Despite its planning, the United States has failed to meet its early objectives in almost every one of its major, post-World War II conflicts. Of these troubled efforts, the US wars in Vietnam (1965-73), Iraq (2003-11), and Afghanistan (2001-present) stand out for their endurance, resource investment, human cost, and common decisional failings. US Policymakers focus on short-term policy goals, instruments, constraints, and guidelines -- proximate objectives, presumed tasks and tactics, "available" resources, and time schedules -- at the expense of overarching goals. A profound myopia, at four stages of intervention, helps explain why the United States fought; chose to increase, decrease, or end its involvement in a conflict; encountered a progressively reduced set of options; and ultimately settled for suboptimal results.
James H. Lebovic is Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at The George Washington University. He has published widely on defense policy, deterrence strategy, arms control, military budgets and procurement, foreign aid, democracy and human rights, international conflict, cooperation in international organizations, and military intervention. He is the author of six books including Planning to Fail: The US Wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan (Oxford University Press, Forthcoming), Flawed Logics: Strategic Nuclear Arms Control from Truman to Obama (Johns Hopkins University, 2013), The Limits of US Military Capability: Lessons from Vietnam and Iraq (Johns Hopkins University, 2010), and Deterring International Terrorism and Rogue States: US National Security Policy after 9/11 (Routledge, 2007). Until February 2017, he served as chair of the International Security Studies Section of the International Studies Association.