Endless War Is No Honor to America's Veterans

November 19, 2017 Topic: Security Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Skeptics Tags: WarVeteransMilitaryDonald TrumpObama

Endless War Is No Honor to America's Veterans

The United States is constantly at war, and in far more nations than most Americans realize.

Extraordinary hubris, born of America’s unique founding and present dominance, encourages Washington policymakers to engage in international social engineering. With sufficient military power, they believe, they can overcome differences in history, religion, geography, ethnicity, culture, politics and more, and remold the world to their liking. Every failure merely causes them to overreach more next time.

Also important is the recent affection of supposedly limited-government conservatives for international social engineering. Once skeptical of participation in foreign wars, the conservative movement shifted because of the Cold War. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, some on the right reverted to their historic commitment to a foreign policy fit for a republic. But the majority seemed to glory in the prospect of an American-style empire, in which the very federal politicians they reviled at home would spread capitalism, liberty and democracy abroad.

Costs to others are simply ignored, and maybe not even noticed. A few hundred thousand dead Iraqis? Well, one must break eggs to make an omelet. Sen. Lindsey Graham has been surprisingly blunt in advocating war against North Korea since, he explained, it would not occur “over here.” So what if South Korea would be turned into a battleground? Offloading the costs on others makes it easier for Washington to conduct wars.

Most important may be the fact that the United States is so secure. Republican presidential candidates last year acted as if America was a small, beleaguered, Third World country threatened by such global behemoths as Iran and North Korea. However, Washington is a colossus. It can waste lives and money with wild abandon with few ill effects at home, other than on the service members who are killed or injured. The ill impact is mostly on others: hapless Libyans, Iraqis, Syrians and Yemenis, for instance, who suffer through devastation, chaos and hardship created by Washington’s blundering.

America always has been unique, even exceptional. But the nation’s founders didn’t view that as a reason to join the old imperial powers in sacrificing their people’s welfare in pursuit of international glory. Today Washington seems most exceptional to the degree to which it relies on military power to advance often peripheral interests—and the lack of accountability for those who misuse that power so badly and promiscuously.

U.S. servicemen and women perform extraordinary tasks in difficult circumstances. But their commitment and courage are being misused by politicians who have seemingly forgotten that America is a republic, not an empire. And their responsibility is to defend America, not the rest of the world.

Veterans Day should be considered commemoration of tragedy, not celebration of victory. President Trump should spend the coming year ending old wars, not starting new ones.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. A former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is the author of several books, including Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.

Image: Balloons fly over the grave of Thomas J. Barbieri II, who was killed serving in Iraq, in Arlington National Cemetery's Second 60, which contains the graves of many members of the U.S. military killed in recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Washington, U.S., August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts


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