Who Wins?: Predicting Strategic Success and Failure in Armed Conflict

Who Wins?: Predicting Strategic Success and Failure in Armed Conflict

by Patricia Sullivan
     
 

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Despite their immense war-fighting capacity, the five most powerful states in the international system have failed to attain their primary political objective in almost 40% of their military operations against weak state and non-state targets since 1945. Why are states with tremendous military might so often unable to attain their objectives when they use force

Overview

Despite their immense war-fighting capacity, the five most powerful states in the international system have failed to attain their primary political objective in almost 40% of their military operations against weak state and non-state targets since 1945. Why are states with tremendous military might so often unable to attain their objectives when they use force against weaker adversaries? More broadly, under what conditions can states use military force to attain their political objectives and what conditions limit the utility of military force as a policy instrument? Can we predict the outcome of a war before the fighting begins?

Scholars and military leaders have argued that poor military strategy choices, domestic political constraints on democratic governments, or failure to commit sufficient resources to the war effort can explain why strong states lose small wars. In contrast, Who Wins? by Patricia L. Sullivan argues that the key to understanding strategic success in war lies in the nature of the political objectives states pursue through the use of military force. Sullvian does not deny the importance of war-fighting capacity, military strategies, or resolve as determinants of war outcomes. But she provides both a coherent argument and substantial empirical evidence that the effects of these factors are dependent on the nature of the belligerents' political objectives.

The theory's predictions about the conditions under which states are able to attain their political objectives through the use of military force are tested against the most widely accepted alternative explanations of war outcomes with an abundance of historical data on violent conflicts. The results support Sullivan's argument and challenge both existing theories and conventional wisdom about the impact of factors like military strength, resolve, regime type, and war-fighting strategies on war outcomes.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Sullivan convincingly argues that war aims of interstate-dispute initiators and internal-conflict interveners play a more determinative role in who wins an armed conflict than most factors conventionally considered... Qualitative and quantitative data provide supporting evidence, creating a good example of mixed-methods research. Sullivan writes clearly throughout, making the book accessible beyond scholars and practitioners... Sullivan has written a thought-provoking book that opens new avenues of research." —CHOICE

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199878352
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
07/16/2012
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
192
Sales rank:
998,948
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

Patricia L. Sullivan is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Peace, War, and Defense in the Department of Public Policy at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She is the recipient of the 2011 SPIA Excellence in Teaching Award, the 2004-2006 Walter Isard Dissertation Award, given every two years by the Peace Science Society International, and the 2005 Dissertation Award from the Committee on the Analysis of Military Operations and Strategy (CAMOS), an affiliated group of the American Political Science Association.

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