With the Most Powerful Military on Earth, Why Can’t We Decisively Win Wars?

Given all of the resources put into warmaking, why does the U.S. have such a poor track record at winning wars? Critics attribute this to many things — bad foreign policy, weak strategy, and an over-reliance on “future combat” systems and other programs geared towards pleasing defense industry interests and Pentagon technocrats. Beyond that, the military has an inflexible culture that rewards loyalty over out of the box thinking, leading often to bad decisions and the inability to recalibrate when things go wrong. Join Defense Priorities fellow Ret. Col. Danny Davis, Center for Defense Information director Mandy Smithberger, and Quincy Institute’s Mark Perry as we discuss what immediate and longer term steps can be taken to turn things around as the US nears its 20th year in Afghanistan, and all eyes are on China as the next “military challenge.” Kelley Vlahos of the Quincy Institute will moderate. The panel will take place on Dec. 9 from 2-3 pm ET.


Daniel Davis

(Ret.) Lt. Col. Daniel Davis is author of Eleventh Hour in 2020 America: How America’s Foreign Policy Got Jacked Up — and How the Next Administration Can Fix It. He currently serves as Senior Fellow and Military Expert for Defense Priorities. Davis was deployed into combat zones four times in his career, beginning with Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Iraq in 2009 and Afghanistan twice (2005, 2011). He is widely published and was the recipient of the 2012 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-telling. He is a frequent guest on Fox News, Fox Business News, BBC, and CNN.

Mandy Smithberger

Mandy Smithberger is the Director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight and has previously served as national security policy adviser to U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) There, she worked on passing key provisions of the Military Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act into law. Previously as an investigator with POGO, she was part of a team that received the Society of Professional Journalists' Sunshine Award for contributions in the area of open government. As an expert on the Pentagon’s revolving door, she has appeared on CNN, Fox News, and NPR, and has been cited in the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Reuters, Politico, and Foreign Policy.

Mark Perry

Mark Perry is a senior analyst at the Quincy Institute, and is a widely published military and foreign policy reporter and award winning author. He has published ten books, including The Pentagon’s Wars: The Military’s Undeclared War Against America’s Presidents (2017) and The Most Dangerous Man In America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur (2014), for which the Boston Globe named the best non-fiction book of 2014. Perry previously served as a senior foreign policy analyst and political director for Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, which founded the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. That campaign won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos (Moderator)

Kelley Vlahos is senior advisor for the Quincy Institute and contributing editor at Responsible Statecraft. Previously, she served as executive editor at The American Conservative magazine, for which she has also been writing and reporting on the wars, foreign policy, veterans, and the military since 2007. She is currently a co-host of the Empire Has No Clothes podcast.