Many people think that war is the greatest thing since sliced bread. War is a pretty amazing thing to observe, especially today with the amazing video footage of events on the ground. What is more awesome then watching a building get flattened by a bomb or watching hell fire missles incinerate whole forests. Hollywood has made its business to show us war in all of its amazing glory and how wonderful it is that we the good guys freed the poor oppressed people. But as awesome as things appear to be, there is an aspect that is not really addressed: the unintended consequences of warfare.
First, we need to get a definition of war. According to Clausewitz war is politics by other means. If you do not agree politically to do what I want, then I will hurt you, or even kill you. Clausewitz implies that other avenues have to be tried before going to war. These are negotiation, third party mediation, and sanctions represent some of them.. Once these are exhausted then war can be started. Is this generally the case? Probably not. This is because these things take time and require patience whereas bombing and killing do not.
As we look at the last 100 years, we realize that many wars that US has gotten involved in have largely been ones in which the US entered voluntarily with very little in the way negotiations, third party mediation or sanctions. World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Granada, Gulf war, Afghanistan war and Iraq war were largely been voluntary wars. People can say that we were attacked by those nations. But it comes back to what Clausewitz says war is: Politics by other means. What did these nations attempt to do before they resorted to violence? Did they reach out to the US with negotiations, trade talks, trade embargoes and mediation? Did US actions push them to go to war? I am not sure these questions ever get asked. Vietnam , any one? Beyond the domino theory, why else were we there?
While we can say that most of these wars had good endings, they had many unintended consequences. First, many of these wars led to the rise of dictators and deaths of millions. Hitler, Mao, Lenin, Stalin, Le Duan (Vietnam), Kim Il Sung (Korea) and Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam) rose to power largely due to the balance of power having been disrupted by US foreign intervention. Most of today’s terrorist groups were trained by the CIA during the Afghan war in the 1980’s. The American public wasn’t even really aware that the US was involved in these wars. This is not to say the US is directly responsible for these deaths. It is, however, an indirect consequence of intervening into foreign nations’ affairs.
Another unintended consequence is economic collapse. Case in point: the US after fighting 2 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These wards added trillions to the deficits with very little to show for it. England, Germany and France were decimated after World War I and World War II. They lost a generation of young men, they went bankrupt and lost most of their colonies. The US has countless soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with missing limbs and shattered minds. Some of these costs are not visible. But the medical costs will linger for generations. What about all the orphans and widows that are left to fend for themselves, on both sides of the war. Will none of the sons attempt to seek revenge for the droning of his father?
What the US saw on 9/11 was just a small inkling of what military interventions by the US have caused through out the world. The growth of information on the internet, the many young people seeing their friends go off to war, and the weak economy have shaken many people awake. People all over the world are beginning to wake up and realize that going to war is not a good answer to the question of how to deal with one another. Also they are realizing that going to war is rolling the dice, you never know what will happen when the dust settles. Would any one have figured that they US would be the lone standing super power after WW2? Before we run off to fight another war, lets evaluate the consequences of these actions and go try something peaceful.