Summary: Today we have a reading that provides insights about our mad wars, written by someone who fought in the Cold War and later fought to prevent more wars. He explains how our leaders steered us into supporting these wars, such as by creating the myths about Vietnam that laid the foundations for our forever war. Essays like this are useful, since learning from our experiences can help cure our problems. We can do better.
H. Bruce Franklin (Professor of English, Rutgers)
Los Angeles Review of Books, 16 July 2014
WHILE WASHINGTON PONDERS the ifs and wheres of our next military adventures, the hawks are shrieking against America’s “war weariness” and croaking that Americans have no right to be weary.
- Robert Samuelson writes in The Washington Post that our unending wars have “posed no burdens, required no sacrifices, and involved no disruptions” for us civilians.
- William Kristol, who promised us in 2003 that the invasion of Iraq would be a “2 month war, not an 8 year war,” raves that the “war-weary public” must again be “awakened and rallied.”
- Sounding her familiar alarm, Condoleezza Rice urges us to “heed the wake-up call of Ukraine” before it’s too late.
- “Of what exactly are you weary,” demands an irate Wall Street Journal correspondent, arguing that those with an authentic right to weariness are just “those who have suffered severe physical and mental wounds or lost a loved one.”
War-weary citizens seem to be just a gaggle of selfish, spoiled brats, traitors to the heroes fighting our wars.
Maybe we have no right to be weary of our young service people getting maimed and killed, weary of the slaughter and devastation we have been inflicting on peoples in dozens of nations, or selfishly weary of having trillions of dollars sucked out of health care, education, infrastructure, and the environment to pay for these wars.
Perhaps we have grown weary of our endless post-9/11 wars. Just as after Vietnam we were weary of war. But after Vietnam we had not learned from our experience; so eventually we resumed our wars. If we have not learned from our Long War, eventually our wars will resume.
Learning from history
There is another explanation for our lack of enthusiasm about our forever war: perhaps we have learned the futility of these wars — and the folly of listening to hawks about our wars.
It’s quite astonishing that the underlying rule remains unseen by us after so long: foreign armies (like ours) almost always lose when fighting local insurgents. Despite the historical evidence, our geopolitical experts work to conceal this (as Upton Sinclair said “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”). This information could change the course of American foreign policy, if we pay attention.
- How often do insurgents win? How much time does successful COIN require?, 29 May 2008
- Max Boot: history suggests we will win in Afghanistan, with better than 50-50 odds. Here’s the real story., 21 June 2010 — Boot discusses 7 alleged victories by foreign armies fighting insurgencies.
- A major discovery! It could change the course of US geopolitical strategy, if we’d only see it, 28 June 2010 — Andrew Exum (aka Abu Muqawama) points us to the doctoral dissertation of Erin Marie Simpson in Political Science from Harvard. She examines the present and past history of counter-insurgencies.
- A look at the history of victories over insurgents, 30 June 2010
- COINistas point to Kenya as a COIN success. In fact it was an expensive bloody failure., 7 August 2012
We have fought covert proxy wars with sad results in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Libya. And phony pointless wars in Panama and Grenada. And experienced outright defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan. What have we learned?
A note from history
The collapse of the Soviet Union ended the Cold War, but created an existential challenge to our military-industrial complex. Prof Franklin explains how they responded to this with speed and brilliance. But they responded in their interest, not in ours.
- 7 April 1990: The USSR passes a law allowing its constituent Republics to secede.
- 12 June 1990: The First Congress of People’s Deputies of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic passed motion declaring Russia’s sovereignty. This was a decisive milestone on the road to the dissolution of the USSR.
- 7 August 1990: The USA launches operation Desert Shield. The first US troops arrive in Saudi Arabia. Our generation-long wars in the Middle East begins.
This too should teach us something.
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