Constraints on U.S. Military Strategies in Past Third World Conflicts

by Stephen T. Hosmer

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Assesses the principal military and political constraints that have limited U.S. military involvements in the Third World since World War II. The work represents the first phase of a study of the political and military factors that are likely to constrain U.S. strategies and combat operations in future Third World conflicts and crises, the implications of such constraints for the design and execution of U.S. strategies for meeting future challenges in the Third World, and the requirements that particular constraints may pose for future U.S. Air Force missions and capabilities. The motivations that have led U.S. decisionmakers to constrain combat operations and other military responses show striking continuity. They stem primarily from the concern to control the risks of military conflict with the USSR, limit civilian and U.S. military casualties, seek negotiated solutions to conflicts, and accommodate the policies of other nations. Successive administrations, whatever their affiliation, have tended to base strategies more on what the United States should not or dares not do than on the optimum requirements of the actual battlefield situation.

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