Has Just Lost Two More Wars
By John Chuckman
22 September, 2006
a country which takes excessive pride in flags, uniforms, and marching
bands and spends more than the rest of the planet combined on its military,
the record of America's forces since World War II is depressing. In
dozens of quickie invasions against weak opponents, Americans indeed
have prevailed, but when faced with tough and determined enemies, they
have remarkably often been defeated or stalemated.
The failure of America's
military could be explained by the notion that failure is only what
happens when you seek the wrong success. A poorly-governed people, as
Americans certainly are, keeps being sent to wars in which they have
no vital interest or commitment. Whatever the reason, the record is
It includes Korea after MacArthur's
insane march to the Chinese border.
It includes Vietnam, where,
despite the slaughter of millions, the US left in shame, abandoning
desperate associates clinging to helicopter undercarriages.
It includes America's smaller-scale
but long and vicious war on Cuba. The US was embarrassed by failure
time and again, shamefully resorted to the terror tactics it now claims
to despise, and wasted immense resources supporting thousands of hangers-on.
Fidel Castro outlived two generations of American presidents and over
six hundred assassination plots.
The record of failures includes
the American military's confusing its humanitarian-assistance role in
Somalia with Gary Cooper facing down the bad guys in High Noon, an error
which gave it an ugly surprise and saw America turn and go home.
The record includes Reagan's
poorly-considered landing of Marines in Lebanon. A base blown up by
resisting guerrilla forces, the Marines left with a battleship hurling
sixteen-inch shells into the hills, killing who knows how many innocent
civilians and having achieved nothing.
Of course, in battles or
war generally, victory is not always easy to determine. There were many
battles in history where victory was claimed or loss assumed in error.
Higher casualties don't always
mean losing a battle or even a war. The sacrifice of great numbers sometimes
improves a strategic or tactical position, as General Grant in America's
Civil War well understood. Vietnam's General Giap understood this also,
for despite a horrific slaughter of his people, America suffered defeat.
It was an early sign of the
coming defeat when body counts began to dominate American news. It is
easy to kill large numbers of people, especially when you have complete
air superiority and high-tech weapons, but constant killing may mean
little progress against a serious opponent. Often, as in the Blitz,
bombing people is completely counter-productive.
In recent weeks, body counts
re-appeared in Afghanistan, much the same way opium poppies re-appeared
after America's claim to victory over the Taleban (who had suppressed
opium). The bodies are supposed to be Taleban, but who can tell whether
a dead villager is Taleban?
Even when the body is Taleban,
how do we regard that as a victory? The Taleban is a loosely-knit organization,
a kind of political party and anti-invader guerilla force, bound to
conservative traditions in a hardscrabble land of tough mountain people.
Death does not intimidate where people typically live to forty-seven.
Except in the bizarre mind
of George Bush, the Taleban is not a terrorist organization,. So when
one of them is killed, does it really represent a victory? Or is it
viewed by many in Afghanistan as murder by unwelcome foreigners? Clearly,
this is the view of many because the Taleban is becoming stronger, surprisingly
so according to expert observers.
The recent refusal of NATO
countries to commit more troops and resources to Afghanistan was telling.
Pressure from the US must have been immense, but the response was virtual
silence. Of course, most NATO countries are simply looking after their
own best interests. Many of them understand terrorism far better than
does the US, having lived with it for decades, and none of them are
exhibiting death-wishes or dementia.
They know Al Qaeda has been
scattered to the four winds - anything but an achievement from a security
point of view - and they see little point in trying to occupy Afghanistan
for years. They understand the impossibility of significantly changing
so ancient and poor a land. They are not taken in by American Potemkin
village projects for bettering life there, after having bombed the hell
out of the place. NATO countries in general do not accept Bush's tale
about everyone's security depending upon success in Afghanistan for
the very good reason that it is false.
On the other hand, those
supporting the US in Afghanistan are following Bush's interests, whatever
those are, for I'm not sure Bush ever has had a clear grasp of what
he is doing himself.
The other lost war is, of
course, Iraq. American efforts there have done little but kill civilians
and destroy the economy and now threaten to destroy the country itself.
Even in Washington, the reality of civil war is dawning. America's real
goals in the war are not going to be achieved, the major one of which
was to establish a regime friendly to American policy, especially as
that policy pertains to Israel. Instead, years of bloody chaos lie ahead.
The outcome, who knows? Three separate warring rump states, each willing
to do almost anything to gain an advantage, including taking assistance
from those most hostile to American policy?
But the American loss in
Iraq is far greater than this. The illegal and unjustified invasion
has muddied America's reputation, aroused suspicions of its intentions,
and put new geopolitical forces into play only dimly perceived at this
When are we going to learn
how stupidly unproductive war is? And when is the US going to learn
how bad it is at war despite its monstrous expenditures preparing for