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U.S. Military Intervention in the Post-Cold War Era

How to Win America's Wars in the Twenty-first Century

by Glenn J. Antizzo

During the post-World War II era, American foreign policy prominently featured direct U.S. military intervention in the Third World. Yet the cold war placed restraints on where and how Washington could intervene until the collapse of the former Soviet Union removed many of the barriers to--and ideological justifications for--American intervention. Since the end of the cold war, the United States has completed several military interventions that may be guided by motives very different from those invoked before the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Likewise, such operations, now free from the threat of counterintervention by any other superpower, seem governed by a new set of rules.

In this readily accessible study, political scientist Glenn J. Antizzo identifies fifteen factors critical to the success of contemporary U.S. military intervention and evaluates the likely efficacy of direct U.S. military involvement today--when it will work, when it will not, and how to undertake such action in a manner that will bring rapid victory at an acceptable political cost. He lays out the preconditions that portend success, among them a clear and attainable goal; a mission that is neither for "peacekeeping" nor for "humanitarian aid within a war zone"; a strong probability the American public will support or at least be indifferent to the effort; a willingness to utilize ground forces if necessary; an operation limited in geographic scope; and a theater commander permitted discretion in the course of the operation.

Antizzo then tests his abstract criteria by using real-world case studies of the most recent fully completed U.S. military interventions--in Panama in 1989, Iraq in 1991, Somalia in 1992-94, and Kosovo in 1999--with Panama, Iraq, and Kosovo representing generally successful interventions and Somalia an unsuccessful one. Finally, he considers how the development of a "Somalia Syndrome" affected U.S. foreign policy and how the politics and practice of military intervention have continued to evolve since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, giving specific attention to the current war in Afghanistan and the larger War on Terror.

U.S. Military Intervention in the Post-Cold War Era exemplifies political science at its best: the positing of a hypothetical model followed by a close examination of relevant cases in an effort to provide meaningful insights for future American international policy.

Glenn J. Antizzo is coauthor of Charting a New Diplomatic Course: Alternative Approaches to America's Post-Cold War Foreign Policy and Congress and the Foreign Policy Process: Modes of Legislative Behavior. He is an associate professor of government at Nicholls State University, in Thibodaux, Louisiana.

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