Were the Wars Wise? Were They Worth It?

4 ½ min

Through the long Memorial Day weekend, anyone who read the newspapers or watched television could not miss or be unmoved by it: Story after story after story of the fallen, of those who had given the "last full measure of devotion" to their country. Heart-rending is an apt description of those stories; and searing are the videos of those who survived and returned home without arms or legs.  But the stories could not help but bring questions to mind.          

While the service and sacrifice were always honorable and often heroic, never to be forgotten, were the wars these soldiers were sent to fight and die in wise? Were they necessary? What became of the causes for which these Americans were sent to fight in the new century, with thousands to die and tens of thousands to come home with permanent wounds? And what became of the causes for which they were sent to fight?  

The longest war of this new century, the longest in our history, the defining "endless war" or "forever war" was Afghanistan. In 2001, we sent an army halfway around the world to exact retribution on al-Qaida for 9/11, an attack that rivaled Pearl Harbor in the numbers of dead and wounded Americans. Because al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden had been given sanctuary by the Taliban in Kabul, who refused to give him up, we invaded, overthrew that Islamist regime,and cleansed Tora Bora of al-Qaida.Mission accomplished. But then the mission changed. 

In control of a land that had seen off British and Soviet imperialists, we hubristically set about establishing a democracy and sent hundreds of thousands of Americans to hold off the rebel resistance for two decades while we went about nation-building. We did not succeed. All U.S. troops are to be gone by the 20th anniversary of 9/11. And the Taliban we ousted has never been closer to recapturing power in Kabul. Today's issue: How do we save the Afghans who allied with us in this war, so that they do not face the terrible vengeance of a victorious Taliban?

The second American war of this century was the invasion and occupation of Iraq, to strip its dictator, Saddam Hussein, of weapons of mass destruction with which he intended to attack the United States. Begun in 2003, the war has lasted 18 years. No WMD were ever found. Most U.S. troops have come and gone. And today, the Baghdad regime rules at the sufferance of Shiite militia who look to Tehran for guidance and support. 

Afghanistan and Iraq cost us 7,000 dead and 40,000 wounded. Were they necessary wars? Were they wise? Were they worth it?

In the second decade of this century, we intervened in Syria to back the "good rebels" seeking to overthrow Bashar Assad and became the indispensable ally in Saudi Arabia's murderous air war to stop the Houthi rebels from consolidating power in Yemen. In both Syria and Yemen, hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians have been wounded, killed, uprooted, or driven into exile. Both countries are listed among the humanitarian catastrophes of the 21st century. 

Having helped to inflict so much damage on those countries, did we succeed in our missions? Today, after six years of fighting, the Houthi still control the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, and Assad just won a fourth term as president with 95 percent of the vote. 

In 2011, President Barack Obama ordered U.S. air attacks on Col. Moammar Gadhafi's forces in Libya, beginning a NATO intervention that would lead to his overthrow and lynching. In 2020, however, the future of Libya was not being decided by the European Union or U.S. but fought over by proxy forces supported and supplied by Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt,and Russia. And Barack Obama had conceded that the worst mistake of his presidency was not to plan for the aftermath of his 2011 decision to topple the Libyan dictator.

Again, the men and women sent to the Middle East to fight these wars did their duty and deserve the gratitude of their countrymen that they received this Memorial Day weekend. But where is the accounting from those who sent them to fight, bleed and die in what turned out to be unwinnable wars—or, at the least, wars they were not given the requisite weapons or forces to win? What makes these questions of importance, and not only to historians, is that the cry of the hawk may be heard again in the land.

We hear calls to confront Iran before the mullahs build an atom bomb, and to challenge Putin and arm Ukraine to retake Crimea and push Russia out of the Donbass. We hear talk of the American Navy contesting Beijing's claims in the East and South China Seas, including to Taiwan.

The stories of Memorial Day should make us think long and hard before we launch any more unnecessary, unwise, or unwinnable wars.



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Patrick J. Buchanan

Patrick J. Buchanan

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever. To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.

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Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War. He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and calm pulse to exterminate his kind. He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out...and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel. ..And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood off his hands and works for "the universal brotherhood of man"--with his mouth. - What Is Man? Mark Twain


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An a Nimity
Just War Theory Saint Augustine was one of the first to declare a test for war and offered this theory on war and justice: Principals of Just-War Theory 1. Last Resort "A just war can only be waged after all peaceful options are considered. The use of force can only be used as a last resort." 2. Legitimate Authority "A just war is waged by a legitimate authority. A was cannot be waged by individuals or groups that do not consitute the legitimate government." 3. Just Cause "A just war needs to be in response to a wrong suffered. Sel-defense against as attack always constitutes a just war; however, the war needs to be fought with the objective to correct the inflicted wrong." 4. Probability of Success "In order for a war to be just, there must be a rational possibility of success. A nation cannot enter a war with a hopeless cause." 5. Right Intention "The primary objective of a just war is to re-establish peace. In particular, the peace after the war should exceed the peace that would have succeded without the use of force. The aim of the use of force must be justice." 6. Proportionality "The violence in a just war must be proportionalo to the casualties suffered. The nations involved in the war must avoid disproportionate military action and only use the amount of force absolutely necessary." 7. Civilian Casualties "The use of force must distinguish between the militia and civilians. Innocent citizens must never be the target of war; soldiers should always avoid killing civilians. The death of civilians are only justified when they are unavoidable victims of a military attack on a strategic target." If only mankind could live by rules such as these and the Word of God, the Bible.; judt think of the peace won, and the senseless loss of lives that could have been avoided. If only we had an organization that would make sure mankind followed such humanitarian policies. If we did I would name it the United Nations; but