Do nations learn from mistakes?
Today the United States is in deep debt, in part from the Iraq war, the continued fighting in Afghanistan and the general fight against terrorism. Then there’s the cost from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
As the nation slowly recovers, the United States and its allies are trying to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and trying to force North Korea to end its program, which perhaps already includes nuclear devices. There is also a push for the Obama White House to take a more active role in Syria to halt the killing and prevent radical Islamic elements from gaining control.
How much more do Obama policymakers — or those politicians pushing for military action — know about what would happen if the United States were to bomb or initiate military operations in Iran or North Korea, or supply weapons or create a free-fly zone for the Syrian opposition?
Any of those actions would, in effect, put the U.S. militarily “there on the ground.”
A decade ago the United States and it allies invaded Iraq because the Bush administration wanted to stop Saddam Hussein from building nuclear weapons, prevent the transfer of chemical or biological agents to terrorists, or end general support of terrorists, including al-Qaeda. Some officials just thought it was time to end the dictatorial regime. Take your pick.
Economic sanctions had not worked, and the Bush White House had convinced a majority of Americans that Saddam had ties to Osama bin Laden and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on, which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason,” Wolfowitz said more than a year later about the justification for the war, according to a Pentagon transcript of an interview he gave to Vanity Fair.
The fact is neither Wolfowitz nor Bush nor other senior policymakers knew much about Iraq’s culture and domestic politics. The result was that they totally underestimated the task being undertaken, which meant the loss of 4,400 U.S. service personnel and 32,000 wounded.
What many forget is that Iraq and Afghanistan also mark the first U.S. wars in which a president, first Bush and now President Obama, has not sought a war tax. The result: nearly $2 trillion in war expenditures put on the nation’s credit card.
Have those pushing for military action against Iran, North Korea or involvement in Syria mentioned asking taxpayers to support paying for such operations?
“There is a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be U.S. taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of the Iraqi people. We are talking about a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon,” Wolfowitz told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee on March 27, 2003, a week after the invasion began. He certainly was wrong about that.