Stay The Course
One of the terms I hear bandied about whenever I listen to the news is “regime change.” A generation ago, we called it “nation building.” Whatever the label, we’ve been at it a long time. We first built our own nation, and that gave us the sense that might be good at helping other folks build — or rebuild — their own.
In each case, we used our own blueprint for that effort, with mixed results. Most would agree our nation-building projects after World War II turned out fairly well. Japan was transformed from a feudal military empire into a Western-style democracy and economic powerhouse. Same with South Korea and post-war Europe.
We didn’t fare as well in Vietnam, Cuba, or Central America. Outright failures more recently include Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. One could argue those last didn’t have democratic traditions to draw from, thus just weren’t ready for our brand of government. In fact, many people did warn us.
There was good reason George Bush senior and his generals stopped Operation Desert Storm before forcing the fall of Baghdad. Bad as he was, Saddam Hussein was a known quantity, and had the strength to keep a lid on the various factions in Iraq. Two costly mistakes followed: Bush junior removed that power, and Obama removed us. Into that power vacuum came the chaos we see today.
It seems we do better when we: 1. Totally and completely defeat an enemy beyond any chance of resurgence…and 2. Stay the course long enough afterwards. Seventy years after the end of WWII, we still have thousands of troops in former Axis countries. We may not be considered occupiers any more, but their continued stability is due in no small part to our constant military presence.
Many would wish we stay out of other countries’ affairs. That might work if others like Russia and China did too; but if we must involve ourselves elsewhere, it should be with total commitment for the long term. Else, temporary friends may turn out to be as fleeting as the sands of the Sahara.
Stay The Course