree to an early cease-fire. An operational decision had affected an opponent's strategic calculus by creating additional allied leverage.

At the operational level, then, the military contribution should serve to increase (or at least not decrease) the leverage available to national decisionmakers during the terminal phases of a war. This task becomes more difficult when a war goes badly and the initial objectives are not attained. Even a "totally defeated" power such as Japan in August 1945, however, retains some leverage: the possibility that Japan might not submit cooperatively to Allied occupation provided an inducement for the Allied Powers to modify their terms of "unconditional surrender" to include retention of the Japanese Emperor.

Lastly, recalling the dog in the old joke who chases the fire truck (has he considered what he will do should he catch it?), our doctrine on conflict termination should cause us to think through the implications of successfully attaining our objectives. It should suggest ways to make the transition from battlefield success to a post-hostilities environment in a manner that preserves and reinforces our political objectives. During this aspect of the war termination process, the role of various civilian national or international agencies may become increasingly prominent, and particular responsibilities may transfer from the military to the civilian domain at this stage. Various civil affairs functions, especially refugee control and humanitarian assistance, come to mind as examples in which a transition toward greater civil relief agency involvement may be prudent.

As the bridge between war and peace, war termination doctrine should address the issue of when and how to move from a military-dominant role in the post-hostilities phase. History is replete with examples of warfare that solved one set of problems only to give rise to other, if less acute, difficulties. Both the Gulf War and the US invasion of Panama typify the civil-military challenges likely to be a common product of regional war: providing food, shelter, and medical care to refugees; reinstating civil order; restoring civil government. Our doctrine must recognize that effective war termination must link the war-fighting phases of a conflict with the post-hostilities environment, which may well require tapping into the resources, expertise, and authorities of agencies outside the Department of Defense. Like planning in the low-intensity conflict arena, then, formulation of war termination plans can truly be effective only if accomplished in an interagency context.[16]

War Termination in the Korean Case

For those who have considered the issue of conflict termination at the strategic level, the Korean War has often provided a common basis for discussion of problems inherent in the process. And at the operational level as well, the Korean case brings to light many of these requirements for war termination doctrine.

The Korean War had clearly entered its terminal phase by June 1951; by that date, an informed, objective observer could certainly have predicted the general outline of the eventual outcome.[17] MacArthur's brilliant stroke at Inchon in September 1950 had given United Nations forces the upper hand and had prompted an upward revision in US war aims from restoration of the status quo ante bellum along the 38th parallel toward reunification of the entire peninsula under South Korean control. Pursuit of this expanded objective triggered massive Chinese intervention in November, prompting MacArthur's laconic comment, "We face an entirely new war."

By March 1951, however, the Chinese offensive had effectively been blunted, and an objective observer could certainly have concluded that the Chinese and North Koreans, having thrown their best punch, had been denied the opportunity to achieve their maximum political objective of unification of the peninsula under communist rule. As the United Nations pursued its spring offensive, the Eighth Army Commander, General James Van Fleet, would later comment that "in June 1951 we had the Chinese whipped. They were definitely gone. They were in awful shape. During the last week in May we captured more than 10,000 prisoners."[18]

Likewise, while the United States had not necessarily been denied its maximum objective, the evident costs of pursuing reunification under a South Korean regime, together with growing anxiety over Soviet intentions in Europe, caused the Truman Administration to step back from that expanded war aim. Restoration of the 38th parallel accompanied by an armistice at an early date became the principal American objective. Throughout the 24-month stalemate that followed, continued hostilities produced only marginal adjustments in each side's position along the 38th parallel, while indirect and direct bargaining addressed issues that were largely ancillary to the original war aims of each. Mindful of MacArthur's earlier misfortune, Van Fleet elected to halt the United Nations offensive in mid-June along the 38th parallel, defending this decision in his memoirs as follows: "The seizure of the land between the truce line and the Yalu would have merely meant the seizure of more real estate."

Bernard Brodie, among others, has argued that Eighth Army's operational decision to halt its spring offensive at mid-peninsula forfeited an opportunity to terminate the war at an early date:

Negotiations, commingled with intermittent military action by both sides, continued fitfully for two years. Not until Eisenhower credibly threatened in February 1953 to resume the United Nations offensive with the use of nuclear weapons did the Chinese truly begin to bargain in earnest.[20] By July 1953 both sides had agreed to an armistice under terms not significantly different from those proposed two years earlier. The terminal phase of the Korean War illustrates the potentially adverse consequences that may attend a campaign that fails to abide by the three fundamental requirements we have set out here for terminating a conflict.

