WE LOST THE VIETNAM WAR—BUT LEARNED A GREAT DEAL IN THE PROCESS. WE SEEM TO HAVE FORGOTTEN MOST OF IT.
I was sent the above by the estimable Joe Galloway. He is the journalist featured in both the book and of the movie WE WERE SOLDIERS ONCE—AND YOUNG—and has distinguished himself in many other ways as well. We have never met, but we correspond from time to time.
I am not overly impressed by either the rich and powerful—or celebrities (I have met many of both over the years) but Joe is someone I admire.
On to the the focus of this piece—our disturbing habit of making war an integral part of the American Way of Life—while rarely actually declaring it. Apart from being unwise and morally wrong, such behavior directly violates the constitution. It also initiates what the CIA calls “blowback.”
Blowback may be defined as, “profoundly negative and unintended consequences.” Blowback can often be predicted in general terms—because, for instance, if we assassinate a terrorist leader with a Hellfire missile fired from a drone, it is fairly obvious that they will try and retaliate. Its dangers lie in the detail. Retaliation may come in a dangerous and unexpected form. It will almost certainly surprise us since our enemies pick the time, place, and method.
I write heavily researched action thrillers so feel like something of a hypocrite for saying this, but I would really like to see a less militaristic U.S. which was focused on re-building this nation—not on getting a vicarious thrill from our formidable military inflicting death and destruction on yet another under-developed nation.
I write this as someone with many military associations who also happen to believe that we need to be militarily strong. But the whole point of carrying a big stick is that it should not have to be used very often. It is—or should be—primarily a deterrent.
We have got into the habit of striking out with our stick as a matter of routine.
The list of countries we are bombing at will grows ever longer. Iraq, Syria, Libya, the Yemen, Afghanistan—and who knows how many nations in Africa.
This isn’t to decry the courage of our troops at the sharp end. Generally speaking they do a magnificent job, and deserve all the support they can get—and more besides. But, I do question the system that puts them into harm’s way in the first place. All too often our policies and actions are dramatically at odds with our stated values. Again, all too often, we sow the seeds of the very actions—like terrorism—which we later so self-righteously condemn.
Do we ever admit our guilt in such matters—and discuss the harsh reality of cause and effect—of action and reaction—and understand, and anticipate, that desperate people will eventually do desperate things? No, largely we do not.
We invade, we kill, we maim, we torture, and we destroy on an epic scale—millions of people killed—and yet we seem to think such actions won’t have consequences.
Meanwhile, the ultra rich who control the MICC (the Military Industrial Congressional Complex) get ever richer—and the economic wellbeing of most Americans is in decline.
We did great things during and after WW II. Our contribution towards the rebuilding of both Europe and Japan is something that every American has every reason to be proud of. But after the Korean War—where active hostilities ended in 1953—we seem to have lost our way.
- The Vietnam War was a horrendous mistake. We should never have become involved. It was much more about nationalism than communism. In fact, Ho Chi Minh was our ally in WW II. He wanted an independent Vietnam. The French wanted to keep it as part of their colony of Indo-China.
- Our activities in South America—nominally to contain communism—do not bear scrutiny. Where Chile was concerned, we conspired to remove a democratically elected president.
- We have interfered endlessly in the Middle East to the point, once again, of conspiring to remove a democratically elected government. Iran has good reason to fear us.
- Hunting down Al Quaeda is one thing. Occupying Afghanistan is something else entirely.
- We had absolutely no business invading Iraq in 2003—and we compounded that problem during our occupation. The Islamic State is a predictable outcome.
As I write this, U.S. troops are in over 100 other countries—and we are, in effect, aggressively dominating the world through our military. Meanwhile, the economic wellbeing of most Americans continues to decline.
This is a great country—which cries out for reform. Our pattern of behavior since the close of the Korean War has to change.
We are, I would like to think, better than this.