“What this country needs is a short, victorious war to stem the tide of revolution.”

-Vyacheslav von Plehve


“Enjoy the war while you can, because the peace will be terrible!”

- Wehrmacht joke, WW2


When I started drafting out the plot for Wolf’s Bane, I came to a sad conclusion.  This will be the last book (at least for the moment) focused on Colonel Edward Stalker and the Avalon Marines.  The next set of books will return to the Core Worlds, picking up the story of Roland, Belinda, Glen and the remainder of the Terran Marines.  Or at least that’s the plan. 


I hope you’ve enjoyed following the adventures of Stalker and his men.  And if you liked this book - or any of my books - please leave a review.



One of the fundamental truths of human history is that wars are easy to start, but very hard to stop.  (As the saying goes, it takes one to start a war and two to end it.)  The delusion that a nation can fight a ‘short victorious war’ has damned countless nations to endless effusions of blood and treasure, if only because their target refuses to admit they have been beaten (if, of course, they have been beaten.)  History is replete with stories of nations, kings and warlords who have charged into war, only to discover that achieving their aims isn’t always enough to win the war.


Indeed, the key to winning a war - any war - is to convince the enemy that they have been beaten, that further defiance is useless.  This is not as easy as it seems.  The government - whatever form it takes - is often insulated from the effects of the war.  It may be ruled by pragmatics smart enough to concede that the war is lost and should be abandoned until things look better, it may be pressured or overthrown by its population ... or it may be fanatical (or desperate) enough to fight to the end.  Calculating the exact degree of pressure necessary to convince a government to give up is not easy.  Indeed, there are very few examples of limited, but decisive victory.


In 1939, for example, Adolf Hitler presented his demands to the Poles.  On the surface, they appeared to be very limited.  The Germans wanted control over the ‘Polish Corridor’ and very little else.  They sounded reasonable enough - reasonable enough to make France and Britain reluctant to fight over the corridor - but they were actually lethal.  German control over the Polish Corridor would have given them an unacceptable degree of control over Poland itself, as they would be in a position to cut off Polish trade through the Baltic whenever they felt like it.  Even if Hitler had been a honourable man - and there was plenty of proof that he couldn't be trusted - the Poles had good reason to refuse.  Their choice was simple.  Fight in 1939 or fight in 1940, under far worse conditions.


Hitler believed that the Western Allies would not go to war.  He was wrong.  The war did not remain limited.  Hitler was thus committed to an endless series of military campaigns, each one costly and yet undeceive.   He could not drive either Britain or Russia (or later America) out of the war, therefore ensuring his eventual defeat. 


At the same time, the Allies could not convince the Germans to give up without invading Germany and crushing the Nazis.  There were no shortcuts to victory.  (The insistence on unconditional surrender demoralised Germans who might otherwise have overthrown Hitler, as they would have caused chaos in the rear and perhaps shortened the war without any guarantee of better peace terms.)  Hitler’s utter refusal to contemplate defeat merely ensured the war would go on until he was removed from power and his government crushed.


In short, Hitler’s ‘short victorious war’ sparked off a series of conflicts that continued until Germany was defeated.  He underestimated his opponents and was thus unable to understand that he had forced them into a corner.  They had to fight.


In 1982, the Argentinean Government invaded the Falkland Islands, calculating that Britain would grit its teeth and surrender.  In doing so, they severely underestimated the British Government.  Margaret Thatcher committed her country to recovering the islands.  Worse, having assumed there wouldn't be war, the Argentinean Government made no real plans to defend the islands until it was far too late.  Operating on a shoestring, the British were still able to outmatch the Argentineans and force them to surrender. 


The British did have a number of advantages, it should be noted.  But perhaps the single greatest advantage was that the war was fought for limited objectives.  At no point did Thatcher intend to invade Argentina and overthrow the Junta, a task that would have been beyond Britain in any case.  Britain’s sole objective was to recover and secure the islands, ensuring that the Argentineans could not achieve their objectives.  The combination of military defeat and popular outrage convinced the Junta to surrender, for now.


On one hand, Britain won a great victory.  On the other, the victory did not convince Argentina that the Falklands were definitely British.  The underlying causes of the war continue to bubble under the surface to the present day.


And that brings us to the War on Terror.


Invading Afghanistan - and later Iraq - was not necessarily a mistake.  What was a mistake was going to war without a solid plan for overall victory and a willingness to pay the price necessary to win.  Removing the Taliban from power and smashing Saddam’s government was relatively straightforward, but it was not enough to reshape the region to make it impossible for terrorists and insurgents to operate.  The US needed to build a new governing structure that would give the locals a stake in their country, thus limiting support for opposition forces.  This was not done.  Instead, the US smashed local governments without replacing them with anything acceptable to both the locals and the US.  The net result was a power vacuum that allowed terrorism to thrive.


In order to win, one must want to win - and be willing to do whatever it takes to win.  The image the US consistently presents is that it is not willing to pay any price, bear any burden, to eradicate the enemies of freedom and build a better world.  In the Middle East, the US has managed the remarkable feat of being engaged for nearly five decades without establishing itself as a permanent power.  The perception that the US is constantly on the verge of pulling out (and abandoning its local allies to their fate) undermines any US attempt to actually win the war.  Its allies are constantly looking for escape routes and not committing themselves because they might be abandoned at any moment.


There is no easy path to victory.  In the short run, we must show that we will not be cowed by terrorism.  Because so many of our leaders have been cowed, either by the threat of terrorism, riots or being called racists, establishing this will not be easy.  In the long run, we must work to weaken fanatical societies - and governments - and work to replace them with the rule of even-handed law.   It is this, more than anything else, that will undermine our enemies and eventually discredit religious fundamentalism as a government. 


History tells us that the only way to win is to either destroy the enemy or convince them to stop fighting.  It does not matter that we do not want to fight.  Our enemies are more than willing to fight - it only takes one to start a war - and we have to stand up to them.  We have to convince our enemies that we will fight ...


... Because the only alternative is surrender.


Christopher G. Nuttall

Edinburgh, 2017.