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The Meaning of Military Victory

Robert Mandel
The Meaning of Military Victory
ISBN: 978-1-58826-423-7
ISBN: 978-1-58826-448-0
2006/190 pages/LC: 2006002383

A Choice Outstanding Academic Book!

"The Meaning of Military Victory not only systematically and insightfully tackles a topic that deserves far more attention than it has received; it also explains the roots of the American foreign policy debacle in Iraq. It engages issues of critical interest to students and practitioners of war alike and ought to be required reading for both."—Jeffrey Record, Parameters

"A timely, important analysis of the concept of military victory.... Mandel's work provides clarity in the search for policies that can define strategies for achieving political goals through the use of force.... Highly recommended."—Choice

"Robert Mandel brings order to one of the puzzles of the international security environment after World War II: why aren't the powerful states able to win the wars in which they find themselves?... For anyone interested in the meaning of victory in war, this book is a must read."—Allan C. Stam, Dartmouth College

"The Meaning of Military Victory addresses a crucial, and understudied topic, in an expert and comprehensive way.... It is directly relevant to both the ongoing war in Iraq and the war on terror."—Dominic Johnson, Princeton University


How has the concept of victory evolved as the nature of conflict itself has changed across time, circumstance, and culture? And to what end? Robert Mandel addresses these questions, consider¬ing the meanings, misperceptions, and challenges associated with military victory in the context of the nontraditional wars of recent decades.

Without an understanding of precisely what victory means, Mandel argues, the outcome can involve policy paralysis, loss of public support, escalating postwar violence, and ultimately, foreign policy failure. Grappling with the moral complexities of victory in limited war, he discusses issues of security, war crimes, self-determination, reconstruction, and social transformation. He also identifies common fallacies held by victors. Case studies of recent military actions, including the ongoing war in Iraq, ¬inform a discussion of the usefulness of notions of victory in dealing with contemporary challenges.


Robert Mandel is professor of international affairs at Lewis and Clark College. Among his many publications are Armies Without States and Security, Strategy, and the Quest for Bloodless War.


  • Introduction: Military Victory and Strategic Victory.
  • Modern Victory in Historical Context.
  • Morality and Victory.
  • Misconceptions Surrounding Victory.
  • Victory in Recent Wars?
  • Victory Challenges in Contemporary Warfare.
  • Special Victory Challenges in Unconventional Warfare.
  • Conclusion: Managing Strategic Victory.
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