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Complexity and Victory

Patrick Porter argues against what he views as a “glib” point made by many pundits that the idea of victory has no place in today’s supposedly more complex conflicts:

“Victory has not gone away any more than defeat has. Victory is the securing of desired, or desirable political outcomes from a conflict. It will change its face and its character according to context. Sometimes it will look like parades, formal surrenders and declarations, sometimes it will be a more diffuse and unspectacular process of handing self-government over to an ally whose state one has helped build. The process of translating military breakthroughs into long-term political gains has never been straightforward and has often threatened to break down. While it is possibly harder to achieve in extremely difficult wars of armed nation-building, that doesn’t mean the concept itself has no coherence.”

      Porter has hit the nail on the head. Victory has rarely been decisive or lasting in any form of warfare, hence Clausewit’z dictum that “in war the result is never final.” But this very simple idea is incredibly difficult for many to accept. The profound murkiness of conflicts like Afghanistan and Iraq is putting this basic truth into sharper view.

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