If by June 1951 restoration of the 38th parallel accompanied by an armistice at an early date had become the principal American strategic objective, the historical record does not indicate an effort by planners at either the operational or strategic level to define explicit, observable conditions that would achieve this strategic aim in its totality. Restoration of the 38th parallel speaks for itself, but what of the other two components: a cessation of hostilities (an armistice) and a time constraint (an early date)? What specific military conditions might have achieved all three dimensions of the strategic objective? As opposed to a positive statement of specific operational conditions that should be sought, planners seemed more concerned with framing operational conditions in a negative sense--that is, defining what should not be done (e.g. do not go back to the Yalu), reflecting concerns that the result to be avoided would be either ineffectual (just "the seizure of more real estate") or counterproductive (inciting Chinese or Russian escalation). Decisionmakers seemed guided by a belief that holding the 38th parallel would over some ill-defined period of time result in some unspecified level of increased casualties or other costs to the Chinese that would eventually produce an acceptable truce. What level of costs and what period of time? Whence would come the leverage necessary to compel termination on terms favorable to us?

Clearly, answers to such questions cannot always, if ever, be obtained with certainty, but by defining military conditions with a high degree of specificity, operational planners allow civilian leaders the opportunity both to examine critically the assumptions that underpin the plan and to assess whether the military conditions will, in fact, accomplish their intended political objectives. Again, we underscore the importance of communication between military and civilian leaders in order to ensure congruence between operational outcomes and intended political objectives. Defining both strategic and operational objectives in explicit, unambiguous terms will do much to ensure this congruence.

If one accepts, as this writer does, Brodie's view that the US Eighth Army erred in failing to press its June 1951 offensive beyond the pre-hostilities demarcation line, perhaps northward to the peninsula's narrow neck, the consequences of that omission--12,000 additional US casualties over the following two years--provide a compelling argument for the advantages that accrue if military forces are used to gain greater leverage during the war termination process. In the regional wars likely to be the dominant pattern for the foreseeable future, adversaries are prone to seek the attainment of limited objectives, with the understanding that some trade-offs are likely to be required on both sides if the conflict is to remain limited. As in Korea, Vietnam, and the more recent Persian Gulf conflict, war termination becomes a contest in which political leverage borne of battlefield success is the dominant theme. This may at times require planners to define operational objectives that exceed bottom-line political objectives in order to gain leverage that will promote expeditious termination of hostilities and the effective transition to a post-hostilities phase.

Some Guidelines for Campaign Planners

The central argument throughout this essay has been that the current gap in our operational doctrines regarding conflict termination seriously hampers our ability to plan effective military campaigns. Working from commonly accepted war termination precepts at the strategic level and armed with an appreciation of war termination issues in recent conflicts, let us propose some tentative first steps toward an appropriate doctrine in this arena.

. Identify a distinct war termination phase in the campaign planning process.[21] Simply stated, war termination is too fundamental an issue to be subordinated as a lesser included component of some other aspect of the campaign planning process.

. Emphasize a regressive (i.e. backward-planning) approach to campaign development. Ever mindful of Fred Iklé's caution that decisionmakers not take the first step toward war without considering the last, every aspect of a campaign plan--target selection, rules of engagement, psychological operations, to cite but a few examples--should be designed and evaluated according to contributions made or effect upon the explicitly defined end state to be achieved. This can be accomplished most efficiently in a regressive planning sequence.

. Define the operational conditions to be produced during the terminal phase of the campaign in explicit, unambiguous terms. The absence of definition or detail in operational objectives may produce unintended consequences in the course of a campaign. More important, the process of defining operational objectives with a high degree of clarity should prompt increased communication between the civilian and military leadership that will help to ensure congruence between operational objectives and the larger policy aims of a campaign.

. Consider establishing (in consultation with appropriate civilian decisionmakers) operational objectives that exceed the baseline political objectives of the campaign. Remember that the war termination process is a part of a larger implicit bargaining process, even while hostilities continue, and that the military contribution can significantly affect the leverage available to influence that process. This may include the seizure of territory or other high-value objectives whose possession would enhance our government's ability to secure a favorable political outcome.

. Consider how efforts to eliminate or degrade your opponent's command and control may affect, positively or negatively, your efforts to achieve particular objectives. Will your opponent be able to effect a cease-fire or otherwise control the actions of his forces? Efforts to target command and control facilities should carefully consider the trade-offs involved: at what point might the military advantages to be gained from targeting command and control be outweighed by potentially adverse effects on the goal of stopping the fighting?

