HeretiKat's account of history is factually incorrect on a number of counts, and it behooves me to indicate where, for the sake of posterity.
I do not mean this as a refutation of the central argument of HeretiKat - that the United States or other nations have an obligation to intervene on moral grounds. Still, a few matters need to be put in perspective.
In WW1 the US helped the Allies despite massive isolationist protests and public sentiment that urged the US to leave the Allies to their fates.
After, the US demobilized.
In WW2 the US helped the Allies against a worse aggressor despite significant isolationist sentiment which was again content to leave the Allies to their fates. The isolationists finally shut up when the US was directly attacked. The US military was pathetically understrength, ill-equipped, and inexperienced due to the post WW1 demobilization. This cost many American lives in the North Africa, Europe and Pacific campaigns.
After, the US demobilized.
First, the claim that the US "demobilized" after World War I is not entirely forthright. The US did, indeed, demobilize, but it then instituted the first peace time conscription
- a military draft during a time when the nation was not at war - in September 1940, over a year before Pearl Harbor.
Consequently, the US military dwarfed the size of ours today, and consumed much more of the Gross Domestic Product
, proportionally, before World War II than ours does now.
Secondly, the US military explicitly did not demobilize after World War II. Feeling it was now a superpower, with attendant global security responsibilities - namely, opposing Soviet Russia - the United States explicitly created the Department of Defense in order to keep itself in a state of war time readiness even in a time of peace. This was under the National Security Act of 1947
, which also created the CIA and the Air Force, among other organizations.As this chart shows
, the percentage of GDP did decrease, yet not to the pre-war levels.
Communist North Korea invaded South Korea. The US responded again with poorly trained, poorly disciplined and underequipped troops. With the help of other countries, South Korea was defended against communist aggression. Good thing America didn't leave them to their fate. Look how well fed North Korea is now.
I think that the veteran 24th Infantry Division, 1st Marine Division and 7th Infantry Division would object to being called "poorly trained, poorly disciplined." All were regular units that had been active since 1941, at least. While they were poorly equipped, they had been kept in place overseas in order to be ready to fight a war - something that was unheard of prior to World War II.
In short, these were well disciplined, active units who lacked in supply and in mission-specific training but did not lack in experience. And they had been kept abroad, like thousands of other troops, in order for America to have military assets in place in order to guard its sphere of influence - not just its borders - at any time.
In Vietnam, communist aggression again forced the US to respond. This time the US leadership fucks it up. After the war the communist Vietnamese leadership admits that it did not defeat the US militarily in Vietnam but politically in the US itself. Ask the Hmongs just how cool communist Vietnam was. The US abandons the Vietnamese to their fate then demobilizes. The demobilization was to a lesser extent than before but it was still a demobilization. The USSR used a mycotoxin (Yellow Rain) on the Hmongs. No one cared enough to do anything besides invent a ridiculous story about how it was bee shit.
The reasons behind the Vietnam conflict are far too nuanced to attribute to "communist aggression." We should bear in mind that we worked along with
Ho Chi Minh in the late days of World War II against the Japanese - even going so far as to save his life from malaria. It was not until we set ourselves up as the bane of all things remotely Socialist that our ideology was at odds with what we had theretofore considered an independence movement.
I would argue that we inherited the Vietnam war from the French, who were opposed to the national independence movement purely on grounds of preserving their economic interests in the region. We fought the Viet Minh in order to protect the same rubber barons and exporters that the French did. It was, in essence, because the French were our allies - not the Viet Minh our enemies - that we fought that war.
Things then became a matter of maintaining strategic credibility in order to make our military power manifest in the world. Put plainly, we didn't want to lose the battle of wills. So, as appleoferis noted, we supported one brutal, oppressive regime after the next in their fight against the brutal, oppressive Viet Minh.
Pol Pot killed a million people in Cambodia. The US and everyone else left them to their fate.
The Cold War dragged on. The world from East Germany to Vietnam was under communist control. Tens of millions of people died while communist aligned terrorist organizations destroyed things and killed people in Europe. China invaded Vietnam and got its ass handed to it. China and the USSR's actions and rhetoric strongly suggested further military expansion if the opportunity arose.
With the exception of the last sentence, there is very little truth to this sequence of statements. I will do it by the numbers.
First, the Cambodian genocide
. The rise of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rogue was almost certainly due to the illegal American bombing of Cambodia - in the same way that the escape of pet rats into the walls of a house is due to smashing open their cages and infecting them with rabies.
The regime of the Khmer Rogue, propelled to popularity as a party that would defy the country carpet bombing Cambodia - the US - and exploiting the chaos caused by pro/anti-US tensions, went on to kill some estimated 1.7 million directly and indirectly. But the guilty secret of the killing fields is that it was far more the fault of the United States than the Communists of North Vietnam. If we had let the NVA move through Cambodia without attempting to interdict them, the acrimony of the Cambodians would have been at them. As it was, we carpet bombed with very little success at interdiction, and caused a country to collapse so that murderous maniacs who had no political platform beyond being anti-US could take power.
Not to mention that it was North Vietnam who invaded Cambodia to stop the genocide and depose the Khmer Rogue.
