No More Land Wars?

Small Wars Journal, (August 28, 2014)

6 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2014

See all articles by Amitai Etzioni

Amitai Etzioni

The George Washington University

Date Written: August 29, 2014


There is a growing consensus that the United States should not engage in another major land war in Asia or Africa, a view encapsulated in the catchphrase "no more boots on the ground." Indeed, currently the US is either refraining from taking military action, or is limiting itself to drone strikes, covert operations, "capacity building" of local forces, and advising. This consensus, we shall see, is based in part on a fundamental misunderstanding of the course of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, the US won both easily, quickly, suffering few casualties and low costs — causing rather limited collateral damage. Both campaigns ended up badly (although major analysts differ with regard to the question of how badly and what exactly caused the unfavorable outcomes) once the US decided to engage in nation building, helping these nations build stable, democratic, US-friendly regimes. There are many reasons for the US not to engage in a war in Syria or Iraq, or avoid placing boots on the ground to fight Islamic terrorist or insurgent groups in Yemen or Africa. However, the argument that the US could not win such wars with much difficulty is not supported, I will next show, by previous experiences. What failed was the nation building that followed solid military victories. These failures were not accidental. The conditions that made successful nation building possible in Germany and Japan after WWII are currently missing in much of the Middle East and Africa.

Suggested Citation

Etzioni, Amitai, No More Land Wars? (August 29, 2014). Small Wars Journal, (August 28, 2014). Available at SSRN:

Amitai Etzioni (Contact Author)

The George Washington University ( email )

2100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Suite 4058
Washington, DC 20037
United States

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