the feelings and beliefs of people who think that their country is always right and who are in favor of aggressive acts against other countries; extreme chauvinism or nationalism marked especially by a belligerent foreign policy
[Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary]
In the face of naked aggression by Vladimir Putin against Ukraine, the frightening rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and the endless cycle of violence and half-hearted “ceasefires” in Israel and Gaza, the usual contingent of American hawks is beating the war drums and demanding that the United States exercise its military might to “solve” these complex and explosive crises.
Conservative Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, and former Vice-President Dick Cheney, are only a few of the voices calling for U.S. military initiatives in eastern Europe and the Middle East. Right-Wing Republicans are relishing yet another opportunity to attack President Barack Obama, hammering our Commander in Chief for his “inaction” on foreign policy.
Last week, Wall Street Journal columnist Robert Kagan scolded Americans for our “dangerous aversion to conflict,” and asserted that reluctance to launch military operations represents a “failure to learn the lessons of history.”
In this week’s Washington Post, Robert J. Samuelson trumpets an urgent need to increase defense spending, also accusing “doves” of failing to learn the important lessons of past experience.
What exactly are the “lessons” that we are supposed to have learned about war over the past century? Well, try these for example:
- World War I did not resolve the festering rivalries in Europe, or prevent World War II.
- World War II did not resolve the growing crisis between East and West, or prevent the rise of poisonous ideologies in Asia, the Middle East, or Africa.
- Our nuclear devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not convince aggressor nations that war had become “unthinkable,” or lead them to abandon their quest to acquire nuclear weapons of their own.
- Our undeclared wars in Korea and Vietnam did not resolve the complex political and cultural conflicts in those countries, or prevent the rise of Russia and China as global Communist powers.
- George Bush I’s foray into Iraq temporarily halted Saddam Hussein’s aggression, which only spurred him on to more ambitious aggression against his own people and his neighbors.
- George Bush II’s forays into Iraq and Afghanistan have not resolved the ethnic, cultural, and religious conflicts in the region or succeeded in any real “nation-building.” Instead, our actions have fostered more chaos, more atrocities, and more hatred and resentment toward the United States, and may well have facilitated the rise of ISIS.
So I would ask those who are panting for more Defense spending and further U.S. military involvement in these regions: What’s your game plan? What’s your exit strategy? And what are the most likely long-term effects of unilateral military action? On our relations with our allies? On the global order? Have you thought that through? Or are you just looking for a quick, satisfying demonstration of American military might? Just because we have the biggest military “hammer” on the planet, does that mean that every foreign policy issue is a “nail?”
[FOOTNOTE: Under extreme pressure from the jingoists to “DO something,” President Obama announced last night that he will authorize airstrikes in Syria and the deployment of 475 more military advisers to Iraq. We should be helping our President to resist the jingoism that will inevitably drag us back into a Middle East quagmire. We need to provide much more support to Obama, and to Secretary of State John Kerry, for their ongoing efforts to pursue diplomatic, economic, political, and moral strategies instead.]