AMERICA’S MODERN WARS arrived Friday, and author Christopher A. Lawrence took some time out of his busy schedule to talk with Casemate.
While the past half-century has seen no diminution in the valor and fighting skill of the U.S. military and its allies, the fact remains that our wars have become more protracted, with decisive results more elusive. With only two exceptions—Panama and the Gulf War under the first President Bush—our campaigns have taken on the character of endless slogs without positive results. Christopher Lawrence’s soon to be published America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam takes a ground-up look at the problem in order to assess how our strategic objectives have recently become divorced from our true capability, or imperatives.
The book presents a unique examination of the nature of insurgencies and the three major guerrilla wars the United States has fought in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam. It is both a theoretical work and one that applies the hard experience of the last five decades to address the issues of today. As such, it also provides a timely and meaningful discussion of America’s current geopolitical position.
It starts with the previously close-held casualty estimate for Iraq that The Dupuy Institute compiled in 2004 for the U.S. Department of Defense. Going from the practical to the theoretical, it then discusses a construct for understanding insurgencies and the contexts in which they can be fought. It applies these principles to Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam, assessing where the projection of U.S. power can enhance our position and where it merely weakens it.
It presents an extensive analysis of insurgencies based upon a unique database of 83 post-WWII cases. The book explores what is important to combat and what is not important to resist in insurgencies. As such, it builds a body of knowledge based upon a half-century’s worth of real-world data, with analysis, not opinion. In these pages, Christopher A. Lawrence, the President of The Dupuy Institute, provides an invaluable guide to how the U.S. can best project its vital power, while avoiding the missteps of the recent past.
Why did you decide to write this book?
I decided to write this book because it was new and unique analysis that had never been done before. From 2004 to 2009 we did extensive work on insurgencies for three different U.S. government agencies. This started with an estimate done in 2004 on the situation in Iraq, included the development of a large insurgency data base, and ended with a series of over a dozen reports detailing the nature of insurgencies. Then the work stopped abruptly in wake of our assumed success in Iraq and Afghanistan and the declining defense budget. Therefore, it was time to try to summarize a dozen insurgency reports into one smaller readable cohesive book. It was the desire the present work that was unique that forced me to put pen to paper.
When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer? What is it about writing that appealed to you?
It was the realization that I was sitting on research and material that was unique is depth and scope that finally led me to start writing. It was a desire to present this unique material that forced me to write, not a desire to write. This was first done with my extensive 1600-page book Kursk: The Battle of Prohorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015) and has continued with America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishing, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015) and the completed but not yet published War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat.
Each of these books brings forth some part of the work I have been doing at The Dupuy Institute since 1993.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have just completed a third book War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat. This book is built off of our work on conventional war that we did for the Department of Defense and the U.S. Army. In the meantime I have started a fourth book, co-authored with Niklas Zetterling, called Understanding World War II, which I hope to have done before the end of 2015.