An open access publication of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences
Winter 2017

What Comes Next

Antonia Chayes and Janne E. Nolan
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Wars do not end when the last shot is fired. War planning has failed to demonstrate an understanding that victory requires consolidation and the emergence of a more healthy society. The most prominent recent example is the Second Iraq War, but the failure reaches back to the American Civil War. This essay is less concerned with the moral obligation to reconstruct after war than the practical necessity of jus post bellum. In order to learn how to achieve such a consolidation of military victory, a shift in mindset is required from both civil and military policy-makers and planners. A change in practice is required at the very beginning of planning for war. “Whole of government” has been an empty phrase, but experience dictates that an unprecedented degree of domestic and international cooperation is required.

ANTONIA CHAYES is Professor of Practice of International Politics and Law at Tufts University. She is the author of Borderless Wars: Civil Military Disorder and Legal Uncertainty(2015), Imagine Coexistence: Restoring Humanity After Violent Ethnic Conflict (with Martha L. Minow, 2003), and Planning for Intervention, International Cooperation in Conflict (with Abram Chayes, 1999).

JANNE E. NOLAN is Research Professor of International Affairs at the George Washington University. She is the author of Tyranny of Consensus: Discourse and Dissent in American National Security (2013), An Elusive Consensus: Nuclear Weapons and American Security after the Cold War (1999), and Trappings of Power: Ballistic Missiles in the Third World (1991).

Assessing the probability of success of a military intervention is not just a matter of force calculations or relative firepower. Wars do not end after the victor fires the last shot or launches a final air strike. Nor do wars end with a cease-fire and rarely even with a peace agreement.1  The notion of war termination as synonymous with conquest or territorial subjugation is no longer acceptable from either a strategic or moral perspective. As human rights and humanitarian law expert Gabriella Blum has stated:

As for the goals of war, the restorative tradition of Just War Theory viewed war as legitimate only if it promoted the peace, and peace was largely synonymous with stability. War was thus a mechanism to restore a disturbed status quo, leaving much of the pre-existing state order intact. The goals of contemporary wars, conversely, are often long-term change. Rather than restoring the pre-existing order, eliminating contemporary threats is often perceived as requiring a transformation in the political, social, civic, and economic structures of the territorial state from which the threat had materialized in the first place.2  . . .

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  • 1See Christine Bell, Peace Agreements and Human Rights (New York: Oxford, 2000).
  • 2Gabriella Blum, “The Fog of Victory,” The European Journal of International Law 24 (1) (2013): 392.