The United States has spent most of the last 50 years at war and all of the last 25 years at war. The wars in which we have been engaged included:

  • Vietnam War
  • Gulf War
  • Operations in Somalia
  • War against Serbia (including interventions in Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Kosovo)
  • War in Afghanistan
  • Iraq War
  • Intervention in Libya
  • Interventions in Somalia, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen

In practical terms what U. S. foreign policy objectives have been advanced by these and our other interventions over the period? Other than the vaguest and most abstract of foreign policy objectives, I don’t believe any have been.

In my view all of these wars, interventions, and operations have been undertaken for domestic political reasons and were mostly miscalculations but I’m open to arguments that they advanced our foreign policy objectives.

Your turn. Remember, practical terms not hypothetical or theoretical reasons or what might have happened if they had turned out differently.

18 comments… add one
  • Ben Wolf

    I don’t think the U.S. has foreign policy objectives. I think our objective is to shovel money at arms manufacturers and military contractors.

  • Given the sorry state of our politics I’d say those count as domestic political objectives.

  • Bob Sykes

    I don’t think there is a unitary government in Washington. Putin has remarked that the US is “not capable of negotiation.” By that he means that what one agency, say State, negotiates another negates, say the CIA.
    So we have no foreign policy, only a series of power struggles among the denizens of the Deep State.

    They did momentarily unite to slap down Trump, who was once a threat to them and their games.

  • Gustopher

    Regarding Sebia, we stopped genocide. Too late for many people, but not too late for all the people.

    Whether stopping genocide is or is not a sufficient foreign policy objective, I leave to the reader.

    Also, you’re missing Korea. And Grenada. And Panama. And out part in the Chilean coup.

    Korea and Vietnam were about fighting the communists in a limited way, so we would not go and fight them in an unlimited way. Relatively minor wars that kept us busy and kept us from waging a larger war — without these wars, someone would have gotten it into their head to try to free Eastern Europe, and started WWIII.

  • gray shambler

    None on your list were declared wars, total wars, these are better defined as limited political actions.

  • Janis Gore

    They got young, healthy, intelligent, courageous and patriotic American men killed at other people’s hands. The ruling class has been left secure, and the very people most able to have raised a revolution have been eliminated by foreign hands.

  • Janis Gore

    The military-industrial complex met it objectives.

  • mike shupp

    We-ell …. there was a theory, sort of, that said we should hold the line against Communism, by persuading Communists that whenever they tried to expand their territory we would make it very expensive for them. That was more or less the idea behind Viet Nam, and maybe it worked, sort of, since I’ve seen it said that Breshnev’s generals in the USSR looked at what the US was spending and doing on Viet Nam and told him to be very restrained in foreign affairs since the damned Americans were absolutely insane. That’s a triumph of some kind, maybe.

    Gulf War, Somalia, Serbia … Those were intended to be humanitarian in some fashion. Show that aggression doesn’t pay, that sort of thing. Maybe you justify the Gulf War by saying it showed the US wouldn’t tolerate boundary lines being changed in the Middle East, and that prevented subsequent wars, and kept oil prices stable. Maybe.

    Afghanistan … We were mad at the Taliban and wanted ben Laden, and what more can be said.

    The others …. We got to show Moslems that Americans Run The Show, and hasn’t that been great fun for our politicians and many voters?

    Just remember we’re the largest military power on earth, and we have the purest hearts and the kindliest intentions — so long as people do what we tell them anyhow — and nothing we do can go wrong because American Is Exceptional.

    Ummm. This isn’t what you asked for, is it?

  • walt moffett

    You also missed our ongoing adventures in the Philippines, the Tanker War with Iran, Angola and chasing Kony in Africa.

    Both the Tanker War and piracy patrols off Somalia served the national interest of freedom of the seas. Vietnam, Grenada, Angola, Argentina, Korea were all attempts to head off the Russian communists as part of the Containment policy. Afghanistan stands out as serving domestic interests since if Bush didn’t do it, his successor, would. The rest seem the result of wishful thinking, miscalculation, domestic issues (where being seen as doing something is important), etc.

    Now how to avoid these things, requires electing federal level candidates who will talk plainly about when force (up to and including nukes) would be applied and when it will not. Since gray/blue clashes with my shirt, will not hold my breath until this occurs.

    BTW, ever notice how strong the unions are in the defense industry?

  • mike shupp

    What sort of strikes me …

    Actually what strikes me is I should just stop here and sit a while weeping.

    Uh, but going beyond that. Up till 1991 or so — which is Viet Nam on your list — this country built up a large military establishment aimed against the Soviet Union and nations allied with it, and a huge part of our intelligentsia — the bright people who concerned themselves with government — focused on opposing communist states which attempted to spread by military means. There was an apparent problem; the US as the world’s dominant non-communist state was the self-evidently the entity faced with solving that problem; and military intervention was one of the methods the US used to control that problem, for the benefit of non-communists around all the world. We fought the Viet Cong to keep South Viet Nam free, and that would be a good thing for ordinary US citizens and London bankers and French farmers and Kenyan herdsmen and others, as well as for ordinary South Vietnamese people.

    And after the USSR fell apart, 25 years ago, it all turned to shit, because we had this huge military establishment and no real good idea of how to use it in an environment with something like the USSR.

