"Limited war lacks both glory and victory." How valid is this assessment of the Korean War, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The wars you mention can certainly be said to lack glory (if any war can truly be glorious) and victory, but it is not necessarily because they were limited wars.

The wars you mention lacked glory and victory for a variety of reasons.  For all but the Korean War, it was because the goals that were set for the wars were ultimately very difficult to achieve through military means.  These wars were meant to create situations where governments that we liked would become popular among the people of the countries in question.  We wanted South Vietnamese to like their non-communist government and we wanted Iraq and Afghanistan to become secular, liberal democracies.  It is very difficult to cause these sorts of things to happen through the use of military power.

But the lack of victory and glory were not because of the limited nature of the war.  We could have achieved a clear cut victory in Korea if we had stopped after driving the North Koreans out of South Korea.  It would have been seen as a victory because that was the original goal of the war.  The fact that we fought a limited war (without using nuclear weapons or committing larger forces) was not the main reason why that war felt to some like a loss.

Limited wars can be won.  The problem comes when we try to achieve non-military goals through military means.

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