Can America Still Win Wars?
Jared Sperli stashed this in war
And how about since? The record isn’t good. In fact, since Korea, in conflicts that have involved commitment of a reasonably large number of ground troops (which excludes actions from Kosovo on down to Panama and Grenada), the fact is that we’re America, and we’re 1-2-1. And the win was the puniest of the conflagrations, the Persian Gulf War. The big loss of course was Vietnam. I’m calling Afghanistan a draw—we did remove the Taliban, and we eventually got bin Laden, but at an awfully high cost over 13 long years that most Americans now think hasn’t been worth it.
And I’m calling Iraq a loss, which is perhaps uncharitable of me, but here’s the thinking. If the goal of the Iraq war was only to oust Saddam Hussein, well, we did that, so you could call Iraq a draw (never a win—it was too dishonorable an enterprise to start with ever to be labeled a victory, and besides the price has been way too high). But that was not the sole goal. The broader goal was to oust Saddam in order to build a beautiful democracy in the Middle East and thereby transform the region. We’ve transformed the region all right, but not in the manner promised. Loss.
And even the plugged-in upper-middle class would find a way to steer clear of much discomfort too, as someone would no doubt develop an app offering inventive and morally dubious ways of increasing your beef quota.
So here we are embarking on another one. With some reluctance and with full awareness that a lot of gambles have to pay off for this thing to work, I support it, because the world—not just the United States; the world, and especially the Arab world—needs to do something about the Islamic State and probably ought to do it sooner rather than later. We also want Syria rid of Bashar al-Assad. This is a secondary goal, and it’s not one the administration talks about much because public opinion supports fighting ISIS but is hesitant at the thought of America getting deeply involved in another country’s conflict, even one that’s by now more a genocide than a civil war. But it’s certainly a goal. And there’s another secondary goal that has to do with helping Iraq finally become a stable nation; having made the mess there, we bear some degree of moral responsibility for cleaning it up.
But our recent history makes me wonder whether the United States can even win wars anymore (and it should be noted here that even with the ones we disapprove of, we should hope once they start that they end up going our way). There are immediate military reasons why these wars have been harder that mainly have to do with the fact that we’re not fighting nation-states anymore that can surrender and sign armistices when they know they’re beaten. But there are home front reasons too, and these are more interesting.
I find the concept of "winning" a war to be odd.
I thought the whole point of going to war was to make the war stop as soon as possible.
Getting peace is more important than overwhelming someone to the point of surrender.