After the end of the Cold War we had a number of conflicts with the direct participation of NATO countries, wars and “peace missions” that hardly got any real winner. USA and its allies won every battle on the field but how many of this wars gave us a better world?
In Europe we got the dissolution of Yugoslavia, followed by a bitter war and a NATO intervention. From the ashes of a country now we got two nations (Slovenia and Croatia) that has been included in the European Union, a disputed territory (Bosnia Herzegovina) that could break in two any time soon, two failed countries (Kosovo and Macedonia-FYROM) and a nation suspended between hate and need (Serbia). Is this a victory?
In the Middle East we got another failed nation, Iraq. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the end of its regime we have a derailed country, roughly split in three by the means of religion or ethnic relevance (Kurds in the North, Sunni and Shiites in the South). No sign of real stabilization is present today, the whole nation is a hunting ground for organized crime cartels and terrorist groups. Is this a victory?
In Asia we got Afghanistan or what’s left of it. They lost their National cohesion in 1979 after the USSR invasion and never recovered. Taliban groups are in control of a good part of the country (roughly 40%), another part in under a number of self-proclaimed war lords. National government is a joke and the opium traffic is stronger than ever. If foreign troops go away this poor excuse for a country will collapse in a matter of weeks. Is this a victory?
In Africa we got Libia, nowadays it’s a complete mess. Muammar Gheddafi was a disgrace for them and for the whole world, no doubt about it, but now nobody is in charge for this country and no easy solution is on the table. Today Libia is a danger zone, ready to fall in the wrong hands if not properly helped. Tribal groups and crime cartels are in control of more than half of this nation. Is this a victory?
In my opinion there’s no such thing as a good war, not since the end of WWII. The main problem here is not how to achieve a military victory and/or to topple some two-bit dictator, what we do not know is how to replace a regime with a democracy. The real mistake is to think that is possible to force a fast transition between different way to conduct a country.
It’s an old lesson that USA and NATO countries never learned. Think about the end of colonialism in Africa in the ’50 and the ’60, think about four decades of interference in Central and South America, think about all the damages done in Asia after the Korean War. No matter how good a system could be modern democracy, it can’t be forced or imposed. It have to be learned, explored, adapted to the local tradition and culture.
Now think about Syria. Maybe we can topple Bashar al-Assad and his cronies in a matter of few months but what will happen after that? How many years of chaos and mayhem? How many refugees? How many deaths? There are no fast solutions available, no easy way out. It’s a waste of precious resources to start a war when you do not know what to do with it.