America’s do-gooding wars without end 8

All Mark Steyn‘s columns are so good, so funny however serious and important the point he is making, that it’s hard to say this one or that one is the best or the funniest. But a recent article titled Too Big To Win, on the highly important subject of America’s wars, must surely be among his best and funniest.

We are picking sentences and passages from it to give our readers a taste, but we hope they’ll be enticed to read the whole thing here and enjoy the feast.

Why can’t America win wars? …

Afghanistan? The “good war” is now “America’s longest war.” Our forces have been there longer than the Red Army was. The “hearts and minds” strategy is going so well that American troops are now being killed by the Afghans who know us best. …

Libya? The good news is that we’ve vastly reduced the time it takes us to get quagmired. I believe the Libyan campaign is already in The Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest quagmire on record. In an inspired move, we’ve chosen to back the one Arab liberation movement incapable of knocking off the local strongman even when you lend them every NATO air force. But not to worry: President Obama, cooed an administration official to The New Yorker, is “leading from behind.” Indeed. What could be more impeccably multilateral than a coalition pantomime horse composed entirely of rear ends? Apparently it would be “illegal” to target Colonel Qaddafi, so our strategic objective is to kill him by accident. So far we’ve killed a son and a couple of grandkids. Maybe by the time you read this we’ll have added a maiden aunt or two to the trophy room. It’s not precisely clear why offing the old pock-skinned transvestite should be a priority of the U.S. right now, but let’s hope it happens soon, because otherwise there’ll be no way of telling when this “war” is “ended.”

According to partisan taste, one can blame the trio of current morasses on Bush or Obama, but in the bigger picture they’re part of a pattern of behavior that predates either man, stretching back through non-victories great and small — Somalia, Gulf War One, Vietnam, Korea. On the more conclusive side of the ledger, we have . . . well, lemme see: Grenada, 1983. And, given that that was a bit of post-colonial housekeeping Britain should have taken care of but declined to, one could argue that even that lone bright spot supports a broader narrative of Western enfeeblement. At any rate, America’s only unambiguous military triumph since 1945 is a small Caribbean island with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. For 43 percent of global military expenditure, that’s not much bang for the buck.

At the dawn of the so-called American era, Washington chose to downplay U.S. hegemony and instead created and funded transnational institutions in which the non-imperial superpower was so self-deprecating it artificially inflated everybody else’s status in a kind of geopolitical affirmative-action program. …   In 1950, America had a unique dominance of the “free world” and it could afford to be generous, so it was: We had more money than we knew what to do with, so we absolved our allies of paying for their own defense. …

By the time the Cold War ended … U.S.–Soviet nuclear standoff of mutual deterrence decayed into a unipolar world of U.S. auto-deterrence. …

At a certain level, credible deterrence depends on a credible enemy. The Soviet Union disintegrated, but the surviving superpower’s instinct to de-escalate intensified: In Kirkuk as in Kandahar, every Lilliputian warlord quickly grasped that you could provoke the infidel Gulliver with relative impunity. Mutually Assured Destruction had curdled into Massively Applied Desultoriness. …

The Pentagon outspends the Chinese, British, French, Russian, Japanese, German, Saudi, Indian, Italian, South Korean, Brazilian, Canadian, Australian, Spanish, Turkish, and Israeli militaries combined. So why doesn’t it feel like that?

Well, for exactly that reason: If you outspend every serious rival combined, you’re obviously something other than the soldiery of a conventional nation state. But what exactly? In the Nineties, the French liked to complain that “globalization” was a euphemism for “Americanization.” But one can just as easily invert the formulation: “Americanization” is a euphemism for “globalization,” in which the geopolitical sugar daddy is so busy picking up the tab for the global order he loses all sense of national interest. … The Pentagon now makes war for the world. …

An army has to wage war on behalf of something real. For better or worse, “king and country” is real, and so, mostly for worse, are the tribal loyalties of Africa’s blood-drenched civil wars. But it’s hardly surprising that it’s difficult to win wars waged on behalf of something so chimerical as “the international community.” If you’re making war on behalf of an illusory concept, is it even possible to have war aims? What’s ours? “[We] are in Afghanistan to help the Afghan people,” General Petraeus said in April. Somewhere generations of old-school imperialists are roaring their heads off, not least at the concept of “the Afghan people.” But when you’re the expeditionary force of the parliament of man, what else is there?

