I could probably come up with something better than this if I thought about it longer, but one that always gets me, and that I always mention to my students, is the whole thing about the “domino theory”. People always criticize a lot of U.S. foreign policy during the first couple decades of the Cold War. There’s a lot of legitimate criticism to be made, for sure, but these people invariably sight the domino theory as some bullshit, paranoia-driven excuse for subjugating everyone around the world in some mad race to dominate everyone.
They forget the legitimate threat that the domino theory was, along with who exactly it was who was shaping American foreign policy in order to combat it in the first place. These were all people who broke their teeth during WWII, when the dominoes really were falling, and falling to a madman in Hitler. Of course they’re going to think that the domino theory was a very real possibility since their entire careers were built or started during a period in which a laissez faire attitude toward Germany in the early to mid 1930’s basically let him topple over domino after domino in Europe. I think people like the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA director, the President and so forth were completely justified in believing that the spectre of Communism could have led to a similar situation, and I don’t blame them for making some of the foreign policy mistakes they made in an attempt to stop the dominoes from falling.
I suppose another mistake that bothers me is a very generalized one that is applicable to all sorts of specific scenarios, both today and in the past. There seems to be this feeling amongst many that “the government” is capable of pulling off all sorts of sinister conspiracies around the world. Many times, something fucked up happened, like 9/11 or the JFK assassination or whatever, and people automatically think that those things happened because some devious element hiding in the shadows is running the gov’t and they allowed that event to happen.
From everything I’ve learned in all of my research into things like that, specifically the JFK assassination, the gov’t simply fucks up and makes a mistake and sometimes it leads to catastrophe. The gov’t is too inept to pull off these conspiracies. The reality is that sometimes the gov’t just makes a mind-bogglingly simple mistake that has horrific consequences. There was no 9/11 conspiracy and there was no massive CIA-run JFK conspiracy. The gov’t simply fucked up something that they should have never fucked up and people were killed as a result. And of course, the gov’t is going to try and cover up these mistakes so no one realizes how much they actually fucked up. They might hide some things, refuse access to others, whatever. And then when these conspiratorially-bent people start snooping around they automatically assume that these attempts to hide stuff are part of the conspiracy coverup, when in reality they’re simply trying to cover their own asses so people don’t realize what bumbling fools are running things sometimes.[/quote]
I wouldn’t disagree with anything you wrote.
But, based on what you said - it brings to mind a couple of tactical mistakes made in the past that I believe have lasting effects spilling over to today.
First is the rise of the Military Industrial Complex. Other than Grenada, and the first Gulf War, the US has not fought a war properly - to win decisively - since we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq II, Afghanistan, etc. sent tens of thousands of American service men to their deaths for no other tenable reason than to allow the defense contractors to sell bullets and bombs and body bags.
Second was Russia being allowed a seat at Yalta. In hindsight, the war in Europe should have continued until vermin known as the Soviet were exterminated. Instead, FDR thought it would be nice if he and Churchill allowed the USSR to have Eastern Europe. They did nothing but create a cold war for the next 40 years.
I’m not sure that the rise of the military-industrial complex is a tactical mistake, per se. I’m a HUGE proponent of unlimited, all-out warfare where we fucking annihilate every man, woman and child in our way, terrorize everyone, go absolute apeshit on the young women and all that shit. Why not fight it to not only win it, but completely destroy the will of other potential enemies to ever engage with an all-out, totally committed Killing Machine? We do our soldiers a serious disservice by placing them in harm’s way under limited terms of engagement.
That being said, I’m pretty anti-war. I simply think that if we aren’t willing to go the full nine and a half yards, then we shouldn’t go to war at all. All or nothing. I think if this were the attitude then we wouldn’t find ourselves in unwinnable situations like what we are currently engaged in with the War on Terror.
Anyways, I think the military-industrial complex is simply the result of our unwillingness to stoop to the level of those we go to war with. We probably will never find ourselves in another “traditional” war like WWII or Korea where each side wears uniforms and abides by the Geneva Convention and all that bullshit. If we aren’t willing to just turn entire swaths of countries into glass with a couple good old-fashioned nukes, then we have to compensate with all this other bizarre shit the military uses now. I suppose it’s a semantical difference, since I don’t see that as a tactical mistake but a mindset issue.
Of course, the nature of warfare is changing on our side. More and more, we are using drones and other unmanned equipment to fight wars for us, so that soldiers can stay out of harm’s way more often. Pretty soon, warfare will probably be more like Star Wars, where each soldier has his own little R2 unit or whatever. If bloodthirsty, merciless tactics and nukes are completely off the table, then I suppose the next best option is where the military is headed now with the advent of drones. Naturally, this is going to give rise to a whole other type of military-industrial complex, probably headed up by companies like General Atomics instead of Lockheed.