My View: U.S. legacy of wars won't end soon

The U.S. is officially fighting wars in seven countries, including Libya, Somalia and Niger, according to an unclassified White House report sent to Congress recently.

Since the beginning of the so-called War on Terrorism in 2001, there have been several million deaths in the Middle East, and thousands of Americans have died in combat zones around the world.

A limited incursion to capture Osama bin Laden has led to an 18-year quagmire in Afghanistan, with peripheral operations in neighboring Pakistan, that has no acceptable exit.

This follows the pattern of Viet Nam, where logistical support of the French military in the ‘50s, morphed into an anti-communist crusade in the ‘60s. Over 58,000 Americans were killed, hundreds of thousands were wounded, and hundreds of billions were spent on this debacle, one of the worst foreign policy decisions in our history.

Equally disastrously, the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 based on false information, resulting in the deaths of half a million Iraqis, millions of refugees and spreading war throughout the Middle East. Astonishingly, the United States bombed Iraqi territory intermittently for 25 years, starting with Saddam’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

There have been many other U.S. interventions around the world since the Korean war, starting with military support for the Bay of Pigs in 1961, sending troops to the Dominican Republic in 1965, to Lebanon in 1982 (which resulted in the deaths of 241 Marines), to Granada in 1983, to Panama in 1989, fought the Gulf War in 1991, joined the multinational force in Somalia in 1993 (resulting in the Blackhawk Down incident), intervened in Haiti in 1994, in Bosnia from ‘84-96, and in Kosovo in 1999.

We have been conducting drone strikes in Yemen for years in support of Saudi Arabia’s war against the Houthis, who in turn are supported by the Saudis’ rival, Iran, creating one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. We are also supporting counter insurgency operations in the Philippines and Eritrea.

The U.S. began bombing Libya in 2011 to get rid of Qaddafi and has repeatedly intervened militarily on behalf of one faction or another, the result of which is more chaos and stronger support for ISIS.

Somalia has been targeted for years, both because of the pirates operating out of Somali territory and because of the terrorist group al-Shabab, which has attacked U.S. interests and its sometime partners, Kenya and Ethiopia.

U.S. military action in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan have cost American taxpayers $5.9 trillion since they began in 2001, according to a new study by the Watson Institute at Brown University.

Chinese billionaire “Jack” Ma, founder of Alibaba, in contrast, calculates that the U.S. has wasted over $14 trillion on fighting wars over the past 30 years.

Former president Jimmy Carter noted recently that the U.S. has only enjoyed 16 years of peace in its 243-year history, making the country “the most warlike nation in the history of the world.” Carter is proud that no American servicemen died in overseas conflicts during his term.

He perhaps knows Sun Tzu’s maxim: There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare.

Mike Pence, on the other hand, told West Point graduates recently that “It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life. You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen.”

He elaborated, citing threats in Afghanistan and Iraq, from North Korea and an increasingly militarized China, and from “an aggressive Russia.” West Point graduates have a 5-year active duty commitment, with three years in the reserves. In other words, the fighting will start soon.

Led by chicken-hawks like John Bolton and supported by President Bone-spurs, the U.S. just deployed more troops to the Middle East because of “threats” from Iran; Iranian troops in the Middle East do not threaten the U.S. homeland, but nuclear weapons would threaten friends and allies. Does anyone believe that Trump actually understands the Iranian nuclear agreement that he withdrew from?

What will Trump do? Michael Wolff quotes a comment from Henry Kissinger: “The entire [Trump] foreign policy is based on a single unstable individual’s reaction to perceptions of slights or flattery. If someone says something nice about him, they are our friend; if they say something unkind, if they don’t kiss the ring, they are our enemy.”

That’s the guy who “fell in love” with Kim Jong-un because of some flattering letters, making him the most narcissistic, gullible simpleton who has ever occupied the White House.

Tom Maertens was a naval officer, a Peace Corps volunteer and a Foreign Service officer who served around the world, in the White House and in the U.S. Senate. He lives in Mankato.

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