America’s Losing Streak in Small Wars That Got Big

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James Joyner makes an interesting point today:

As we approach the tenth anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq on March 20, it’s worth reflecting on the fact that it has been nearly seventy years since America’s last successful major war.

On August 15, 1945, known as Victory Over Japan Day or V-J Day, the Japanese unconditionally surrendered, marking the end of the Second World War and establishing the United States as a superpower. Since that day, the United States has lost three major wars—Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq—and is counting down the months until its loss in Afghanistan.

James doesn’t count the Gulf War as a major conflict, and doesn’t count the Cold War since it wasn’t fundamentally a military conflict. Those are both pretty defensible judgments.

So what do all these unsuccessful wars have in common? I’d focus on one thing: none of them were ever intended to be major wars. They just growed like Topsy, so to speak. Conversely, the U.S. has arguably been successful in plenty of wars that were meant to be small and really did stay small: the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama, Kosovo, Libya, etc.

So there’s your lesson: if you plan for a small war, be damn sure that it’s going to stay small. If it might not, then plan for a big war. If that’s unacceptable, don’t go to war. That’s the bare minimum lesson, anyway.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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