As I write this post, it is with great sadness that I mourn the loss of so many young men and women killed or wounded in service to their country while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each of these individuals fought with honor and dignity because they believed in this nation.
We have let them all down. We have shown that we have an amazing fighting force. We can fight multiple wars in multiple locations. Not an easy feat. Just look at World War I and II. Winning the war is easy compared to winning the peace. We got lucky in Germany and Japan following WW II. Both defeated nations could have resorted to insurgency and we might still be dealing with them.
What we struggle with and what any occupying force struggles to control is an insurgent fighting force. It happened to the British during the American Revolution. It happened to Germany in France or the East during World War II and it happened to us in Vietnam.
As a people, we have never been really good at the peace part. Not because we want further war. We don't. Not because we don't see how hard it was to win. We do. We just don't have the mental toughness to grind it out for decades. We once did. We have strong allies in the Germans and the Japanese. But the Korean War broke our spirit. It was too close to WW II. It was too close to becoming a nuclear war and we got gun shy.
We recognize that as a lone superpower (whatever that means), requires a police force mentality. Unfortunately, we don't have that mentality. We swoop in (drones today, bombing during Gulf War I) and keep American casualties to a minimum. That is how we wage war today. We don't have the desire to get bogged down in a long ground war.
That isn't all bad, but when the action you take requires decades to come to fruition you can't have a hit and run mentality. Either go in for the long-term or politely decline the invitation. That is the failure of our current American policy. It didn't start with the current administration, it began long ago (probably with Nixon).
We just don't want to be in a hot spot for too long. Iraq and Afghanistan are both long-term issues. None will be solved (if ever) in a short-term military action. US forces are not peacekeeping forces. Peace Keepers wear the powder blue helmets and give out humanitarian aid. We roll in, destroy the enemies capacity for war and leave.
If you don't believe we should be in Iraq or Afghanistan, then you probably could find many who would support that position. While it is easy to make that call more than a decade after entering each conflict, the information we had at the time (however flawed it may have been) presented a different picture.
We needed to enter each conflict with the belief that decades of occupation would be in our future. While there was a clear and present danger from both countries (through their terrorist ties at least), we didn't want to believe that it would take that long. We believed that regime change in both countries would lead to democracy. What we failed to understand was that maybe these two regions don't really want American style democracy. We were a means to an end for a rebel group, but only because the current regimes were worse.
We are not loved in the Middle East or the Muslim world. Everyone knows it but us. We seem to think they love and respect the US. We forget that in most of this region we have backed the wrong dictator because it was politically expedient. Do you remember which side we backed in the Iran/Iraq war? How about during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan? Our friend today can quickly become our enemy because they were never truly our friend.
So you are asking yourself, what is the point of this post. It is simply this. We squandered the lives of our young people needlessly. Sometimes war is necessary and sacrifices have and will be made. Unnecessary war is always unnecessary. We should always have a clear agenda and a plan to accomplish that agenda. We need to stop picking the lesser of two evils, because that always blows up in our face.
We need to start displaying the American representative democracy. A group of people can't be artificially grouped together and called a nation. They need to want to be together. It didn't work so well for Yugoslavia, why should we expect it to work in Iraq. When we walk into a room and announce that we are the United States we should be prepared to defend why that is a good thing, not simply expect everyone else to fawn over us.
We have a wonderful and diverse history. We are the great melting pot, but historically speaking we took in the groups of people who often couldn't get along with their neighbors in the "Old Country". We shouldn't expect those Old Countries to have changed to the point where they suddenly become ultra tolerant of those groups they didn't care for in the past. Lead by example and they will follow. Tell someone how to behave and they become resentful towards you and in the case of nation building, violent.