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Bandow: To Celebrate Veterans Day Next Year, Decide Not to Fight Any More Foreign Wars

Washington policymakers should make foreign wars a thing of the past, no longer attempting to police the globe. Then Americans really could celebrate future Veterans Days.Last week America celebrated another Veterans Day, honoring those who served in America’s military. Veterans Day is a holiday filled with public rhapsodies about the bravery and sacrifice of military personnel. 

For the vast majority of veterans such accolades are justified. Some pay with their lives. Others are injured, often suffering from mismanaged health care at home. Even away from combat life can be tough, with Veterans Daygovernment controlling one’s future. 

The Veterans of Foreign Wars was established in 1899 by men who served in the Spanish-American War and sought health care and pensions. The VFW dramatically expanded after World War I and especially World War II. A series of smaller conflicts added new members in recent years. 

Unfortunately, that process continues. Despite the end of the Cold War American forces have been constantly in combat. 

Of course, ostentatious political patriots attempt to outdo each other in their praise of vets. Those who studiously avoided serving seem to most loudly praise those they send into combat. 

The U.S. was born in war. Sometimes military action is necessary. But not often. Indeed, virtually never these days. 

America’s recent conflicts mostly failed to implicate important, let alone vital, interests. Most are far more likely to undermine than advance liberty and peace. 

As a result, military personnel usually do not in fact fight for Americans’ freedoms. Rather, veterans are employed to advance whatever policies, preferences, desires, or fantasies dominate Washington. 

To criticize the wars in which veterans fought is not to blame those in uniform. Rather, political officials treat military personnel as gambit pawns in a never-ending global chess game. 

Which of America’s recent wars was necessary? The Islamic State is a nasty creature, but does not threaten the U.S. Indeed, unlike al-Qaeda, ISIS/ISIL avoided terrorism until attacked, preferring to create a geographically bounded state (or “caliphate”). 

In contrast, the movement challenges virtually every nation in the region. Collectively they are capable of defeating ISIS/ISIL, but most have little incentive to act so long as Washington is determined to do the job for them. Indeed, America's Arab "allies" have all essentially dropped out of the administration's grand coalition since Washington is doing the job for them. 

There is no security justification for intervening in Syria’s civil war. The Assad regime is horrid, but many of its opponents are worse. Ousting the regime likely would let loose even more vicious forces—as happened in Libya and Iraq. 

Invading Iraq was one of the worst foreign policy decisions ever: thousands of Americans died, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed, trillions of dollars were wasted, Iranian influence was enhanced, and both al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State were spawned. While Washington had little choice but to invade Afghanistan to strike al-Qaeda and punish the Taliban for hosting terrorist training camps, sticking around for 14 years attempting to create a liberal democracy in Central Asia proved a fool’s errand. 

Wars against the Bosnians Serbs and Yugoslavia were equally senseless. As was Vietnam. Fourteen years after South Vietnam’s collapse the Berlin Wall had fallen. 

The Korean War can be defended as part of the Cold War, and after the U.S. divided the Korean peninsula with the Soviet Union, helping set the conditions for war. In World War II Japan attacked and Germany declared war on the U.S. But this conflict grew out of World War I, a foolish imperial slugfest in which Washington’s intervention allowed imposition of the irresponsible Versailles Treaty. The “peace” unleashed communism, fascism, and Nazism. 

In the Spanish-American War, Ground Zero for the VFW, Washington attacked decrepit Spain. In seizing the Philippines the U.S. killed tens of thousands of Filipinos seeking independence. 

In short, most of America’s foreign wars were stupid, dumb, and unnecessary, conflicts which U.S. political leaders could and should have avoided. As a result, many of America’s veterans have served, and a large number have died, unnecessarily, even in vain. The fault, of course, lies with others—Washington policymakers, backed by the people who elected them. 

The best way for Americans to celebrate Veterans Day and honor America’s veterans would be to pledge to make the battle against the Islamic State America’s last foreign war. Of course, other nations could attack America. But the last time that happened was 2001. Before that was 1941 and 1812. No state today has either the ability or desire to battle the U.S. 

America’s veterans deserve respect and honor. But not the conflicts in which they served. Washington policymakers should make foreign wars a thing of the past, no longer attempting to police the globe. Then Americans really could celebrate future Veterans Days.

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From your lips to God's ear! I suspect that an objective analysis of our history since around 1900 would probably indicate that with the exception of WWII, it was a mistake to enter into all of these foreign wars and the subsequent entanglements. Besides, if you accept the viewpoint of Von Clausewitz, that war is simply an attempt to bring about a political change by other means, then clearly we haven't won a war since WWII!