Recently I taught a lesson here at National Defense University on war termination. The required readings included a chapter from Fred Iklé’s seminal work, Every War Must End (Columbia University Press, 1971). Dr. Iklé initially published this book as the United States was looking for an exit from the Vietnam War. This classroom reading was a part of what turned out to be a timely and spirited discussion as the drawdown of forces in Afghanistan continues and events unfold around the likely U.S. response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons on its own citizens.
. General Colin Powell credits Every War Must End with giving him an understanding of how to end the first Gulf War. In his revision of the work published in 2005, Dr. Iklé criticized Washington’s handling of the Iraq War. He identifies the hard questions that all parties involved in a conflict wrestle with, including determining what the goal is, how it can be achieved, and when will it be obvious that end has arrived. Dr. Iklé offers many historical cases to show the complexity of war as viewed from many vantage points, including the parliaments and chateaus of World War I, the end of war with Japan, the geostrategic challenges in the 1950–1953 Korean War, the secret negotiations in Paris during the Vietnam War, and more.