Now, the world between East Germany and Vietnam being under Communist control. It was not
. India and Pakistan were having quite a lot of fun killing one another over non-Communist ideologies, as was Indonesia and its civil conflicts such as in East Timor, and Burma with its fascists, and all that tons of fun in the Middle East and Africa.
Where "tens of millions" comes from, I have no clue. The Chinese Communists were dropping like flies, that is true - their Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution killed around 14 million and 500,000 respectively. Is that what was meant?
Whatever the intention, I think this is best viewed with a bit broader perspective. While there is no doubt the Communist empires were up to no good in places like Czechoslovakia and Tibet, America was no boy scout either in its backyard and in Africa.
We supported the ghastly dictator Mobutu Sese Seko's rise to power in Zaire. We trained, financed and supplied intelligence to death squads in Guatemala, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Panama and the Contras in Nicaragua. We overthrew the government of Chile and the government of Iran, and truly did train the torture squads that kept the Iranian Shah's regime in power.
Both sides in the Cold War had a lot of blood on their hands. Our excuse was, if we did not intervene to influence these nations, the Communists would.
Guess what the Communists' excuse was?
This was taken very seriously, especially after the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1979, the USSR invaded Afghanistan. The people who protested US involvement in Vietnam didn't protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. This time the US didn't leave them to their fate. Too bad those assholes have no sense of gratitude.
No, the Afghans do not have any gratitude - they just want to be left to kill one another over tribal differences, as they have done since the times of the lapis wars of the 4th Milennium BCE.
Iraq conducted the Anfal extermination campaign against the Kurds. The US and everyone else left them to their fate.
Anfal was part of Iraq's desperate war against Iran - a war we were supporting both sides in, in order to weaken two rogue regimes in a critical region. What were we supposed to do? Everything was going rather according to plan for us.
The USSR collapsed and the Cold War ended. The US demobilized 60%.
Not sure where the "60%" comes from. The draft had been gone since the 70s, and regular combat battalions were being reduced since then, even during Reagan, who spiked military spending in the technology sector. We still had large active forces, but they began to be dismantled under Bush, in a plan continued through Clinton and accelerated - and worsened - despite the advice of Clinton and Bush's generals under the reign of Rumsfeld.
But, as the chart above shows, the US military had been shrinking in the size of manpower not in fits and starts, but in a continuous, smooth decrease since Nixon came to power.
Iraq invaded Kuwait. The US and other countries responded to Saddam's aggression. Kuwait was liberated. The US decided not to attack Saddam in Iraq because it would exceed the UN mandate and anger the other Arab nations. The US is then blamed for abandoning the Shiites. No promise was made to the Shiites. "You should kick the bastard out" doesn't sound the same as "The US will invade to help you kick the bastard out." The Shiites jumped to conclusions on that one.
They did not "jump to conclusions." The President of the United States went on to Voice of America radio, and broadcast to the Shiites on February 2, 1991 that they should rise up
. That's not, "ooops, I meant you should get out of bed! You thought I meant 'rebel'?" That means, "rise up."
The US enforces a no-fly zone for years to protect the Kurds from Saddam's murderous aggression. US planes were shot at repeatedly when even one attempt to shoot down a US plane was a violation of the UN resolution supporting the no-fly zone and cause for war.
Terrorist assholes controlling Afghanistan attacked New York, killing more people than Peal Harbor. The US gives the Taliban the opportunity to turn over those responsible. They refuse and the US works in conjunction with the Northern Alliance to throw them out of power.
Not exactly true. The Taliban did not attack New York. In fact, they expressed sympathy for America after the attacks and condemned them.
They then said they would hand bin Ladin over or try him in Afghanistan if the United States presented any evidence. For some reason, the United States did not present any evidence. They invaded.
Saddam kept being a murderous asshole and kept pursuing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons (however ineptly) while doing everything he could to frustrate weapons inspectors and support anti-US terrorism. Finally the US crushed his vile ass instead of leaving more thousands of Iraqis and Kurds to their fates.
What's more heartless, a war to remove someone like Saddam or just leaving his victims to their fate?
To the final question, I would pose this: What is more heartless, a war to remove Stalin or just leaving his victims to their fate?
Considering how World War II turned out in Russia, I think it shows that the intentions of removing a dictator does not redeem a war effort. You could be invading for the best of reasons, but if you botch the job, it does not matter. You still killed, impoverished, cast into chaos.
The point of this historical recap is No, the US has not been on a war economy since WW2 and No it wasn't a game and No it sure as hell wasn't a game that the US wanted to play. The US mobilizes and demobilizes according to wars usually started by others. It gets involved in other people's wars because letting the people who are getting victimized be consumed by the aggressor is generally worse than spending blood and resources to stop it.
Speaking of resources, there sure as hell wasn't any oil in France when the US saved it. Twice. Or Korea. Or Afghanistan. The US economy now is a hell of a lot better than in the 70s and 80s. Grinding to hell? Nope.
Discussions on whether we are a war economy or not will come later.
P.S. We are, and need to shift in order to maintain global strategic dominance.