Occupational Hazards: Success and Failure in Military Occupation

May 29, 2008

What makes military occupations more or less likely to succeed? Drawing on 26 cases since 1815 where outside powers have seized territory without a claim to its sovereignty, David Edelstein attempts to determine why some occupations succeed and why so many seem doomed to failure.

Edelstein combines detailed case studies with a theoretical approach and concludes that occupations face a paradox: Success requires a long-term and massive commitment of resources and attention; however, such large-scale occupations can elicit nationalist responses from the occupied populace. Further, as the occupier faces difficulty, discontent grows at home, and pressure builds to remove occupying forces. Examining the history of occupation as a component of grand strategy, Edelstein offers warnings for today’s policymakers, who seem tempted to include military occupations as part of the approach to countering terrorism.

Please join the author and our distinguished commentators for a discussion of this timely and pathbreaking book.

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