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Leaving without Losing

, 168 pages

2 maps

March 2012



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Leaving without Losing

The War on Terror after Iraq and Afghanistan

As the United States withdraws its combat troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, politicians, foreign policy specialists, and the public are worrying about the consequences of leaving these two countries. Neither nation can be considered stable, and progress toward democracy in them—a principal aim of America and the West—is fragile at best. But, international relations scholar Mark N. Katz asks: Could ending both wars actually help the United States and its allies to overcome radical Islam in the long term?

Drawing lessons from the Cold War, Katz makes the case that rather than signaling the decline of American power and influence, removing military forces from Afghanistan and Iraq puts the U.S. in a better position to counter the forces of radical Islam and ultimately win the war on terror. He explains that since both wars will likely remain intractable, for Washington to remain heavily involved in either is counter-productive. Katz argues that looking to its Cold War experience would help the U.S. find better strategies for employing America’s scarce resources to deal with its adversaries now. This means that, although leaving Afghanistan and Iraq may well appear to be a victory for America’s opponents in the short term—as was the case when the U.S. withdrew from Indochina—the larger battle with militant Islam can be won only by refocusing foreign and military policy away from these two quagmires.

This sober, objective assessment of what went wrong in the U.S.–led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the ways the West can disentangle itself and still move forward draws striking parallels with the Cold War. Anyone concerned with the future of the War on Terror will find Katz’s argument highly thought provoking.

Mark N. Katz is a professor of government and politics at George Mason University. He has authored several books, including Russia and Arabia: Soviet Foreign Policy toward the Arabian Peninsula, also published by Johns Hopkins.

"As the U.S. searches for a way forward, Katz’s largely objective and thoughtful analysis offers much to consider."

"A fine pick for any military or political science holding."

"Katz offers a strong, cogent argument."

"A model of its kind."

"This slender volume is packed with many insights. A collection of short chapters, some not much longer than op-eds, reveals author Mark Katz's wisdom and prudence when it comes to the use of military power, and the need for patience and persistence when pursuing long-term objectives... His straightforward prose engages the reader in what often feels like a quiet one-on-one conversation... The book is suffused with a tone of welcome optimism, but not naïveté."

"A well-written and well-organized presentation of possibilities and angles that counterterrorism policy makers and analysts should consider."

"Mark Katz makes a concise and readable argument for why withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan will serve to weaken the forces of radical Islam, and along the way provides a trenchant critique of the uses to which American power has been put over the past decade."

"In this lucid and articulate book, Mark Katz makes the counter-intuitive argument that the United States might actually ‘win’ the war on terror by extricating itself from conflicts in the Muslim world. Drawing on the history of previous ideological movements, Katz suggests that radical Islamic groups— without the benefit of a unifying external enemy—will overreach, fight among themselves, alienate their followers and even reach out to the United States, as have former U.S. adversaries China and Vietnam. This book should be required reading for all students of foreign policy and especially U.S. presidential candidates"

"A lucid and highly informative guide to thinking about how to confront violent extremism in the Middle East and South Asia. The many insights Mark Katz draws from the Cold War experience provide a sound basis for navigating successfully through the perplexing problems related to international terrorism."

"Emotions about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the continued struggle against radical Islam still run high. Mark Katz's new book Leaving without Losing provides exactly the balanced and realistic analysis necessary to understand the complex nature of modern terrorism and the unique challenges we face in confronting it. A first class study."

"I highly recommend this informative and thoughtfully argued book. The book discusses the marginalization of al-Qa'ida and its radical paradigm in light of winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the Arab Spring. Katz offers a sobering analysis of 'what went wrong' during the first decade of the war on terror."

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