The retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) William J. Astore examines the current role of the U.S. military from the perspective of the 1990s, after we emerged victorious from the Cold War. Rather than gearing down for peacetime Astore shows that the military retained it Cold War size and attitude. But crucially, according to Astore, it also became uncontained as the sole superpower. He argues that after the fall of the Soviet Union the attitude that emerged was one of “go[ing] for broke.” After laying out the consequences of this situation, he warns, “No military should ever be trusted and no military should ever be left uncontained. Our nation’s founders knew this lesson. Five-star general Dwight D. Eisenhower took pains in his farewell address in 1961 to remind us of it again. How did we as a people come to forget it? WTF, America?”
I agree with much of what Astore says, but I see the transition to the present situation a little differently. He makes no differentiation between the humanitarian efforts (or non-efforts to be more accurate) in places like Bosnia, Somalia, and Rwanda in the 1990s, and the so-called “national security” interests in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Yemen in the twenty-first century.
“Yet even as civilian leaders hankered to flex America’s military muscle in unpromising places like Bosnia and Somalia in the 1990s, and Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, and Yemen in this century, the military itself has remained remarkably mired in Cold War thinking.”
I think it is a mistake to see this trend beginning in the 1990s. We did NOT “go all in” for the 1990s humanitarian situations. In fact, trying to persuade the Bush (papa) administration and then the Clinton administration to do anything in these situations was like pulling teeth. We only intervened belatedly in the Bosnian War with very little cost or effort after thousands of Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) were slaughtered. We did successfully intervene in Kosovo, but mostly out of guilt for what we didn’t do in Bosnia. We shamefully did nothing in Rwanda. And we pulled out of Somalia, where we were engaged in humanitarian aid, after the first sign of trouble (Black Hawk Down), which played right into the hands of the Somalian warlords. So, I think it is misleading to include Madeleine Albright’s plea to send in troops to the former Yugoslavia as evidence of the “all in” attitude in regards to the military. In all these cases, those in power did everything they could to make sure we didn’t use the military. Why? Because these were humanitarian causes and the “Vietnam Syndrome” was still alive and well. These were the cases we should have intervened, but didn’t. So much for “never again”!
The hawks that Astore refers to care little for humanitarian interventions and were happy to intervene in what they saw as “national security” situations (e.g. The Gulf War). But I think it was something else that turned the tide toward the intervention everywhere attitude: 9/11. Presently the fear of terrorism ensures that this attitude will continue to prevail.
However, I agree with his conclusion “Take an uncontained, mutating military, sprinkle it with unconditional love and plenty of dough, and you have a recipe for disaster.” Read the entire article here: