The US and the Politics of Failure
Recently, it dawned on me that our nation, which some like to call “great” or even “the greatest” has a pretty sorry record over the past 50 or 60 years. For example, we lost the war on drugs, we lost the war on poverty, and we even lost the war on crime. Pretty amazing when you think about it.
We also lost the Vietnam War, we lost the invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, but we did win the war in Granada – wow!- and the war in Panama – another wow! We are still fighting in Afghanistan after 16 years! We are still fighting in Iraq for almost the same amount of time! We are still fighting in Syria. Korea is still divided and that war hasn’t been officially ended yet. And now we are being forced to threaten to annihilate North Korea. Apparently, we don’t have a lot of options there. Not such a good record, is it?
The Kennedy brothers, after failing to successfully invade Cuba and overthrow the Castro brothers, tried to assassinate them but, wait for it, failed. And some argue that after several failed attempts, Castro turned the tables on the Kennedys and killed JFK. The US successfully overthrew the “socialist” government in Iran, or so it seemed until the Islamic religious overthrew the Shah and still control Iran today. The US successfully overthrew governments in Guatemala and Chile, but the results were anything but honorable. And the US failed to overthrow the government in Nicaragua. Again, not such a good record.
I mean even some of the events that seemed to be achievements turned out to be less successful than they were thought to be. For example, it was after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – now pretty much defanged – that race riots broke out throughout the United States and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X were assassinated. And also after these laws were passed, the mass incarceration of blacks began, fed by the likes of President Nixon and Bill Clinton. And now we apparently need to be reminded that “Black Lives Matter.”
Moreover, during the Clinton years, Tim McVeigh and friends blew up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, while the ATF “successfully” dealt with the wackos in Waco, if you can call an action that resulted in the fiery deaths of almost two dozen children “successful.” At the same time, hundreds of militia groups were forming throughout the nation, which again seems like a sign that things were not going well.
Moreover, consider the fate of our presidents since Eisenhower. Kennedy was assassinated, LBJ was run out of office by protests over the war in Vietnam, Nixon was forced to resign from the presidency because of Watergate, Ford attacked to free hostages who were already free, Carter was run out of the presidency largely because the Iranians seized our embassy in Tehran and held our diplomats hostages for quite some time, Reagan was on the verge of impeachment because of the Iran-Contra scandal when he sold arms for hostages while resupplying the Contras with the profits from the sales, while the Contras used US planes to transport drugs into the US to help fund their war in Nicaragua, Papa Bush couldn’t or didn’t want to win re-election, Clinton was impeached and finished up a rather pathetic figure, Bush Jr. started a war in Iraq he couldn’t finish and which was based on lies or “misinformation,” while the economy collapsed in 2008, and Obama couldn’t finish Bush’s war either, couldn’t get a decent health insurance plan passed, and only re-election because the Republicans put up a candidate who couldn’t arouse even his own party to support him.
This is not the stuff of legends, or at least it doesn’t seem so to me. So why do we call ourselves “great” or “the greatest?” It is, based on the evidence, hard to understand.