Supporters of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan cite the U.S. occupation of Iraq to buttress their case for staying in Afghanistan. “The surge! The surge!” they cry, reminding people that increasing the level of U.S. troops in Iraq has brought stability, peace, and freedom to that country, enabling the U.S. government to rebuild the nation into a shining beacon of democracy and prosperity for the world.
Oftentimes, however, it takes a long time for the adverse consequences of U.S. imperialism and interventionism to manifest themselves.
Consider, for example, the 1953 coup in which the U.S. government, operating through the CIA, ousted the democratically elected prime minister of Iran and replaced him with a U.S.-approved puppet, the Shah of Iran, who proceeded to terrorize and torture his own people for some 25 years, with the support of the U.S. government.
By the time the Iranian people revolted against the Shah’s brutal regime in 1979, they had discovered the CIA’s role in the 1953 coup. In anger and outrage, they took U.S. diplomats hostage. By that time many, however, many Americans had forgotten about what the CIA had done or had never learned about it and, therefore, had no idea that the Iranian hostage-taking was “blowback” for what the CIA had done 25 years earlier.
Yet, keep in mind that in 1953 U.S. officials were celebrating their successful regime change in Iran, just as U.S. officials today are celebrating their successful regime change in Iraq.
Consider World War I, the war in which 112,000 Americans died. At the end of that war, interventionists were celebrating their great success in smashing Germany militarily and at the peace conference at Versailles because U.S. intervention had made the world safe for democracy and finally brought an end to war.
Yet, twenty years later Americans were involved in another war (actually a continuation of the previous one) against Germany, one that ended up taking the lives of some 400,000 Americans. Not only had World War I not made the world safe for democracy or brought an end to war, America’s intervention actually sowed the seeds for Hitler’s rise to power.
At the end of World War II, U.S. interventionists were celebrating their second defeat of Germany. Never mind that their second success against Germany ended up subjecting Eastern Europe, East Germany, and the Baltics to a 45-year occupation by Soviet communists, who had been America’s WW II ally, and never mind that China also ended up in the hands of the communists, a situation that continues to this day.
In 1954, the CIA was celebrating another great success, with its ouster from power of the democratically elected president of Guatemala and his replacement by a brutal Guatemalan army general who was agreeable to doing the CIA’s bidding. Some 40 years later, Guatemalans finally negotiated an end to a brutal civil war that had taken the lives of some 200,000 Guatemalans, a civil war that had its roots in that U.S. coup 30 years before.
In 1991 interventionists were celebrating the successful intervention against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, after indicating to Saddam that the U.S. government had no interest in his border dispute with Kuwait. That intervention not only caused countless Iraqi deaths, it also led to 11 years of brutal sanctions against Iraq, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s infamous statement that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were “worth it,” the illegal and deadly no-fly zones over Iraq, and the stationing of U.S. troops on Islamic holy lands. By the time the 9/11 blowback came 10 years later, many Americans had forgotten about all this or had never known about it, and, therefore, easily fell for the official line that the terrorists just hate America for its freedom and values.
While interventionists celebrate “The surge! The surge!” in Iraq, we should keep in mind that the blowback from interventionism sometimes occurs long after the original intervention. Of course, what the interventionists have going for them is the fact that when those adverse consequences finally manifest themselves, many Americans will have forgotten their root cause. Perhaps that’s as good a reason as any why those of us who oppose U.S. imperialism and interventionism should continue primarily focusing on the moral arguments for restoring a constitutional republic to our land.