. Consider the manner in which the tempo of the terminal phase of an operational campaign affects the ability to achieve established policy objectives. Once a campaign has reached the point of irreversibility, experience suggests that aggressive exploitation is most likely to secure the desired objectives at lower costs. A high operational tempo continues the pressure on the adversary and makes it more difficult for him to engage in destructive acts that raise the costs of your victory. Witness, for example, the wanton Iraqi destruction of Kuwaiti oil fields in the Gulf War. At other times, depending upon one's knowledge of the enemy's decision process, it may be prudent to consider pauses or break-points in the terminal phases of a campaign to allow the opponent's decisionmaking machinery opportunities to cease fighting. This may be especially important where degraded command and control hampers an opponent's ability to consider and communicate a decision to quit.[22] In either circumstance, operational tempo is clearly a key consideration in war termination.

. View war termination not as the end of hostilities but as the transition to a new post-conflict phase characterized by both civil and military problems. This consideration implies an especially important role for various civil affairs functions. It also implies a requirement to plan the interagency transfer of certain responsibilities to national, international, or nongovernmental agencies. Effective battle hand-off requires planning and coordination before the fact.

Viewed independently, none of these proposed guidelines appears startling; some will even suggest, quite correctly, that these prescriptions are, like so many other aspects of warfighting doctrine, more exemplary of common sense than of any particular revealed wisdom. What is startling, however, is the absence of any fully developed approach to conflict termination in our current warfighting doctrines.

In closing, it seems worth repeating our refrain that the war termination component of a campaign plan represents a transitional phase: a transition from war to peace; a transition from a military-dominant role toward a civilian-dominant role; a transition from a set of circumstances and problems generally familiar to operational planners toward others with which they may be decidedly less familiar. These points reinforce the importance of a high level of dialogue and coordination between civilian and military decisionmakers regarding the conflict termination process. As Fred Iklé notes, "In preparing a major military operation, military leaders and civilian officials can effectively work together . . . to create a well-meshed, integrated plan."[23] The ability of military leaders to contribute to that joint planning process will in part depend upon the extent to which they have carefully considered the challenges posed by the war termination problem in the period before deterrence fails.


1. Neglected, but not ignored. War termination studies were briefly fashionable in the formative years of nuclear war theorizing, the premier examples being Thomas Schelling, Arms and Influence (New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, 1966), and Morton Halperin, Limited War in the Nuclear Age (New York: John Wiley, 1963). Interest in the topic, at least at the strategic level, was resurrected following the American retreat from Vietnam, with Fred Iklé's Every War Must End (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1971) representing one of the most thoughtful contributions to the subject during this period. For a recent treatment, see Michael R. Rampy, "The Endgame: Conflict Termination and Post-Conflict Activities," Military Review, 72 (October 1992), 42-54.

2. Studies of war termination have also been colored by ideological considerations, with more conservative viewers espousing MacArthur's abhorrence of compromise: "In war, there is no substitute for victory." Those of a more liberal persuasion have likewise found war termination studies, especially those relating to strategic nuclear warfare, equally unpalatable since they feared that "thinking about the unthinkable" might in fact make the unthinkable more likely.

3. For an early argument that the United States failed to win a "decisive victory" in the Gulf War, see U.S. News & World Report Staff, Triumph Without Victory (New York: Times Books/Random House, 1992), pp. 399-415.

4. While recognizing that principles of war termination may vary as one moves along the spectrum of conflict from low to high intensity, we focus here principally at the mid-intensity level. Moreover, at the mid-intensity level, one can distinguish between terminal campaigns, which seek war termination as an end state, and enabling campaigns, which serve some intermediate strategic objective short of termination. In World War II, Operation Overlord, the Allied cross-channel attack and drive toward central Germany, provides an example of a terminal campaign aimed at ending the war in Europe. Overlord's predecessor, Operation Torch in 1942, aimed at expelling the Axis powers from French North Africa and offered no pretense that its success would end the war. Rather, as an enabling campaign, it served the strategic aim of engaging the Axis forces early on while allowing time to marshal the manpower and materiel required to mount Overlord. Our discussion here centers on the terminal campaign.

5. Michael Howard, The Franco-Prussian War (New York: Collier Books, 1969), p. 436.

6. William O. Staudenmaier, "Conflict Termination in the Nuclear Era," in Conflict Termination and Military Strategy: Coercion, Persuasion and War, ed. Stephen J. Cimbala and Keith A. Dunn (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1987), p. 30.

7. Stephen J. Cimbala, "The Endgame and War," in Cimbala and Dunn, p. 1-2.

8. Paul R. Pillar, Negotiating Peace: War Termination as a Bargaining Process (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1983), p. 25. Pillar's observation is drawn from a survey of 142 conflicts over the period 1800-1980. His analysis suggests that 68 percent of interstate conflicts, and 48 percent of all categories of conflict, have ended through some process involving negotiation between belligerent parties.

