It has been almost one year to the day since the death of notorious Al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden. We (the American people) were promised that his capture/death would be the end of conflict and would usher in a new age of peace like that seen in the 1990’s after the fall of the Soviet Union. The past year has proved otherwise and this is catching some people by surprise. But do we really have the right to act as if we expected anything else? What did we really think was going to happen? For over a decade we fixated upon this man believing him to be the devil himself. Well, the devil is gone now and what do we have to show for it; thousands dead, billions (if not trillions) of dollars spent, and public in depression over their government. History has taught us that violence and war have almost never brought about the desired outcome.
One of the most recent examples is with the Middle East country of Iraq. Former President George Bush promised the American people that deposing Dictator Saddam Hussein would bring peace to the Middle East and the spread of democracy in line with the US. President Hussein was captured in 2003, executed in 2006, and Iraq is still one of the most violent countries in the world with bombings continuing on a daily basis. Iraqi sentiment towards the US is a far cry from what it was predicted to be. The saddest part about this story is that it may have all been just a few years premature. The Arab Spring has shown us that a people being shelled by tanks and scorched by bombs still have the same power that it takes the US vast amounts of resources to accomplish. I would also add that they did this of their own volition for the most part through peaceful revolution. Violence breeds more violence and I know that if I had grown up the past decade with foreign troops in my neighborhood conducting night raids I would not hold such warm feelings.
One perfect example of my argument that is sadly overlooked is the Korean War, properly nicknamed the “Forgotten War”. This war saw about 40,000 US casualties and almost two and a half civilians dead. But why then do we seem to forget this war when technically it still has not ended and we have 28,000 soldiers still stationed there? I believe it is because it proved how simply throwing military might around does not solve fundamental issued between parties in dispute. The war began at the 38th parallel and ended at the 38th parallel. There was no territorial acquisition whatsoever and by the end of 1952 the two sides were in the same situation they had been in 1950. It was diplomacy that saw an armistice signed and bruit force. It just took two years and millions of lives to realize it.
Now on to a little more well-known debacle, the Vietnam War. Two decades spent fighting in another nation’s civil war all because of the Domino Theory. That is exactly what it was, a THEORY and not absolute fact. We feared that if South Vietnam fell to communism then the whole region would follow and it would be the end of the world. Vietnam eventually fell and guess what, nothing changed. Vietnam is now a communist country and for the most part the world hardly took notice. So what did that war do for us other than create millions of vets, many of whom returned to find a country against them?
I could go on to cite several more examples from World War I (The War to End All Wars), The American Civil War (which was not fully resolved till the 1960’s), or even the little forgotten War of 1812 whose bicentennial is arriving. We cannot expect war to solve all of our problems and if we continue to live in a culture of violence societal issues will take twice as long. It is easier to sign a declaration of war than a declaration of peace.