Vietnam Redux

Posted by Mike

So what have we learned from our devastating forays in Iraq and Afghanistan?

1. We’re not very good at learning from history!

2. When we get involved in a foreign war (they’re all foreign up until now), the negative outcomes are always more significant than anything we anticipated.

3. We have a lot of naïve, innocent young men that become jaded, disillusioned, and/or permanently physically or mentally impaired by the experience.

4. Lots of young American men who had grand and idealistic aspirations die.

5. Even more innocent civilians in the affected countries die.

6. Often our intentions may initially appear good and reasonable superficially; but our ignorance of the realities of other cultures and other lands is profound, despite the seemingly best efforts of all of our intelligence agencies and our Departments of State and Defense, and our intentions pale before the ugly realities: the pain, suffering and destructiveness of war.

7. We often more than we would like find ourselves allied with local partners in foreign lands who have questionable credentials and who are seen as corrupt and self-serving by the local populace.

8. The extraordinary costs of our foreign wars significant increase our indebtedness to creditor nations like China currently. The current and future costs of the Iraq and Afghan wars have drained resources that could have facilitated the provision of universal health care to our own citizens and assisted in the elimination and treatment of multiple diseases like malaria and HIV worldwide.

You will forgive me, I hope, for reflecting that our lack of insight and judgment and foresight are unfortunately all too human, given man’s history of war after war after war. Who is responsible for the decisions that led us to our current predicament in these situations? Presidents. Yes. The Presidents’ cabinets and our elected representatives in Congress? Yes. What about you and me? Do we get off scot free?

We humans expect to learn from history, especially from our own experiences. We haven’t got it yet!

Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.  –  Winston Churchill


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