Like the song says, “War, what is it good for, absolutely nothing.” It is rare in the history of man to find a war worth fighting. Wars that are good are the exception. World War II, the American Civil War and the American Revolution are the exceptions rather than the rule. Our Civil War helped to end the scourge of slavery, World War II was literally a fight for good against evil and our Revolution or as the British might say the rebellion established a new nation. Normally the only ones who benefit by war are the arms merchants and the undertakers.
What have we learned since World War II about having a rational foreign policy? Our successes were for example, the Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan helped rebuild Europe economically from the ashes of what was left at the end of the war. Standing firm and resolute, the Western powers led by example in a competition that Russia could not win. Russia did not have the resources and eventually the Russian Empire collapsed. The use of the strategy of containment saved lives and kept us out of World War III.
President Kennedy in the Cuban Missile Crisis, had learned to not trust the CIA’s information and wisely left room for the Russians to save face and he diffused a dangerous situation. The prospect for a nuclear war was quite real. Military leaders on both sides were willing to go to war and use nuclear weapons. We should all be thankful that we had a leader who used caution and was wise. War was avoided.
Richard Nixon adroitly understood the wisdom of changing our China policy, and as a result Russia felt the necessity to negotiate a nuclear arms deal.
President H. W. Bush wisely realized that after the success of Desert Storm, it was time to leave Iraq or otherwise be bogged down in the quicksand of what is Iraq. Kuwait was freed and the many nations of the world that joined the effort, sent the world a resounding message and that was that naked aggression would not be tolerated. The world looked with hope at the prospect that the days of one country attacking another country had ended.
The world was a different place. The world saw the Soviet Empire end. The US economy during the Clinton years grew tremendously. The national debt was even being reduced.
But we lost a great opportunity to continue the progress and happiness our nation was enjoying. Instead after 9/11, the United States fell into the trap of mistakes that we had seen far too many times before.
We let a bunch of criminals change our nation. It isn’t the fact that around 3000 people died as a result of 9/11, that has changed us. We lost a lot more than the lives lost on that fateful day. We allowed ourselves to give up liberty for security.
We lost our focus. Instead of going after the people responsible for the killing of thousands of innocent civilians, we saw our leaders in Washington commit us to a new war in Iraq, a war to remove Saddam Hussein. The idea that we can nation build is an illusion.
Hussein was a bad guy, but that is not enough of a reason to go to war. Hussein had nothing to do with the attack on 9/11. There were no weapons of mass destruction.
The world looked at America with a great deal of sympathy after we were attacked on 9/11. But that changed when we used the George W. Bush doctrine of pre-emptive and attacked a nation for no reason. War should never be the first option and only the last option. Being the biggest and baddest bully on the block, with the most weapons and the best army is not a reason to go to war. There were no flowers nor fruit in the offing. We removed a tyrant but we broke the country in the process.
Now we hear the architects of an illegal war, complain because the puppet we put in power is unpopular and regularly discriminates against the non-Shiites. We hear them complain that President Obama is losing a war we had won.
These lame accusations are but echoes of the excuses we heard when Saigon fell. The Vietnamese people at some point had to stand on their own and decide for themselves what form of government and what leader they wanted. The United States had interfered in the internal affairs of another nation. We could not hold their hands and stay forever.
We won every battle in Vietnam but the most important one. We could never win the hearts and minds of the people. At least the people of Vietnam have more in common than the people of Iraq. They have been a nation for a very long time, their bad luck was that they were part of a French colonial empire.
Iraq is a country but not a nation. The present country was a creation of the victorious powers after World War II. The Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites don’t get along with each other. Their best chance for peace is to have three autonomous parts.
The American people deserve better than to send combat troops back into Iraq. Like our brave troops in Vietnam they have done themselves proud and have made our country proud of their service. It is not their fault that they were sent to a foreign shore to do the impossible.
The problem with Iraq is that the current government is corrupt. It is a Shiite run government, that does nothing to work with the other two major groups in Iraq to make the country function as a nation.
Our military is able to shock and awe the world with its power. It is high time that we realize that there are limits to our power. Our military might wins the battles. But we have to acknowledge that we can not remake the world in our own image. It is presumptuous to even think we can or even should try to do so.
It is a laudable goal to want everyone to have a democratic form of government. It is sheer hubris to believe that we can accomplish that goal in countries that have no democratic tradition. Republics have a history of failure. France has had several Republics.
The United Nations offers us hope for a brighter future in our relations with each other and each nation if we were to some how come up with a reform that can be agreed to regarding the veto power given to the victors of World War II. The veto has proved destructive to greater success in keeping the peace when Russia, China, the United States, Great Britain or France are involved.
War seems to be part of man’s nature. To paraphrase Hegel, is that, the only thing we learn from history is that we never learn.
I hope he was wrong. With the proliferation of nuclear weapons we have no choice but to learn. We know we will make mistakes. What is hoped is that we will seek the most rational path instead of the path of war that no longer leads to any meaningful conclusion other than keeping the undertaker busy. Yes, war is absolutely good for nothing, there is no glory in it. May we hope that the better angels of our nature govern our behavior in order to do what is right, right for America and with the knowledge that our power is limited, right for the world.