The problem of war termination has received much less attention in the discipline of IR and security studies than how and why wars begin. Part of this may be due to the dominance of rationalism in the field: rationalists believe wars should end once costs become unbearable for the eventual loser. This perspective would tend to minimize the role of sunk costs, misperceptions, groupthink, and other “irrational” responses to these situations. However, terminating a war is rarely a rational endeavor. Non-material factors such as national pride and bureaucratic preferences, not to mention fear, honor and interest, play a large role in terminating a war. Fred Iklé explores these factors and develops an argument about why wars are so difficult to end. In addition to penning this classic work, he has an impressive resume of practical experience. Iklé was recruited from academia by Henry Kissinger, and served in a range of critical national security positions.
About the author: Dr. Fred Charles Iklé (August 21, 1924 – November 10, 2011) was a Swiss-born sociologist and defense expert who became a significant part of the US defense policy establishment. Iklé’s expertise was in defense and foreign policy, nuclear strategy, and the role of technology in the emerging international order. After a career in academia (including a professorship at MIT) he was appointed director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in 1973-1977, before becoming Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (1981 to 1988). He was later a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Department of Defense’s Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, a Distinguished Scholar with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and a Director of the National Endowment for Democracy.