Once again, the United States has let itself be manipulated and baited into an undeclared war, for the second time in the Middle East. The initial scope has been proclaimed to be limited, but as in the past, it isn’t clear what will keep that scope limited.
Now in the sixth decade of life, I feel like I have seen this movie before, and I fear how it will end. Mostly I fear I’ve seen the end before. In my life I’ve seen Vietnam, Gulf War I, Afghanistan, and Gulf War II. Of these, only one in retrospect seems like it had realistic, necessary and achieved goals: Gulf War I.
Vietnam, of course escalated steadily for almost a decade, failed to stop the tumbling of dominos by Communists in Southeast Asia, and its failure to do so never really showed why it mattered to the US anyway.
Gulf War I had a clear and achievable goal: removing Sadam from Kuwait. Leaving him in Kuwait still seems in retrospect like it wouldn’t have been wise . That limited goal was also achieved.
Afghanistan at its outset seemed and seems like it was unavoidable. 9/11 did require a response. Unfortunately, the mission became nation building, and in that culture so different from that of US – tied culturally to Europe-the US has sunk live and treasure to no apparent end other than successfully dispersing the Al Qaeda nest. At the least many goals were not realistic or achieved.
Gulf War II never had a goal other than taking out our collective anger on an Arab state. It felt good at first, but was likely never necessary. Over time the goal morphed as we realized that we had to leave some kind of state in our wake. Unfortunately, that necessary goal has proved beyond our grasp.
Because of that fact, now we are heading back to Iraq in response to the chaos we have left there. I can’t help but think that we will in the end only further make a mess of that area.