“War is politics by other means.”  This is probably the most oft-quoted of Clausewitz’s writings.  But politics can interfere with war far more than it informs it.

One of the most obvious examples would be President Obama’s address concerning the authorization of airstrikes in Iraq on August 7.  “I ran for this office in part to end our war in Iraq and welcome our troops home,” the President said.  This fact has colored his entire approach to Iraq, ultimately trumping whatever the situation on the ground is, up until a real threat to American personnel on the ground forced his hand.  Even so, the desire to hold to his political stance has prevented any full-scale commitment that might see any sort of actual resolution to the war (i.e., the destruction of ISIS).  The airstrikes against ISIS have continued to be limited to the areas around Erbil and Mosul Dam.

Of course, this is nothing new, nor is it confined to this administration.  The idea that some sort of “limited military action” can be used to make it look like something’s been done, then victory declared and everybody brought home has been floating around for quite some time.  It is telling that the United States has not won a war in a strategic sense since that mindset arose.

Trying to trace the origins of the present Western mindset, that wants nothing but short, clean, politically acceptable wars that don’t have to be finished with victory, just an announcement that it’s over (from only one side, notably), would take volumes.  In general, however, it is possible to sum it up with a few factors.