Nation building in Afghanistan is the ne plus ultra of a fool’s errand. But even if one were so disposed, effective “nation building” is done in the national interest of the builder. The British rebuilt India in their own image, with a Westminster parliament, common law, and an English education system. In whose image are we building Afghanistan? Eight months after Petraeus announced his latest folly, the Afghan Local Police initiative, Oxfam reported that the newly formed ALP was a hotbed of torture and pederasty. Almost every Afghan institution is, of course. But for most of human history they’ve managed to practice both enthusiasms without international subvention. The U.S. taxpayer accepts wearily the burden of subsidy for Nevada’s cowboy poets and San Francisco’s mime companies, but, even by those generous standards of cultural preservation, it’s hard to see why he should be facilitating the traditional predilections of Pashtun men with an eye for the “dancing boys of Kandahar.” …

So the Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity is building schoolhouses in Afghanistan. Big deal. The problem, in Kandahar as in Kansas, is not the buildings but what’s being taught inside them — and we’ve no stomach for getting into that. So what’s the point of building better infrastructure for Afghanistan’s wretched tribal culture? What’s our interest in state-of-the-art backwardness?

Transnational do-gooding is political correctness on tour. It takes the relativist assumptions of the multiculti varsity and applies them geopolitically: The white man’s burden meets liberal guilt. No wealthy developed nation should have a national interest, because a national interest is a selfish interest. Afghanistan started out selfishly — a daringly original military campaign, brilliantly executed, to remove your enemies from power and kill as many of the bad guys as possible. Then America sobered up and gradually brought a freakish exception into compliance with the rule. In Libya as in Kosovo, war is legitimate only if you have no conceivable national interest in whatever conflict you’re fighting. The fact that you have no stake in it justifies your getting into it. The principal rationale is that there’s no rationale, and who could object to that? Applied globally, political correctness obliges us to forswear sovereignty.

On we stagger, with Cold War institutions, transnational sensibilities, politically correct solicitousness, fraudulent preening pseudo–nation building, expensive gizmos, little will, and no war aims . . . but real American lives. … Sixty-six years after V-J Day, the American way of war needs top-to-toe reinvention.

  • George

    You’re right Frank. It makes me want to puke. Obama is a joke.  We have unemployment skyrocketing in this country , people losing their homes , the divorce rate is skyrocketing because of tensions and depression caused by debts , no money and no way out .  Obama ( the socialist President ) did what he said he was going to do and that was bringe CHANGE.     Oh , yeah   —we got change alright.  Obama gives away zillions of our tax money to foreign countries while we starve and lose jobs , lose homes and for many people , to lose  any sense of hope.
                       The liberals who put this neo-Marxist President into office don’t realize how bamboozled they have been and how much they have harmed and jeopardized America by voting him into office .   The loser liberals love this guy because he gives them something for nothing  ( it’s part of the big government pro-socialist agenda ). Obama is just the figure-head for the others who “pull the strings” and he is their socialist icon.  How else could a nobody college professor who only a handfull of people  knew about , or who did nothing at any time to deserve the seat of the Presidency be elected to such office  ?
                             This article confirms what I’ve said to others about Obama ( just more detailed ).  The stupid liberals who voted for this guy are the ones to blame . What does that tell you about the mindset of so many of  American citizens ?  As I’ve said before —-  ”  Liberalism  is a form of demented psychosis ” .  Where are all the secular organizations and groups speaking out about this ?  Where is the mainstream media to print articles about this, or talk shows to speak out about this or TV News programs to denounce this or the ACLU ( don’t get me started about the ACLU ).  People have become nothing but sheep ( aka-sheeple ).  The people in our society have become just like the   “BORG” on the Star Trek TV series. Mindless human robots !

