Will The West Ever Win Another War?

FORT RILEY, KS - SEPTEMBER 12: Soldiers stand saluting during the national anthem for the redeployment ceremony at Marshall Army Air Field inside hanger 727 for the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division September 12, 2007 at Fort Riley, Kansas. The approximately 130 soldiers were returning after a one year tour in Iraq. (Photo by Larry W. Smith/Getty Images)
Larry W. Smith/Getty Images

There’s a big question that arises in the aftermath of Memorial Day, the day when we pay tribute to the Americans who have fallen on behalf of America, on behalf of our defense, on behalf of freedom. 

That question is: Is the West generally geared toward winning wars anymore? Will we ever win another war? 

When it comes to military conflict, the only thing that justifies an evil as great as war is victory. If you fight a war and lose, then all of the sacrifices that are made on behalf of that war are treated as disposable and dispensable. If you fight a war and find a way not to win, then you have spent blood, you’ve spent treasure, and you’ve made human beings sacrifice their lives for something that has not actually been effectuated.

Where is the virtue in that? The first rule of war is: Win. So the question for the West is, can we win wars anymore? Because it’s been a long time since the West actually won a war. 

You can’t really say that the West won the Afghanistan war. We didn’t. We didn’t win the Iraq War. That place is now a sectarian hellhole. The United States didn’t win the Vietnam War. 

Obviously, the United States won the first Gulf War in the sense that Kuwait was no longer dominated by Iraq. That did not end with the death of Saddam Hussein. He retained his power. But that led to the second Gulf War. The United States really has not won any major war in any serious fashion since the Korean War, and even that ended with an armistice. With that said, at least South Korea exists as a thriving independent state in the modern world, but that was fully three generations ago.

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So why don’t the West and America win wars anymore? 

There are three conditions to winning wars — three preconditions that have to be fulfilled to win a war. 

First, there must be an actual end goal. There must be an answer to, “What is the goal of the war?” We have not really defined our goals in any war that we have entered in recent years, other than generalized victory, nor have we specified what exactly that victory would look like or what we sought to achieve in attaining that victory.

Second, there must be military capacity to achieve that end goal, which means building a military that is capable of actually attaining that goal. It doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes the United States military is stretched too thin. Virtually all Western militaries have spent an extraordinary amount of time and money in the post-Cold War era trying to shrink the size of the military: light footprint militaries. That means, sometimes military ability is not up to what is necessary in order to achieve the end goal. 

But the third, final, and biggest obstacle to winning a war that currently exists for the West is not lack of end goals, or even lack of military ability to achieve the end goals.

It is the political willingness to take the measures necessary to obtain the end goals. 

Of course, there are some military means that a country is unwilling to undertake in favor of victory, such as, for example, dropping a nuke on a country to get them to decrease oil prices. 

The real problem is that the West is no longer in favor of victory because political leadership and public support for victory in war is totally and utterly lacking.

Even in places where the West isn’t directly involved — meaning America and Europe aren’t directly involved, or we’re just funding other people to fight wars — public support can no longer be maintained, even for the most anodyne political issues. That’s a result of the public not understanding why we fight particular wars and not understanding the nature of war itself. That combination is absolutely toxic. 

The lack of understanding as to why we fight particular wars stems from havingemptied the rhetorical barrel over and over again without actually explaining America’s interest in particular conflicts. Politicians cite bumper stickers like “Democracy” or “Our Way of Life.” While the American people want to feel ideologically motivated if they’re going to war, that’s necessary, but not sufficient.

We have to feel that we’re right in a conflict, but there actually have to be real interests at stake. If there are not, the American people rapidly tire. That is why it was so overwhelmingly damaging to American foreign policy when the originally expressed motivation for the Iraq War — which was to end the threat of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — was one of the main motivations. When that turned out to be false, it undercut Americans’ sense of why we were there in the first place. 

Fighting for democracy can have two different meanings. First, we can mean that America’s interest, as the world’s largest and oldest democracy, is in preserving itself and our interests. But the other way that we generally use it is that we’re supporting “democracies against dictatorships.” The problem is, that’s inconsistent because the United States upholds a lot of dictatorships. For example, we actually don’t want voting in Saudi Arabia because the population would likely vote for a terrorist government, as the Palestinian population did in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank.

It’s very easy for critics to point out that many of the flaws that we sense in other countries are also present in watered-down form here at home. So when we say “democracy against dictatorship,” you’ll hear critics on the far Right and the far Left say those things exist in the United States.

