Most Americans believe that their military is the finest in the world, a belief well-founded by several measures. Yet if the U.S. military were a sports team, based on its record in war and when called upon to defend the nation since World War II, it would be ranked in the lowest divisions.
Consider history. The United States won the “big one”: the Cold War. But every time Americans were sent to wars that it started or into combat for reasons that lacked just cause, we lost or failed. Korea was at best a draw, ended not by a peace treaty but a “temporary” truce. Our record in subsequent conflicts was too often no better, and too often worse. Vietnam was an outright and ignominious defeat in which over 58,000 Americans died. George H.W. Bush’s administration deserves great credit in the first Iraq War and in handling the collapse of the Soviet Union. But the Afghanistan intervention begun in 2001 is still going with no end in sight. The Second Iraq War, launched in 2003, was rightly termed a fiasco. Even far smaller interventions — Beirut and Grenada in 1983, Libya in 2011 — failed.
Americans need to know why. Notably, failure was not the fault of the Pentagon. My new book, Anatomy of Failure: Why America Loses Every War It Starts, analyzes and explains why this record of failure has occurred and why these setbacks, if uncorrected, will continue. Interestingly, the reasons for failure span generations of leaders and apply equally to both political parties, suggesting that somehow this predilection for failure has become part of the national DNA.