Goodbye 2011. Once again America has closed a military adventure, one which eight years ago President GW Bush proudly declared to be a "mission accomplished." But it was a campaign whose purpose was vague and success in doubt since there were no weapons of mass destruction and socio-political breakdown is a distinct possibility in such a polarized tribal nation.
The democracy we have installed in Iraq, predictably, is gradually disintegrating, with the Shiite Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, issuing an arrest warrant for the Sunni deputy PM and threatening other Sunni leaders as he tries to consolidate his power as possibly Iraq's next dictator. He hasn't been wasting any time, has he? And as with the country's previous dictator, the West was his benefactor and enabler.
Meanwhile, in the oil rich north, the Kurdish majority there has been creating its own autonomous region and has even concluded deals with western oil companies... positive steps for the repressed Kurds. Al-Maliki is content to allow this, at least for now. The Kurds are more useful out of the way in a happy and trouble free zone, keeping the oil flowing and helping the PM maintain his power.
As these events unfold and a New Year is here, we can look back and ask ourselves what have major American military adventures accomplished since 1950?
The Korean War was the first major UN action, lead by the USA. It ended in a stalemate, with around 36,000 American killed and an uneasy truce that has kept the country divided with a large American troop presence still there 62 years later. On the plus side it enabled South Korea to become an industrial powerhouse. On the negative side is has forged North Korea into a nuclear powerhouse, one that threatens the West.
Vietnam was America's second geo-political war fought mainly to preserve US hegemony in Southeast Asia, but sold to the public as part of the Cold War against the spread of communism. Again stalemate and growing popular discontent forced America out and the North Vietnamese in after nearly 60,000 US troops died there. Today, a united communist Vietnam has mended fences with the US to the point of now depending on America to protect it from former best buddy China.
The 1990 Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm, was a US-led, UN sanctioned NATO action in response to the Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Again it was sold on the idea of freeing Kuwait from an invading tyrant, but it really was about safeguarding the Gulf and Saudi oil region.
This eventually lead to the just-concluded Iraq War and the Afghanistan War, if you can call it that, still in progress, both fought as part of the War on Terrorism... a war that may never end since there may always be terrorists somewhere. To date, more than 6,500 troops have been killed in these. And, in Afghanistan, there's no end in sight.
Since its creation, the USA has been involved in 13 major conflicts and dozens of minor ones resulting in 1.35 million military deaths. Yet most have one thing in common, they didn't occur because of perceived threats to national security or survival. They were economic or political in nature, but sold to the public, as most wars are, on the grounds of national security and patriotism. In fact, there's probably only one country today that fights wars of national survival, Israel.
In the end what has America gained from its human sacrifice? We trumpeted our victory in the Cold War, yet now are in debt and at the economic mercy of the biggest communist nation of all.
While communist Vietnam is now our friend, atomic armed North Korea, with little to lose, remains a gateway to Armageddon.
America has a national debt of more than $15 trillion due largely to unnecessary wars we have fought partly on the false jingoistic view that our way should be everyone's way. So, in the end the main beneficiary of American conflict has been the Military-Industrial Complex. You won't find this mentioned in the Constitution, but it exists as much as Congress.
Proof of it existence has again been revealed in a new $50billion arms deal with our favorite extreme autocratic oil-producing nation, Saudi Arabia. It's designed to counter a perceived regional threat from Iran and will generate 50,000 jobs back in the USA.
And you can bet board members of the complex are milling over plans for America's next possible military adventure, what's in it for them and how they will sell it to a public frustrated by our lagging economy and costly foreign involvements. Yet as long as terrorism exists, there will always be a cause to rationalize conflict.