Are Peace Offers Just For Losers?

Before dropping snark on us at his own site (more below), lefty academic blogger John Quiggin stopped by the comments to my post on Basra below.

I posted a comment in response to him:

It’s interesting; I’ve just finished two of Biggest Guy’s books (he asked me to store them until his next phase) – “A Better War”, the revisionist Vietnam history, and “Masters of Grand Strategy”.

An observation occurs to me from both of those, which is that a typical mismatch is where one side is fighting to win, and the other is fighting to settle – pretty much the history of the latter part of the Vietnam War. Unless the imbalance of power is extraordinary, the side fighting to win tends to – win.

This also refers back to the endgame in WWII when there was heated debate among the Allies about conditional vs. unconditional surrender.

John Q’s notion, as I understand it, is that war is essentially a signaling exercise.

And in rationally bounded games, it typically is.

But as Taleb notes in “Black Swan” much of the interesting action happens outside those islands of stability.


I’m kinda bummed that he didn’t reply, so I thought I’d put this up here and see what kind of discussion it triggers.

And as a historical point, I can’t think of a case where the winning side in a conflict made the initial peace offers; any help out there?