Nearly every national or international beauty contest features a question period when some aspiring beauty queen voices her desire for “world peace” in answer to an innocuous puffball question. However, this year, as in the past, world peace will probably continue to be an unattainable pipedream.
During the span of a lifetime, the United States has fought numerous military actions overseas. After World War II (1941-45), America participated in a U.N. “police action” in Korea (1950-53). Since a peace accord has never been signed between North and South Korea, and the U.S. has more than 30,000 troops based along the “demilitarized zone” between the two countries, that conflict can be considered on-going and is by far the longest war that our troops have ever been engaged in — eclipsing by several decades the Vietnam War (1960-75) and our several Middle East incursions from 1990 to 2012. With the recent demise of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and the elevation to the leadership of his son (who looks like a high school dropout), the prospects for peace on the Korean peninsula don’t look all that promising.
Since the Soviet Union backed North Korea and North Vietnam with military aid, those wars could be considered more heated parts of the so-called Cold War, which began after World War II. Likewise were the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco and the Cuban missile crisis during the Kennedy administration when Soviet leader Krushchev removed missiles from Cuba, and the U.S. allowed Fidel Castro to remain as its leader. Taking into account current Russian support for Syria and Iran, one could conclude that the Cold War continues unabated. After all, Russian strongman Vladimir Putin was formerly the head of the Soviet KGB (the equivalent of our CIA, FBI and Secret Service).
In our litany of America’s armed conflicts since World War II, one could add the sending of Marines or “advisors” to places like Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Somalia, Lebanon, Bosnia and Afghanistan. These incursions were prior to the wars of “Desert Storm” in 1990 and “Iraqi Freedom” in 2003 and the reprisals against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Recently, President Obama declared an end to the war in Iraq. A few days after his declaration, bombs began going off again in Baghdad, and the conflict between the Shiite Muslims backed by Iran and Sunni Muslims backed by Saudi Arabia promises to heat up. Also, after the troop withdrawal, the U.S. is leaving behind 16,000-plus privately-contracted security personnel attached to our embassy. Obama’s speech to returning troops recalls George W. Bush’s words aboard an aircraft carrier with a “Mission Accomplished” banner unfurled in the background. Perhaps for political reasons (to bolster their popularity polls?) both presidents seemed to ignore the reality of the situation on the ground.
Going back to the origins of our nation, it appears that war was a normal situation for the English settlers in the colonies. Periods of “peace” were simply interludes. Wars against Indian tribes sometimes backed by the French or Spanish were frequent occurrences and lasted from the colonial period to well after the Civil War. Seminoles, Creeks, Cherokees, Iroquois, Mohawk, Huron, Sioux, Cheyenne, Comanche and other tribes were the enemy. Some settlers believed “the only good Indian is a dead Indian.” In modern terms, these wars of uprooting and extermination of native peoples might be called “ethnic cleansing.”
Then there were the Revolutionary War (1776-83), the Barbary Coast War against Mediterranean pirates (1801-05), the War of 1812 (1812-15), the War of Texas Independence in 1836, the Mexican-American War (1846-48), the Civil War (1861-65), the Spanish-American War of 1898, the taking of the Panama Canal in 1905, World War I (1914-18), the Russian Revolution (1917-18; America sent troops to support the Tsarist “White” Russians), the “Banana Wars” (1900-1933; where U.S. Marines invaded a number of Caribbean countries and occupied Haiti [1915-1934]), and the Spanish Civil War of 1936 (American volunteers participated).
Making a prediction for 2012, I would bet that somewhere in the world there will be war, and the U.S. will be hoodwinked into participation by politicians who follow the slogan: “Peace on Earth and good will toward men? Bah! Humbug!”
Dan Norvell retired to Danville after a career in educational publishing and more than 20 years living overseas in Europe, Latin America and Asia.