Too Many Wars for Too Long?

I taped an episode of PJTV’s “The Bottom Line with James Poulos” Wednesday afternoon. The resulting 10 minute session, titled, “Too Many Wars for Too Long? Can We Sustain our Military Engagements Around the Globe?” is now posted.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, World Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. george says:

    No, we can’t. We don’t make America safer by driving it into bankruptcy trying to police the world. Perhaps if we taught people to be vigilant (and willing to live with less than perfect security) at home, we wouldn’t need to invade every country that could potentially produce terrorists?

  2. James Joyner says:

    @george: Hell, I’d settle for just invading those that were a serious terror threat. The problem is that we do that, then decide we have to stay until they become Sweden. And also go in to solve particularly bad humanitarian crises in the civil wars that get the most TV coverage that aren’t *too* hard.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    James, I think the problem is a little more basic than that. When we invade a country and overthrow its government (or its government collapses) we become the occupying power under international law with obligations for the security of the people in the country.

    We have been in Iraq for eight years. Have we been waiting for it become Sweden? Or have we been waiting for it to be capable of providing security for the people of the country on its own? I think the latter.

    The underlying problem is that many countries in the world are only countries by courtesy. The authority of the “central state” doesn’t extend far beyond some big cities (other than brief punitive raids by the usually authoritarian government). That’s not merely the case in places like Somalia or Afghanistan. It’s true of Iraq as well.

    I also strongly suspect it’s the case throughout much of MENA, the patch of territory that goes from the Bosporus to the Indus, and, in all likelihood, much of sub-Saharan Africa.

    What this means is that we or NATO or France can invade and bring down the alleged government of these purported countries but we are then faced with the Herculean task of turning territories that have been countries only by courtesy into countries in fact. The alternatives are to do that, become a colonial power, break the agreements governing the laws of war and let the chips fall where they may, or (my preference) limit our actions against the governments who claim these territories regardless of provocation to punitive raids and not invade them under any circumstances if only to avoid invoking the Pottery Barn rule on something that was broken long before we (or NATO or France) arrived on the scene.

  4. jd says:

    “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia”
    -1984

  5. tom p says:

    The problem is that we do that, then decide we have to stay until they become Sweden.

    JJ, what you said. DS… you too.

  6. Southern Hoosier says:

    It cost us $1 million for every solider we have in Afghanistan and $50 million for every Taliban fighter we kill. Then there are the billions we spend replacing what we just blew up. And on top of all the wars we have to fight, we still have those “deliver the pizza missions” where are military is involved in relief missions, such as Hatti and Japan. Not only is our military the world’s policemen, but the soup kitchen as well.

  7. Southern Hoosier says:

    Russian President: You’re in charge of the world, now. Don’t be such a sore winner!

    Canadian Bacon

  8. Ray Rasmussen says:

    You are 100% on the mark. The question is, When will the ego driven jerks we elect get it?

  9. george says:

    @george: Hell, I’d settle for just invading those that were a serious terror threat. The problem is that we do that, then decide we have to stay until they become Sweden. And also go in to solve particularly bad humanitarian crises in the civil wars that get the most TV coverage that aren’t *too* hard.

    I’m not sure that invading countries that harbor serious terror threats does anything useful, or at least nothing that is worth the price. If the idea is to convince the countries harboring the threats to stop, then either economic or punitive strikes (100,000 people died in the Iraq war, I doubt punitive strikes would have as much collateral damage) are cheaper and at least as likely to work. As you point out, the chances of actually converting those countries into our model of what they should be like hasn’t had much success, and our presence just creates more hatred towards us.