Lessons Unlearned: A Comparison of Three American Wars

From Panama to Kosovo: the decline and incoherence of American warfighting.

Issue: Summer 2000

Operation Just Cause, code name for the invasion of Panama in December 1989, was the first serious exercise of military power by the United States during the post-Cold War era. It would prove to be everything that subsequent U.S. military operations were not: a rapid, decisive application of overwhelming might that removed a petty tyrant from power, left a lasting imprint on local and regional politics, and brought democracy to an oppressed people. Given the peculiar pattern of U.S. military operations since 1989 -- whereby military power has been employed in an increasingly halting and feckless manner, producing less and less of enduring political value -- one cannot help but wonder why the campaign has not been enshrined as a paradigm for the American way of war.

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