We’re supposed to learn from history so we don’t repeat our mistakes. But suppose you learned very little history, just the mistakes? And history is still often taught about wars and the dates of battles, not the real reason for the wars nor the results.
In high school, Miss Hickey taught that the Mexican-American War started because “the Mexicans insulted our flag!” When I asked whether a piece of cloth was worth a war, I was sent to the principal’s office.
That battle about the reason for wars is still being fought. Only the geography changes: Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. In the past, most wars were ostensibly about religion, now frequently it’s about territory. But the real prizes are access to markets, fishing rights, drilling rights (rarely about human rights.)
Unfortunately for the capitalists, most Americans don’t want their children killed or their treasury depleted to secure markets for United Fruit, BP, or Apple. So, these wars are wrapped in the stars and stripes because our enemies are everywhere! (Remember Iraq and those Weapons Of Mass Deception? We can’t wait for that shitake-shaped cloud!) So we invade places.
These wars have a nice symmetry. We need weapons to invade — expensive weapons! And lots of them! And do they ever create profits. Then there’s the “job creation” in the few factories that the U.S. has left. It’s tricky to offshore much military work. Suppose we needed to fight our supplier?
President Obama is trying something revolutionary now: give wars an expiration date, have a smaller, smarter military capability, and try to form real coalitions, not the Iraq version of fourteen Mongolians and a Ukranian Motor Pool. But the President has to deal with lots of people who desperately want to see him fail.
Most distressing are the anti-war people who won’t forgive the President because he didn’t do all this sooner. They’re like the kids in the back seat: “But Dad, you promised! You promised!” Well, kids, the trip will be a whole lot longer if President Romney is in the driver’s seat.