War and the Art of Governance

War and the Art of Governance

Consolidating Combat Success into Political Victory

Nadia Schadlow

Georgetown University Press, Washington, D.C. 2017, 344 pages

Book Review published on: July 7, 2017

The purpose of War and the Art of Governance, as stated in the introduction, is to “demonstrate that in all of its significant military interventions in the past, the U.S. Army has faced the need to shape the political outcome of a war.” Nadia Schadlow fulfills her stated purpose. She outlines the Army efforts—some very successful, others less so—at performing military governance operations in pursuit of concluding American wars on terms favoring the United States. She also proposes eminently logical recommendations to ensure, when again committed to war, the Army can in fact “win” the war and attain the desired political outcome.

Schadlow describes what she calls the “American Denial Syndrome” in an entire chapter of the same name. Her thorough research leads her to conclude there are four themes shaping this denial syndrome peculiar to American military operations: discomfort in a democracy with the idea of military leading political activities, American concerns about colonialism, the view that civilians ought to lead governance operations, and traditional views about what constituted war and the military profession. The effect of these themes manifest themselves, in Schadlow’s view, in the aftermath of the opening stages of operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq, where our denial over governance operations as being integral to the prosecution of war hinders American preparation and the lack of resources. The continuing effect of this syndrome hinders effective planning and perpetuates unpreparedness for the totality of fighting and winning wars. This book is not how to get civilian portions of the government more involved, the book is about preparing the Army for the inevitable “do something” period when conventional battles are over.

Schadlow presents the reader with a well-researched, logical argument based on an exploration of previous American military campaigns and operations. She carefully blends a review of the history of governance operations with a commentary on what did and did not happen in Iraq and Afghanistan. The themes she discerns from her research stands out with bold clarity. Sadly, sometimes we cannot see the obvious.

Schadlow proposes five major recommendations to overcome the “American Denial Syndrome.” Two stand out for this reviewer. The first is, “If we are to achieve our strategic objectives in a conflict, American policy makers must accept that the political dimension is indispensable across the full spectrum of war.” The second is, “American leaders must not be seduced by the idea that they can achieve policy objectives from afar by kinetic means alone.” Granted, there may be an unequal dialogue between uniformed professionals and civilian policy makers; nonetheless, this dialogue must include a discussion on the totality of making war. Uniformed senior leaders must render politically aware military advice and must truly participate in discourse on policy. It must include a recognition that to conclude a war on terms favorable to the United States, consolidating gains and reaching policy objectives requires effective execution of governance operations. This also means the burden will fall on the Army, and as such, the Army must include training in governance operations in its overall assessment of readiness.

Lessons are not learned until behavior is changed, and apparently we have not yet learned our lesson regarding what it ultimately takes to “win” wars, namely achieving the policy objectives of the war and ensuring a better peace. War is, after all, an extension of policy through other means. The means must include units, preparation, and training for consolidation of gains through execution of governance operations. Unless the United States only conducts punitive expeditions in the future governance operations are inevitable.

There is hope. The latest draft version of Field Manual 3-0, Army Operations, will contain doctrine regarding consolidation. According to Lt. Gen. Michael Lundy, commanding general of the Combined Arms Center, this manual will provide operational instruction on how to shape, prevent, win, and consolidate gains to achieve sustainable outcomes. Schadlow’s book must be read and acted upon as our Army doctrine writers think through the challenges of consolidating gain to achieve sustainable outcomes.

We are relearning the fact the war is not won until the policy objectives are achieved. The art of strategy includes discussing with policy makers on how to prosecute and sustain war. This continuing effort in our doctrine, our schools, and our practices of warfare is ably supported by reading Schadlow’s book. The art and science of campaigning includes the art and science of governance as this is where we conclude operations on terms favorable to American policy interests.

Schadlow made a major contribution to the study of war, which is necessary for the survival of the Republic.

Book Review written by: Col. Kevin C. M. Benson, PhD, U.S. Army, Retired, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas