October 26, 2006

Wars: Good, Bad, Indifferent

Larison posts on his view of wars past and present. He's agin' most of 'em. It's food for thought.

In the usual "just war" analysis the winnability and cost of the war are part of the calculus used, along with the causes and goals, to determine whether the war is just or not. Thus below I allude to the circumstances, goals, and costs of our wars.

Here's my very unsystematic and off-the-cuff take:

Revolutionary WarProbably inevitable given the hardening on both sides. Justified by the need to separate and the pigheadeness of England.
War of 1812Could have been avoided--ended in a stalemate.
Mexican WarA war of aggression that helped create the conditions for the Civil War, but integral to the continental destiny of the country.
Civil WarUnjustified by its stated goal of preserving the Union, worthy in that it achieved abolition, horrible in its carnage as the first industrialized war. If the North had let the South go, would slavery have been abolished about the time it was in Brazil? Read Mencken's views.
Spanish American WarA pure imperialist war rationalized in pre-Wilsonian terms.
World War IOur intervention was the worst mistake of our national existence. It strengtened federal power, involved us in European quarrels, and laid the groundwork for totalitarianism and World War II.
World War IIRoosevelt wanted in and maneuvered so as to force Japan into its stupid attack upon us, but once attacked we had to defend ourselves. Germany saved us the trouble of deciding whether to intervene in Europe by declaring war on us.
KoreaWe were defending a nation against a communist attack, after foolishly signalling the we wouldn't do so. Justified, perhaps, in global terms.
VietnamA war against an evil foe, Southeast Asian communism, that we were unable to sustain as a democracy, to the great damage of Southeast Asia and our country.
Cold War InterventionsMany of these smaller wars could have been avoided, but the overarching strategy of containment proved wise and effective.
Gulf War ISaddam taking over Kuwait would not have been good, but probably not the disaster some imagined at the time. Given our forward posture at the time, this war had a certain logic; had we started to abandon or forward strategy, a we should have done in the post-Soviet era, this war would not have been necessary.
AfghanistanGiven the attack and the Taliban's harboring of its authors, we had little choice but to respond. Whether "nation-building" can succeed in the face of Pushtunwali is another question.
Gulf War IIDethroning Saddam was a worthy goal, but the administration refused to develop a post-invasion plan. It could not have determined that the war was just, because it could not evaluate the cost.

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