Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Justifying War: Rationale Versus Results

Ta-Nehisi Coates blogged yesterday on the Iraq war, triggered by this James Fallows post, which Kevin Drum also commented on here. Fallows' original point was that we Americans have usually inflated the threat we face, whether in Iraq or elsewhere on the international scene.

The general thrust of the three posts, plus the commentary on the TNC post, is that we've been lied into war (a big oversimplification because the commentary was more thoughtful and various) in the past and wars/military interventions were not worthwhile from America's viewpoint.

I took the contrarian position, as you might expect, and pushed back, citing Kosovo and Korea as examples, which I'm not going to repeat here.  But thinking about Truman and Korea last night I believe there's often a big gap between the rationale for an intervention and what the results actually are, some years down the road. :
  1. In the case of our intervention in Iran, overthrowing Mossadegh and reinstating the shah, the rationale was defeating a leftist, pinko leader and supporting someone we could work with. The result we've seen after 60 years is our actions led to a religious dictatorship. 
  2. In the case of our intervention in Korea, we thought we were keeping the communists from taking over the whole peninsula.  The result we've seen after 62 years is our actions led to the development of the 15th biggest economy in the world. 
  3. In the case of our intervention in Iraq II, the result hasn't matched the rationale.
Maybe the bottom line is that we never really know what we're doing, so we just do our best.

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