9. Gregory F. Treverton, "Ending Major Coalition Wars," in Cimbala and Dunn, p. 93. From this perspective, war termination has, generally of necessity, been viewed as a rational process admitting little room for non-rational factors such as anger, a desire for revenge, concerns with prestige, etc. For discussion of non-rational factors in war termination, see Michael I. Handel, War Termination--A Critical Survey (Jerusalem: Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem, 1978), and Iklé, Every War Must End.

10. Department of Defense, National Military Strategy of the United States (Washington: GPO, January 1992), p. 5. Note also that the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act now requires the Secretary of Defense to provide the military services "written policy guidance for the preparation and review of contingency plans." Published annually, the Contingency Planning Guidance provides the Secretary of Defense, among other things, an opportunity to go beyond the general language of the national military strategy and prescribe more specific requirements for war termination; these, in turn, are transcribed into the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan, the document which transmits operational planning guidance to the theater Commanders-in-Chief.

11. Department of Defense, Joint Warfare of the U.S. Armed Forces, Joint Pub 1 (Washington: GPO, November 1991). Reference is to Chapter IV, "Joint Warfare." However, in the current draft version of Joint Pub 3-0, Doctrine for Joint Operations, there is a brief section titled "Conflict and War Termination."

12. Department of the Army, Operations, Field Manual 100-5 (Washington: GPO, May 1986), p 10. It should also be noted that the 1986 version of FM 100-5, which sets out the Army's AirLand Battle doctrine, is currently being revised. The successor doctrine, AirLand Operations, is expected to deal more explicitly with issues related to conflict termination. See Colonel James R. McDonough, "Building the New FM 100-5: Process and Product," Military Review, 72 (October 1991), 12.

13. Department of the Navy, US Marine Corps, Campaigning, FMFM 1-1 (Washington: GPO, January 1990), pp. 33-35.

14. Halperin, p. 130.

15. Perhaps more illustrative of a military "requirement" than an "objective," McNamara's definition in the early 1960s of "assured destruction" (20 to 25 percent of the Soviet population and 50 percent of its industrial capacity) represents the sort of judgment call and precision that ultimately can come only from civilian authorities. See Alain C. Enthoven and K. Wayne Smith, How Much Is Enough? Shaping the Defense Program, 1961-1969 (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), p. 175.

16. See John T. Fishel, Liberation, Occupation, and Rescue: War Termination and Desert Storm (Carlisle Barracks, Pa.: USAWC Strategic Studies Institute, 31 August 1992), pp. 66-67.

17. Gay Hammerman defines war termination as beginning at "the point at which an informed, objective outside observer could predict the outcome of the war." Hammerman notes the coincidence between this and Clausewitz's concept of the "point of irreversibility"--the moment at which a commander's reserves become inferior to those of his adversary. See Gay M. Hammerman, Conventional Attrition and Battle Termination Criteria: A Study of War Termination (Loring, Va.: Defense Nuclear Agency Rpt. No. DNA-TR-81-224, August 1982), p. 11.

18. Bernard Brodie, War and Politics (New York: Macmillan, 1973), p. 92.

19. Ibid., p. 94. Brodie suggests that in large part the offensive was halted in June 1951 because the Chinese had hinted through intermediaries of their interest in an armistice.

20. For a perceptive analysis of the role nuclear weapons played in terminating the Korean War, see Halperin, Limited War in the Nuclear Age, pp. 47-50.

21. Indeed, the conflict termination phase may itself be divided into sub-phases reflecting, for example, the transition from military to civilian preeminence as the process unfolds.

22. Note, for example, after the capture of Napoleon III at Sedan, the difficulty Bismarck encountered in locating a French "government" duly empowered to negotiate an armistice. See Howard, The Franco-Prussian War, pp. 230-34.

As a counterpoint, critics have justifiably suggested that, as with the 1972 bombing halts in Vietnam, such pauses may allow an opponent to renew his resources or, alternatively, may signal a lack of resolve--or both. See, e.g., Colonel Harry G. Summers, Jr., On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War (Novato, Calif.: Presidio Press, 1982), pp. 156-57. Ironclad principles are not to be found here. Had seizure of Baghdad been an allied objective during the Gulf War, for example, a strong case can be made that the Allies would have been well-advised to communicate that intent clearly to the Iraqis, and momentarily pause outside Baghdad in an effort to negotiate its surrender prior to incurring the costs (on both sides) inevitably associated with either the siege or offensive campaign that would have been required.

23. Iklé, Every War Must End, p. 85.

Lieutenant Colonel James W. Reed serves as a Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. His previous tours include command of a mechanized infantry battalion at Fort Polk, Louisiana, and assignment as a strategic planner in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans. A 1992 graduate of the Naval War College, he holds an A.B. from the University of Michigan and an M.A.L.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He coedited and contributed to Defense Reform Debate: Issues and Analysis (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1984).

Reviewed 26 May 1999. Please send comments or corrections to