Military analysts have focused on the problems of war initiation and conduct while largely ignoring the problem of how to terminate war on acceptable terms. This paper attempts to define the necessary conditions for war termination and proposes a framework for assessing alternative termination strategies. Deterrence and limited war theories suggest three war termination strategies: (1) attrition of warfighting capabilities; (2) protracted stalemate; and (3) coercive threats of unacceptable damage. A review of recent armed conflicts indicates the limitations on effective pursuit of these strategies and reveals an alternative formulation of the conditions necessary for effective war termination strategies. Based on these notions, current U.S. force posture and force employment doctrines are evaluated in terms of their consistency with war termination requirements. Finally, an agenda of issues related to the development of war termination strategies is proposed.
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