U.S. needs to look at unintended consequences before taking big foreign policy steps

Let’s talk about international events in the last 60 years and the events the U.S. thought at first would be successful and their unintended consequences.

First, was the initial phase of our involvement in Viet Nam with advisers, then small contingents of troops, then all out war, then disaster, defeat, and an unplanned withdrawal with casualties and loss of life and equipment. We entered the war without appreciating the history of Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh and his followers had fought with the Chinese against the Japanese during World War II. President Truman and General Douglas MacArthur would not meet with Ho Chi Minh or consider a Vietnamese government led by him. Instead, we permitted the French to take back their former colony. The Vietnamese, led by Ho Chi Minh, proceeded to defeat the French, and established North Vietnam with Ho as the leader. This country was not ready for democracy and we were unable to force it upon them.

Second, was the election of Richard Nixon in 1968, assuming office in 1969, and his decision to send Kissinger to China in 1971 and to make a Presidential visit in 1972, normalizing relations with China. This resulted in China’s becoming an industrial empire that decimated American factories and middle class employment. With the benefit of hindsight, we should have left China an isolated, agrarian state, like North Korea. Instead, our country wanted to profit off the vast cheap labor market to our future detriment. Now we face a superpower with nuclear weapons, an expanding navy, a rich nation that buys our national debt, and as we learned in the Korean War, an unending supply of foot soldiers.

Third, was the Iraq War. It sounded good, a great offensive, then the realization we had destabilized the whole region and democracy was not workable. The world would be better today without the Iraq War. Yes, Saddam Hussein was a clone of Stalin and a prolific violator of human rights, but the region was stable. After the decimation of his military by the coalition due to his invasion of Kuwait, he was not going to be an aggressor to any other region. It was a huge mistake to invade Iraq again.

Fourth, was the Afghanistan War. Without looking at the Iraqi result or the failure of the British and the Russians to conquer Afghanistan, we set off on another war with high ideas. The Afghans could not adjust or change their culture to embrace democracy after years of effort and war. The United States administration that lost the election agreed to a pull out that would fully return the country to the Taliban. Due to our panicked withdrawal from the Bagram Airbase, we left behind millions of dollars in munitions, planes, helicopters, Humvees, equipment, material and everything it requires to support a large military presence, all for the benefit of China, Iran, and Russia. These countries are obtaining sophisticated American equipment and weapons through the black market to duplicate our technology. Imagine if all of this equipment could have been airlifted and convoyed to the Ukraine and our NATO allies? It could have been used to protect Ukraine’s democracy from the Russians and distributed among our NATO allies.

Supporting the Ukrainians in their fight for democracy and freedom from the Russian invasion is not misguided and there would not appear to be any unintended consequences to the United States. Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, however, has resulted in a number of unintended consequences for Russia. The war has increased our NATO allies, and it has clearly shown that Russia is not the military power it was in World War II. One has to wonder if its aging nuclear arsenal is really operational. Ukraine, unlike Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan, is fighting for democracy and is ready to sustain a democracy.

David O. Smith
David O. Smith

David O. Smith is a small town attorney, sportsman, conservationist, beekeeper, and a lifelong Lincoln Republican, who believes that right is right.