The Age of Perpetual Conflict

The U.S.’ leaders are not creating peace or security at home or stability abroad. The reverse is the case: its interventions have been counterproductive and its foreign policy is a disaster. Americans and those people who are the objects of successive administrations’ efforts would be far better off if the U.S. did nothing, closed its bases overseas and withdrew its fleets everywhere, and allowed the rest of world to find its own way.

By Gabriel Kolko
Posted by Bulatlat

Nearly all wars in the twentieth century have both surprised and disillusioned all leaders, whatever their nationality. Given the political, social, and human elements involved in every conflict, and the near certainty that these mercurial ingredients will interact to produce unanticipated consequences, leaders who calculate the outcome of wars as essentially predictable military events are invariably doomed to disappointment. The theory and the reality of warfare conflict immensely, for the results of wars can never be known in advance.

Blind men and women have been the motor of modern history and the source of endless misery and destruction. Aspiring leaders of great powers can neither understand nor admit the fact that their strategies are extremely dangerous because statecraft by its very nature always calculates the ability of a nation’s military and economic resources to overcome whatever challenges it confronts. To reject such traditional reasoning, and to question the value of conventional wisdom and react to international crises realistically on the basis of past failures would make them unsuited to command. The result is that politicians succeed in terms of their personal careers, states make monumental errors, and people suffer. The great nations of Europe and Japan put such illusions into practice repeatedly before 1945.

At the beginning of the 21st century only the U.S. has the will to maintain a global foreign policy and to intervene everywhere it believes necessary. Today and in the near future, America will make the decisions that will lead to war or peace, and the fate of much of the world is largely in its hands. It thinks it possesses the arms and a spectrum of military strategies all predicated on a triumphant activist role for itself. It believes that its economy can afford interventionism, and that the American public will support whatever actions necessary to set the affairs of some country or region on the political path it deems essential. This grandiose ambition is bipartisan and, details notwithstanding, both parties have always shared a consensus on it.

The obsession with power and the conviction that armies can produce the political outcome a nation’s leaders desire is by no means an exclusively American illusion. It is a notion that goes back many centuries and has produced the main wars of modern times. The rule of force has been with mankind a very long time, and the assumptions behind it have plagued its history for centuries. But unlike the leaders of most European nations or Japan, the United States’ leaders have not gained insight from the calamities that have so seared modern history. Folly is scarcely an American monopoly, but resistance to learning when grave errors have been committed is almost proportionate to the resources available to repeat them. The Germans learned their lesson after two defeats, the Japanese after World War Two, and both nations found wars too exhausting and politically dangerous. America still believes that if firepower fails to master a situation the solution is to use it more precisely and much more of it. In this regard it is exceptional – past failures have not made it any wiser.

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