Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Learning from history

I hear people talk about learning (or not learning) the lessons of Viet Nam. As formulated by Colin Powel, these lessons are that America does not have the stomach for a long or costly war so we should only fight when we can go in, crush our enemy, and get out fast. This says quite a lot about America and the former Secretary of State's view of it.

There are other lessons we can learn from recent history. Here is a short list:

The lesson of the Fall of Viet Nam.
The peaceniks said that North Viet Nam's takeover of the south would be peaceful. They were wrong. IT was a bloodbath and all of the peace activists except Jane Fonda admitted that they were wrong.

The lesson of Afghanistan and Somalia.
Failed states don't heal themselves. Failed Islamic states open themselves to takeover by hard-core fundamentalists. When we pulled out of Somalia in 1993, many conservatives jumped on the bandwagon saying that we shouldn't have been there in the first place. Rush Limbaugh was quoted as saying that the military is good at killing people and breaking things, not building nations. Most conservatives have learned since than that failed states fester. We let this happen in Afghanistan and it became the headquarters for al Qaeda. Somalia is in danger of going down the same path.

The Lesson of Desert Storm
Had we overthrown Saddam in 1991, it would have been much easier to build a new government. The people of Iraq trusted us, Islamic fundamentalism was not as strong, and Iran was much weaker. Instead we held off at the instance of our Arab allies. We "put Saddam in a box" through sanctions and no-fly zones. We hoped that his government would fall on its own and our hands would be clean. Obviously, that didn't happen. Saddam used Oil For Food money to bribe other nations and we were in a continuous state of hostility with Iraq for over a decade. Deferring a problem did not make it go away. Had we continued to wait instead of invading in 2003, the problem would only have gotten worse.

The lesson of Libya
During the 1980s, Libya was a big problem. It was territorial and it supported terrorism. After we received proof of their involvement in blowing up a plane we attacked their government with a missile barrage. The problem went away.

So, here we are with the Democrats protesting a surge (or escalation as they insist on calling it) and instead proposing a retreat (redeployment to Asia). I would ask them to identify an international problem that has solved itself.

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