War Was Not the Answer: 5 Conflicts America Had No Business Stirring Up

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War has been called many things: the continuation of politics by another means; the breakdown of society; stupid. No one ever wants to see humans embroiled in combat, but the sad reality is that we have and will continue to see fighting for all time. So let’s at least try to make the conflicts in which we fight as rational as possible, eh America? Our nation, great in so many ways, still seems to have trouble with the “fail to remember” and “doomed to repeat” parts of Marx’s famous quote about history.

5 5.Oh, Don’t Trust Guys Who Take Our Money and Drug Money? Got It

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The United States government paid Panamanian general Noriega millions of dollars over several decades for his help in keeping our access to the Panama Canal protected. He was also taking millions of dollars from drug cartels. And we knew it. Shocking, isn’t it? That relations should deteriorate between us and a man who was taking money from enemies we were paying him to combat? Anyway, after years of pretending things would magically be OK in the end, we invaded Panama in 1989 and removed the individual we had propped up for years in a bloody conflict.

4 Get Off Our (Meaning Your) Land

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Here is a basic rundown of the Blackhawk War: 1. The year is 1832, and a group of natives have just re-settled on land a bit east of the Mississippi – land that had been theirs for centuries. 2. The American government says “No, don’t do that” and sends a militia. 3. The natives send a peaceful delegation to talk to the government/militia. 4. The peaceful delegation is attacked without provocation, and of course fights back to defend itself. 5. We send in hundreds of troops, decimating the several tribes and chasing them north in dogged pursuit until many died of starvation or disease and eventually the rest surrendered.

3 We’ll Take That, and That, and That

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In the late 19th century, America pretty much decided it was going to have a war with Spain, whether or not Spain was in the mood for a war. We felt like we had missed the boat on colonizing foreign territory, and we also didn’t like having a European power with an outpost so close to us, namely Cuba. So politicians and newspapermen worked together to create and stir up anti-Spaniard, pro-war fervor in the States. They then used a still-mysterious explosion in a Cuban harbor (could have been Spain, could have been an accident, could have even been us) that destroyed a single U.S. ship as a reason to start a war with Spain. The war was brief and relatively bloodless, with fewer than 350 American deaths resulting directly from combat. We ended up with Guam, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Teddy Roosevelt.

2 At Least the Music Was Good

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The war that should have taught us not to jump into other conflicts where we have no clear plans or goals, and lack public support, was also the first major conflict that civilians could closely follow from their armchairs back home. The Vietnam War has been called “The Television War” because every night people could watch Cronkite and other newscasters or field reporters rehash body counts, show street protests and discuss the general lack of any concrete progress throughout the nearly decade-long conflict. For such a terrible “show,” Vietnam got great ratings and inspired a lot of great music. The music was anti-war, for the record.

1 Take Two: An Extended Edition

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The consensus at this point is that the War in Iraq – the 2003 one, we mean – was a pretty big mistake. Many people felt that way in 2003; most people feel that way in 2013. Why? Because the conflict lacked a clear provocation, purpose and plan. We went in for the wrong reasons and then kept dumping more blood and treasure into the near-bottomless morass until finally it was plugged enough for us to limp out. It was kind of like trying to bake a cake using cement and old tires, and then continually adding cake mix after the fact until eventually the batter tasted almost not totally awful, and was then tossed in the oven. Which we abandoned and let catch fire.

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