Quite often, that’s not honest. They’re comparing the Gulaging of opponents to the political prosecution of Donald Trump, for example. That’s really bad. What’s happening here at home is not the same as somebody being forcibly jailed in Gulags and then dying in mysterious circumstances in Russia. 

But that is an argument that is brought to bear when you use empty bumper sticker slogans like “Democracy” or “Our Way of Life” without filling in the gaps.

All of this means that if upholding public support for a war is wanted, real American interests must be defended and explained. Yes, there must be an ideological interest in any sort of conflict, but those interests can’t be purely ideological. They need to be material and practical. They involve things that require explanation, like supply chains, freedom of the seas, spheres of influence, and resource allocation. 

These things are complex, and they require explanations to the American public. The reality is that America is very powerful, particularly when it comes to freedom of the seas and trade. But in order to defend American interests in a muscular world, we must defend America’s place in the world. That means, we have to understand America is an awesome place that ought to be defended.

We used to understand, on a general level, that America’s place in the world was not only morally defensible, but we also used to understand it was good, as seen particularly in the context of the Cold War binary between the Soviet Union — which was, in fact, a truly evil empire — and the United States and its allies. That was an easy case to make in the post-Cold War era, but that has been radically undermined by several generations of indoctrination from a Marxist-led educational system teaching America is actually a nefarious force in the world.


We in the United States are the luckiest people in history. Few of us have served in the military of the United States. The percentage of Americans who currently serve in the United States military is vanishingly small, which means the vast majority of Americans don’t know people currently serving.

Further, the vast majority of people in the military have not fought in a major combat operation. Only about 15% of members of the military have been in active combat. 

For the American public, this means our vision of war is typically World War II movies or video games in which there are no costs. Further, because we’re so powerful and overwhelmingly hegemonic, there’s very little cost to Americans in losing wars. 

That’s also true on a personal level. It turns out that if your friends or family members are serving in the line of duty or have been killed in a war, you are much more likely to be invested in winning that war.

But most Americans haven’t sunk costs into a war other than money, so it seems much easier to get out of a war. It’s also easier to say to get into a war when no one you know has actually spilled blood on behalf of that war. 

Then, add to that our legacy media, which are hell-bent on the Left-wing perspective that our enemies are justified.

When covering wars, the media in the West always start off on a justified quest for democracy. Then within months, the entire media have swiveled. They start talking about a Vietnam-like quagmire in which the truly morally righteous are the anti-war Left who are seeking to pull the West out of the death spiral of war.

They keep replaying the Vietnam narrative, but instead of stretching it out over 12 years, they stretch it out over 12 months. For example: When Ukraine defends itself, that is democracy defending itself. But within months, it is a “quagmire.” The media begin saying the West needs an exit plan, asking, “How do we get out of this?”

The media start pumping out images of war, which are always hideous because war is truly hideous. Then public support collapses because we don’t like ugly pictures on our television. 

So the result of that for America and the West more generally is small, bloody, ugly little wars that stay under the radar, the kind in which Barack Obama uses thousands of drones.

Those sorts of wars are fought because they are anodyne and don’t require justification, and we don’t even know about them. Then suddenly they explode onto the radar, at which point the media move to their scripts: “Oh my God, it’s a quagmire. Why are we even there? Here’s an ugly picture on your TV.”

At that point, the West cuts and runs, leaving billions in equipment to our enemies.

Something ugly happens when we run or attempt to conciliate evil so as to forestall war entirely. 

Right now, America is not in a position to win another war. The best we can hope for is the status quo. That is a dangerous thing. 

And that’s not because of the members of our military. The members of our military are amazing and heroic, and they kick a** at their jobs. They’re the finest fighting force in the history of humanity. 

We’re not losing wars because of them. We are losing wars because of our politicians; because of a media that hates the country; because of our educational system, which is also training people to hate the country; and in the end, because we, the American public, don’t have the stomach for this stuff. 

There are further problems because our inability to win a war at home is symptomatic of something even more serious at home. If we can’t win a war, that says something about what we think of ourselves.

The real reason America can’t win a war is because much of America, in its bones, does not think we should win a war because to win a war would mean we are imperialistic and dominating. It would mean we are spreading our values elsewhere, which is supposedly bad.

And that’s the problem. Once you, as a country, make the decision that your values are so bad they cannot justify winning a war, once you start believing that you as a country are so corrupt that you are a negative force on the world stage, the rest is a really short run.

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