Not only do these wars cost money and time, they also tear up economies, societies and families. But many world leaders’ desire to attain absolute military dominance remains unquestioned
The First World War was not an accident. It happened as a result of human actions and decisions. About 65 million people fought against each other, while 16 million died in the warfront. World War I left countless others physically, psychologically and economically disabled and tore down Europe's socio-political landscape.
During the Second World War, with 39 million deaths in Europe alone, some substantial changes in the 20th century made people think about humanity twice. Let alone the 60 million deaths, including the detonation of two atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, has brought Europe's proudest nations to its knees - with mass displacements, destruction and deaths.
Ever since these two wars, the world is trading fear with fear. The idea of enlightenment and innocence of artistic and diplomatic serenity among nations is fading away. In 2001, the world changed again when extremists launched a suicide attacked on the US soil. After the 9/11 attack, the world has been dancing with fire and fury.
It has been an endless terror ride for the world since 9/11. In response, the US's retaliation to Afghanistan was full-fledged and prolonged to nearly two decades of fighting. Both nations paid a price through bloodbath and loss of harmony and peace.
In a recent State of the Union speech, US President Donald Trump said, "Great nations do not fight endless wars," as he makes it clear that his primary plan is to look inwards. In the process of "making US great again", he has built a wall, gotten himself into the impeachment hearings, made 16,241 misleading claims in his first three years of presidency, spent outrageous amounts of money on golf tours, and put himself in ridiculous situation several times since taking the office. But then again, his wishes to dominate the US military remains unquestioned.
In his recent tour of India, Trump wanted to set things straight by saying, "I'm not going to be controversial." His "looking inwards" policy clearly indicates that he does not want to continue anything that costs large sums of money, for instance the perpetual wars the US does not have the luxury to currently bear.
His half-whispered '"vision" came true as the US recently signed a peace deal with the Afghan Taliban. This deal portrayed that the conflicts between the two countries were both materially and morally fruitless. The former US president Barack Obama once denounced the idea of an endless war and dropped an estimated 26,172 bombs on seven countries in his last year of presidency. However, vowing to end US's military interference does not turn it into reality.
Just days after the US and Taliban signed the peace pact, Afghanistan was once more embroiled in violence. The US Defense Department announced airstrike against Taliban forces which threatened to nullify the pact. According to a series of tweets, Colonel Sonny Leggett, the spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan, said that the Taliban conducted 43 attacks against the Afghan national forces on a single day. Now, the question remains, how do these wars get so lengthy?
If we look back at the incidents in 1992 after the fall of the Soviet Union, we can see how the Pentagon officials took a stock in the US's fortunes after the Cold War. A group led by the then Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said that there is no global challenger to a peaceful democratic order in the current situation. The US felt that they were the only players in the game of global dominance, and could have ended every war and called home its troops. Instead, it resolved to seek greater supremacy than ever.
In their quest for "predominant military position", the US's pursuit of primacy led them to consider both Iraq and Iran as grave threats. The US kept gushing about the rulers of these two headstrong nations and supported fractions and authoritarians to wage wars and change regimes. These schemes were put in motion to keep the US on top of the world domination game while Bin Laden, Saddam and Gaddafi were taken out of the equation. After decades of warfare and funding the huge pool of military spending, the world is still not in polarity. The rhetoric does not follow through with anything that these wars stand for, and hence Bashar Al Asad managed to remain in power.
Freed from its biggest enemy, the US found more enemies to deal with. Wolfowitz and his colleagues thought that the dominance would primarily bring the US peace and would benefit them from every possible direction. But the constant intervention in the Middle East and continuous attempts at trying to control the fraction of extremist groups had the US losing both money and reputation.
Trump's presidency makes it clear that global supremacy has come to an end as it is quite difficult to impose democracy forcibly. He says that US military dominance must be unquestioned and the Afghan deal proved so. As a businessman, perhaps he is interested in introducing a different course of action by pulling out troops. Armies cost money and the US's spending on defense is more than that of the next seven countries combined - most of which are its allies.
In case of the Afghan war, the mistakes do not lie in the intervention. Rather, it is more about how the Bush administration felt. After an initial invasion and the Taliban going into hiding, talks to find a solution were being suggested, but President Bush's adamant words suggested that they do not negotiate with the terrorists. According to Brown University's costs of war project, the war in Afghanistan cost 147,000 lives and USD 5.9 trillion on the war in the last two decades. That is a lot of money spent considering its outcome.
After the success in the Gulf War of 1991, the US established dependency with its allies by housing its troops in the name of protection in several countries. This, however, did not go well as both the US and its allies became targets of terrorist groups and anti-nationalists. The US has launched bomb attacks in Iraq every year since then.
The rhetoric that the US has created since the Cold War is fascinating. It stripped down some of the civilities of diplomacy and declared themselves as the only global player who has to be feared and tolerated. As a 'harbinger' of peace, the US created its own deconstruct by giving rise to fractions among nations, races, creeds and ideologies. And these ideas sold well until today. In today's world people understand that peace cannot be bought through the power of weapons because there are more things than heaven and earth to deal with.
The series of endless wars by the US are not its own making. Rather, it is failure in cowing almost every country into its formulated version of peace. And recently, The US is losing influence as Russia and China are drawing hot breaths on the US's neck. President Trump also acknowledged these two countries as threats during the recent trade war with China. He understood that the more military superiority he tries to achieve, the more debt it will unwillingly put on its citizens' shoulders.
Trump's narrative about the militaristic war looks clean in simpler terms - wars casts a bad spike in the economy. Not to mention the US national debt is calculated at roughly USD 23 trillion which, according to the Concord Coalition, is already quite high by historical standards. This will go up by 180% by the year 2050. The US is certainly on an unsustainable path to become, perhaps, the second and the third nation in world dominance. Claims have already been made about Russian interference in US politics which would have been possible in a Hollywood movie decades ago.
Not only do the wars cost more, the costs of doing nothing after the "shock and awe" is greater. In Syria, for instance, a million refugees face what the United Nations deems as the biggest humanitarian horror story of the 21st century. The numeric records of causality tell us a one sided story of a war. The impact of one airstrike could put a deadly blow to humanity.
Our statistics do not tell us how many families have been burned, butchered or gunned down to death. Wars kill families and burn their homes, but families matter as they are humanity's last resort against these wars. That is perhaps not the rhetoric the US is pursuing both inwards and outwards.
There is no straightforward answer to the end of these wars. The US is not in the treading waters anymore with their attempts of interventions or trying to intervene in almost every country in the world. To market US democratic products to the world, they tend to change the internal rules and cultural understandings of nations, and that sort of backfires - like the East India Company did almost everywhere they ruled. People, cultures and creeds seem to have resisted since 1991 and now they are leaning towards alternatives allies like China and Russia.
As every death is designed to demolish the world, the US citizens started to question their motifs for these wars and the ultimate loss of families. The endless chain of wars in memory of nearly 3000 deaths in the 9/11 attacks seems like a very unpatriotic act when there is no substantial plan to win. The major obstacle to end these endless wars is self-imposed as the people, and the US policy makers, do not have the voice.
The US needs to realise by now, after becoming an indispensable nation, which they cannot return home winning anytime soon by sinking themselves into battlefields.
The author is Senior Lecturer at Central Women's University