The greatest empire in history, and the USA hasn’t won a war since 1945?
Being all too focused on America’s endless wars, I sometimes lose track of the big picture. This little factoid was brought to my attention recently, and as all bloggers do, I thought, “This will be a cool blog topic!” Even better, I remembered it. Yes, despite the fact that we have more firepower than God, a network of global bases and fleets, and staggering spending on our military by any standard … the past few decades of military history has been pretty dismal. At least in terms of wars where the USA was fighting a substantial adversary, ”wars” like Grenada and Panama don’t count. Let’s review, from most recent wars back to World War Two …
Afghanistan. Um, longest war in America’s history. Our enemy is as strong as ever. I guess it could still turn into a win, but right now it’s a very very expensive draw at best. Libya. Well, we’re claiming it as some sort of win, but the jury’s still out. And, well, our ambassador being killed like a dog is not exactly normally associated with victorious wars. Iraq. Right. Only people with surgically induced tunnel vision claim that as a win. No WMDs, Iraq now aligned with Iran, Iraq now a world class terrorist haven, Russia and China got their oil. We didn’t even get T-shirts. Then there’s the Serbian war, where we “freed” Kosovo. Except ten years later it’s still a criminal haven that hasn’t even been able to qualify for independence, with ethnic violence all too common.
Back to the eighties, there’s Iraq war I and Kuwait, where we saved a feudal Monarchy from a tin pot dictator in a “war” that we engineered. Kuwait had a farce democracy for a few years after the war, but that was it. Saddam was still around, Al-Qaeda was created, and the stage was set for the disastrous second Iraq war and occupation. Some might claim the Cold War as a victory, but it’s pretty hard to make the case. The USSR collapsed because large scale centrally run economies don’t work, and they thought they could invade and occupy Afghanistan. In any event the Cold War hardly fits any reasonable definition of war.
Then we get to Vietnam. I think I can safely say this was a draw at best. Saigon is now Ho Chi Minh City. The Korean War? Well, technically it’s not over yet. And the North Koreans, whatever else they may be, are armed to the teeth including nuclear weapons. Hardly a win. No, one has to go back to 1945, and Japan and Germany’s unconditional surrender to the USA to find a clear cut American victory. And even that is not without its critics, Eastern Europe was thrown to the wolves after the war for starters. Still, that’s 1945, it’s been some 67 years ago and 12 administrations without a Vday moment. Now I begin to see why Obama claimed that the assassination of Osama Bin Laden was one of the greatest military operations in US history, by recent standards, maybe it was.
Does this mean anything? I think it does. It hardly goes with American’s seemingly unshakeable conviction in their military might. Granted American’s being out of touch with reality is nothing new, but it would be nice if more of them recognized the limits of military power. That’s the main lesson in this, since World War Two there have been limits to what can be accomplished with military might. Yet Americans and the American government persist in thinking and acting upon the idea that military power can accomplish anything. Even worse, as a government and a nation we appear to be oblivious to the fact that not only are there limits to military power, waging war almost always has unintended negative consequences.
And as these consequences manifest, our response is often more war! This is a huge part of the reason why the Middle East and North Africa are spiralling out of control, for decades the USA and Israel have been waging war in the region in a quixotic attempt to reshape the region into a compliant western oil field. Every war creates new enemies and often strengthens old ones. I fear now that World War Three has already begun and not only are we blind to it, we have trapped ourselves in a spiral where our leaders are just going expand the war. We need new leadership with a new vision for America’s role in the world, because our cowboy foreign policy isn’t working. Ain’t gonna happen this election though.
“He who defends everything, defends nothing.” — Frederick III
(The above image is Public Domain under US copyright law as it was produced by a Federal Employee in the course of their duties. It’s the Japanese delegation arriving on the US Missouri to sign the unconditional surrender of Japan, ending World War Two. The guy on the front left actually argued vociferously against the war, and was demoted to postmaster somewhere in China two days before the war. They brought him back into the government in time to sign the surrender papers, but Stalin had him jailed as a war criminal anywise.)