Military Intervention Always Fails

One of the main political myths of modern politics is that the United States should intervene militarily in foreign nations to achieve some high moral goal such as stopping communism, spreading democracy or defending human rights. In spite of the record of failure of this policy, it still persists and many people still repeat the same argument that the world is a dangerous place and intervening makes it less so. Proponents of military intervention always defend the failures of the Vietnam and Iraq wars by citing certain failures in execution but in reality, the whole idea is fundamentally flawed.

The main problem that these people ignore is that war is a destructive activity. It takes resources from the economy and destroys them. So the soldiers who fight in the war are taken from the pool of capable workers and the materials used in producing weapons and ammunitions are taken from the private economy placing stress on the available resources. People who may support a war because they like its public goal will quickly rethink their opinion when they see the coffins of dead soldiers coming back home and the broken of these fallen soldiers, when they see the wounded warriors coming back with life-changing disabilities and when they see taxes or deficits increase to pay for the war. When war extends in time and casualties continue to mount the political pressure will mount to end the war. It is hard for democratic governments to sustain long wars that don’t have a strong cause supported by the majority of the population. The only reason that guarantees sustained support is if the war was defensive.

If we examined the example of the Iraq war, many people liked the idea of removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq but not many people continued to like the war when they saw the thousands of dead and wounded and the billions wasted on that war. The same could be said about Korea and Vietnam wars where both lost political support pretty quickly amid mounting human and economic cost. Our foes in these examples fought hard enough to make the war long and costly.

These wars were all failures not only because of the huge human and economic loss but also because the political goal was unnecessary. North Korea and China remained communist countries after the Korean war and Vietnam became a unified communist country after the Vietnam war but that didn’t make communism any stronger and the whole idea was naturally defeated by the weight of its deficiencies, so was it necessary to sacrifice all these lives? The middle east was unstable before the Iraq war and it became even more unstable after the Iraq war under fresh generation of dictators and demagogues.

The only real way to really cause positive change in the world is by being a positive example for other nations. If we abandoned the dreams of nation building and world fixing and focused instead on strengthening our liberties and remove the artificial barriers to our economic growth we will be in a better position to defend against any foe who attacks us. We should only go to war to defend a clear national goal such as our citizens, land or trade routes and when we go to war we should focus on achieving that national goal not on shaping others in an image we like.