You used the phrase "introducing poison into the system." I remember watching cable when the war in Iraq began. I had not yet made up my mind about the war, but the very first thing I thought was, "okay, how do we get out?"
Well, getting out was going to be easy in the eyes of the architects of the war because winning the war was going to be so easy. And the enthusiasm of the Iraqis for their liberators was going to be so pronounced. The planning for the Iraq War was informed by a deeply flawed understanding of what war is all about, and also a deeply flawed understanding of the way people in the Islamic world view outsiders generally, or the United States more particularly. This absence of realism, both military and political, is something that has been pervasive since the end of the Cold War, and something that we need to shed.
It's always struck me that, whatever one might think of Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, the fact that they had served in the military, albeit in very different capacities, introduced an inbred sense of caution.
Well, I think Eisenhower more than Kennedy in my reading of the situation, and to tell you the truth, Eisenhower's caution with regard to overt military intervention certainly didn't apply to his use of covert action in places like Iran and Guatemala, both of which produced near-term successes and long-term disasters. That said, I think that you are right that the early Cold War presidents, by and large, were not looking for opportunities to put American military power to work. Contrast this with post–Cold War presidents, beginning with George Herbert Walker Bush, emphatically including Bill Clinton, and then, of course, moving on to George W. Bush. There we have a series of presidents who began to use force in circumstances where there were not vital US interests at stake. And they acted, I think in almost every case, because they had developed an excessive level of confidence in the efficacy of US forces. Both George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton got away with this, by and large — I think Somalia would be an exception — and George W. Bush, by and large, didn't get away with it. His wars, bigger than those either his father or Clinton had undertaken, have turned into disasters.
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, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Afghanistan, More