The Limits of U. S. Military Capability: Lessons from Vietnam and Iraq

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Overview

Political scientist James H. Lebovic establishes that the size, strength, flexibility, and adaptability of the U.S. military cannot ensure victory in asymmetrical conflicts.

In The Limits of U.S. Military Capability, Lebovic shows how political and psychological factors trumped U.S. military superiority in Vietnam and Iraq, where inappropriate strategies, low stakes, and unrealistic goals mired the United States military in protracted, no-win conflicts.

Lebovic contends that the United States is at a particular disadvantage when fighting a counterinsurgency without the full support of the host government; when leveraging various third parties (the adversary's foreign allies, societal leaders, and indigenous populations); when attempting to build coalitions and nations while involved in combat; and when sustaining government and public support at home when costs rise and benefits decline.

Lebovic cautions against involving the U.S. military in operations without first considering U.S. stakes and suggests that the military take a less-is-more approach when choosing to employ force. Ambitious goals bring higher costs, unexpected results, diminished options, and a greater risk of failure.

Rejecting the heavy-handed approach that is typical of most comparisons between the Vietnam and Iraq wars, The Limits of U.S. Military Capability carefully assesses evidence to develop lessons applicable to other conflicts—especially the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Perspectives on Politics - Robert Jervis

This is an excellent study.

H-Diplo - Robert J. Lieber

Lebovic undertakes a thoughtful and detailed study of the Vietnam War and extracts the similarities and lessons from the experience for the United States' recent role in Iraq.

H-Diplo/ISSF Roundtable Reviews - Andrew Bennett

James Lebovic gives by far the most complete comparison to date, drawing on a wide range of well-chosen sources and acknowledging the differences between the two conflicts as well as emphasizing their similarities.

Review of Politics - Jeffrey Record

A solid and insightful book

On Point - Michael J. Piellusch

A captivating analysis... Lebovic's book is a valuable compilation of facts and scholarly narrative that helps to put two difficult wars into historical perspective.

Journal of Strategic Studies - Gregory A. Daddis

Because Lebovic has approached his subject with great care, the resulting work offers lucid insights into the problems the United States has faced in applying military power abroad.

Intelligence and National Security - Col. Gian Gentile

When it comes to US interests and military capabilities, instead of reading uplifting stories... policymakers today ought to read Lebovic for keen analysis that exposes the challenges of trying to do what are perhaps noble, but unrealistic things at the cost of American blood and treasure.

Journal of Military History - Jerry Lenaburg

Lebovic admirably weaves together an analysis [of U.S.-Host Nation interactions] showing how all these factors determine the success of supporting a weak, ineffective, or corrupt friendly government facing an insurgent challenge.

Choice

Recommended.

Perspectives on Politics
This is an excellent study.

— Robert Jervis

Choice

Recommended.

H-Diplo
Lebovic undertakes a thoughtful and detailed study of the Vietnam War and extracts the similarities and lessons from the experience for the United States' recent role in Iraq.

— Robert J. Lieber

H-Diplo/ISSF Roundtable Reviews
James Lebovic gives by far the most complete comparison to date, drawing on a wide range of well-chosen sources and acknowledging the differences between the two conflicts as well as emphasizing their similarities.

— Andrew Bennett

Review of Politics
A solid and insightful book

— Jeffrey Record

On Point
A captivating analysis... Lebovic's book is a valuable compilation of facts and scholarly narrative that helps to put two difficult wars into historical perspective.

— Michael J. Piellusch

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801894725
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 5/26/2010
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

James H. Lebovic is a professor of political science and international affairs at the George Washington University. He is the author of Deterring International Terrorism and Rogue States: U.S. National Security Policy after 9/11; Foregone Conclusions: U.S. Weapons Acquisition in the Post–Cold War Transition; and Deadly Dilemmas: Deterrence in U.S. Nuclear Strategy.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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