Jewish World Review Sept. 5, 2013/ 30 Elul, 5773
Same old, same old in Syria
By Victor Davis Hanson
President Obama's on-and-off-again planned American attack on
Even apart from clandestine CIA operations, and even after the unhappy end of the Vietnam War, we have attacked lots of countries and non-state militias.
The roll call of recent American military interventions is quite astounding:
Even the notion of Past American isolationism is a myth. In the four years between 1912 and 1916 alone, the U.S. sent troops into
Even those busy years of intervention were not novel. Since our infancy, the U.S. military has been constantly engaged. In another four-year period between 1812 and 1816, America fought the British, the French, the Spanish and the North Africans.
Some of these deployments were effective, either furthering American and allied interests or serving a common humanitarian purpose.
With President Obama contemplating bombing
Sometimes the president sought congressional approval (e.g., both Bushes in the two
Sometimes the undeclared interventions cost Americans tens of thousands of lives (Korea and
Our supposed motives varied widely -- whether revenge (bombing
If we collate all the interventions since the Marines invaded Tripoli in 1804, a certain pattern emerges. The more clearly defined and decisive the intervention, the more likely it was judged successful.
In addition, making progress or winning outright was essential to ensuring public support
Even disastrous and ill-thought-out interventions that accomplished nothing or made things worse, such as
In contrast, any war that drags on and costs thousands of American lives -- whether in
In this regard, we should not expect much good from bombing
To the degree we are not willing to insert ground troops, it is more likely both that we won't accomplish much and won't get trapped in a quagmire.
It is wiser to obtain congressional approval, and the more foreign allies that join the better. Having a clear objective, a sound methodology and a definition of victory is essential, whether in big or small interventions.
But so far the president can't decide on the real objective in
If the president neither obtains congressional approval nor makes the attempt to go the U.N., the attack will probably be unpopular abroad -- even more so without any allies or American public support.
Finally, promising in advance that whatever we do will probably be short and limited will make it likely that, if it fails, it will be forgiven and forgotten -- and if deemed successful, it will have little, if any, lasting, strategic effects.
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Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and military historian, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal. Comment by clicking here.
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