  • Ben

    To quote John Stossel : where are all of the protestors?

  • George

    You see Scrims2 , it works like this. If the person in the Presidential seat during the time of war has an “R” behind his name –it’s a BAD war.  However, if the person in the Presidential seat during the time of war has a “D” behind his name then it is without a doubt a GOOD war. It’s that simple   : R= BAD WAR   /  D= GOOD WAR         The liberals learned this in pre-school and it’s become ingrained into their conscious as part of their left wing psyche.    

  • Scrims2

    If Afghanistan is Americas longest war, where are Jane Fonda and Bill Ayres and all their fellow Vietnam  war protesters now?  Oh, yeah, I forgot, they’re running the country….

  • George

    General Petraeus is quoted as stating :   ” We are in Afghanistan to help the Afghan people “.    Really ?   Wow  !    Since when did  America become the world’s policeman ? My other question ( just a question ) is why pick & choose what specific nation we help while others suffer ? Someone could very well ask the question , why  haven’t we been in Cuba to overthrow that government ( especially when it’s only a little island 90 miles off the coast of Florida if we’re in it for merely helping people ) ?      Why did we allow Castro to practically “enslave” that country for many decades  with it’s communist politics ?   Why weren’t we in Rhwanda  when 800,000 people were being slaughtered en masse by being hacked to death by machette wielding wackos ? Why weren’t we in North Korea instead of on hanging on the south border where  the people in North Korea are being kept  under communist suffering ?
                           I could be wrong , but is it a coincidence that the nations in the Middle East that we are sending thousands of our troops to die for and a gazillion dollars in funding  just coincidentally happen to be OIL RICH nations ? Could there just possibly be a link here ?  Just a question of course ? Could there possibly be a special interest for us that we’re ONLY going to war and fighting for THOSE people as proclaimed ?  Just a question ?  I’m not stating , suggesting , inferring , insinuating  anything but just being inquisitive.  Just wondering.   If it’s because of terrorist breeding grounds , then there are  people suffering in Sudan , Pakistan , Somalia , Syria , Iran and many more —–what about them ?  I’m only asking —WHY these 3 specific nations ( Iraq, Afghanistan , and Libya ) ?  There are terrorists in  Yemen,  Saudi Arabia,  and various other Muslim nations that are breeding grounds for terrorists  as well. 
              I remember back in the 1950’s when we did school drills by taking cover under our classroom desks at school just in case the  Soviets had launched a nuclear attack upon America. I will never forget those days back during  the Cold War.
                          What gets me fuming is that our government sends hundreds of billions of dollars overseas to help Middle Easterners  and yet people are starving , unemployed and homeless right here in America . We have various law enforcement agencies that need funding for equipment badly and are refused with the claim that there is no money but we for some reason have the money to send away to support nations ( many who are our open enemies and run by terrorist regiemes ).  We can send food and supplies overseas yet we have people going hungry right here in the USA.   I believe in charity , but first things first and lets  take care of home  (America) first . Our borders are wide open and yet we have over 30,0000 plus troops on the South Korean border with North Korea. There is a word  I’m looking for—-hmmmmm ,oh yeah , it’s called—–  PRIORITIES !  

    • Frank

      Here’s an article that ought to “light your jets.”
      Funding Mosques Overseas

      • Jillian Becker

        A better link for this story, Frank, is one you gave us earlier. 

        See our post “Don’t give a dime”, March 21, 2011. (Put the title in the search slot.)

        • Frank

          Thanks for the reminder Jillian. I am living proof that as a person ages the memory is the second thing to go. I can’t remember what the first thing was.  😉