    Should we use our military with the idea of doing some good in a world which still had problems even after communism’s fall? That gave us Somalia and intervention in the wreckage of Yugoslavia. With sort of mixed results.

    Should we close the military down? Or chop it into a smaller thing, to free up resources for growing the American economy? We did that too during the Clinton administration.

    And then we got gut-punched by Islamic radicals on 9/11/2001, and suddenly it seemed self-evident to most Americans that we should get even with Al Quidah and other groups who opposed us. Which might well be true, but we didn’t have a large group of counter-Moslem intelligentsia to moderate and guide our response, as we had had during the cold war, and George Bush and his cabinet and large numbers of citizens didn’t want such guidance. They saw an enemy and “an axis of terror” and they wanted to punch back, just as violently and cruelly as we had been punched.

    And then …. Well, there’s no point in repeating all the stuff that’s going to fill up history books for the next thousand years. George Bush’s wars weren’t the most glorious pages in military history.

    Barak Obama was a bit more restrained, but he wasn’t a military genius either, nor were the people who worked for him. (This is the point to jump up and down and scream about the stupid things which can be blamed on Hillary Clinton, such as the gawdawful stupidity of upsetting Libya for the sheer pleasure of ousting and then killing Omar Kadafi.)

    Now we’re in the age of Donald Trump. God help us all.

  • Janis Gore

    Lord have mercy on us, Mr. Shupp. I resort to prayer.

  • Janis Gore

    Here’s an optimistic little piece in The Atlantic that you might find interesting:


  • Janis Gore

    I highly recommend the audio.

  • mike shupp

    Janice– Much thanks. I often have the feeling I’m out of step here so it’s nice to see someone is reacting to my words…

    The thing with Trump … I understand a batch of liberals get near-fatal high blood pressure attacks contemplating Trump and want to prove he got elected only because of secret Russian interventions and poorly educated-racist-nostalgia plagued Midwesterners, and all that. But what strikes me now, 6 months or so after his inauguration, is that more than one third of American voters see him as a better-than-average president, and nearly 80% of Republican voters view him both as better than average AND as a typical American president interacting with the world in a more or less typical fashion, but again in a better than average way.

    You and I and Nancy Pelosi and Hilary Clinton may think of Donald Trump as a very strange person, but a very large portion of the electorate views him as an ordinary person elected President doing ordinary things in ordinary ways.

    Uhhhhh…. so our agonizing and moaning and groaning don’t much matter. Eight years from now, someone else will be in the White House, Donald Trump will be ex-President Trump and he will have as much power to annoy his successor as say Jimmy Carter. And all the evil and odd-ball and idiosyncratic things done by Donald Trump will vanish into history … or internet listacles. Some of the things Trump does will matter immensely and Americans will take them for granted five hundred years hence. And most of what Trump does, annoying as it is now, will matter very little and 90% of Americans will have totally forgotten them two days after Trump’s successor as President is sown into office.

    So the liberal campaign to “unelect” Donald Trump is wasted effort. However odd he may seem to many of us right now, history will record him as an ordinary being doing ordinary things in the White House for ordinary reasons.

  • You and I and Nancy Pelosi and Hilary Clinton may think of Donald Trump as a very strange person, but a very large portion of the electorate views him as an ordinary person elected President doing ordinary things in ordinary ways.

    On top of that there isn’t much movement one way or another in those views. President Trump’s approval rating has hovered around 38% for six months. People who hated Donald Trump in November still hate him. People who supported him strongly in November still support him strongly. That’s not news despite the best efforts of the media to make it into news.

  • Janis Gore

    What I found most interesting about the Atlantic piece is that is was a more general indictment of overreaction to Trump. He won the hearts of “the deplorables” because of the impolitic and tone-deaf Hilary Clinton. That woman has no business on a community stage, much less a world stage.

  • TastyBits

    Between the Trump supporters and Trump haters, there is no middle ground. The two group’s idea of government are diametrically opposed.

    […] “Our new president, of course, has not been in this line of work before. I think he had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.” […]
    – Sen. McConnell

    This sums up everything about government and politics Trump supporters find not just frustrating but also bewildering that anybody would not be stunned by this statement, and yet, Trump haters agree that this is how government should be run.

    Basically, government is a gigantic clusterfuck, and this is a good thing. To me, this is like dividing by zero, but for Trump haters, this is a perfectly reasonable statement.

    From first paragraph of the previously linked the Atlantic article:

    […] We have never had a president so ill-informed about the nature of his office, so openly mendacious, so self-destructive, or so brazen in his abusive attacks on the courts, the press, Congress (including members of his own party), and even senior officials within his own administration. […]

    The entire Atlantic article is a defense of Sen. McConnell’s quote. This the exact reason why Trump supports are Trump supporters, and Trump haters are Trump haters. He is an existential threat to the existing governmental philosophy of Trump haters, and if he is not destroyed, other groups might get a little uppity.

    Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, and Sanders supporters are the Left’s Tea Party, and at some point, they might realize that Hillary Clinton was not their salvation. No, she and her supporters are the cause of their frustrations, and they need their own Trump.

    Let me help all the Trump haters. If you win, it is just ‘business as usual’ for Trump supporters, but if you cannot destroy him, your entire world is over. I suggest that your smug and condescending attitude is misplaced.

    Burn this bitch to the f*cking ground.

  • Janis Gore

    Yes, the only “non-deplorables” were, voila, Clinton Democrats.

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