I wrote this silly essay not because I am a genius who knows everything, but because it sounds to me that people around me (and people in Washington) do not know much about this very complicated and emotional topic: what it is you should expect if you start a war. Since I think I know a lot of what you can know about the subject from reading history, and because I keep getting irritated by some of the things I hear and read which sounds appallingly naive, I have written down a short list of things that I think everyone should know, more or less, before advocating a military solution (e.g. attacking Iran, Syria, etc). In other words, if the things I describe below do not happen, you should be pleased. But if they do happen, you should not be surprised.
Sometimes they are not mistakes, sometimes they are only mistakes after the fact. Oh you blew up a wedding where a lot of the bad guys were going to be? I see. Maybe that was an intentional mistake, or maybe it wasn't.
But nothing makes me laugh harder than the civilian quarterbacking after the fact. Why didn't they do this? Why didn't they do that? That sure was stupid. Easy for you to say.
Therefore do not start a war unless you are willing to have people around afterwards who have very strong opinions on the topic that you may or may not agree with.
And other nations, watching what is going on somewhere else, maybe also doubt our intentions and maybe fear us because we went to war in order to "fix things" and they may wonder if they are the next to be "fixed".
Americans may have neither known nor cared that the French were in Vietnam before we were, but the Vietnamese certainly did. I know many of my fellow citizens who neither know nor care that Israel exists because of events in Europe over two millennia, but the Jews who live in Israel know this very well. Most people I know may not know or care that the Grand Army of the Republic raped, murdered and burned its way through the South (1), but the people who live in the South do.
Other people know their history, whether or not you care to know their history. Maybe you don't agree with that history, maybe you think they got it wrong. That doesn't really matter, what matters is what they think their history is.
12. Be careful what you ask for and think about what happens next.
Saddam Hussein ruthlessly suppressed his Shiite majority in Iraq, I hear. Those Shiites are the cousins of the Shiites that rule Iran with an oppressive, women-hating, Jew-hating, Sunni-hating theocratic dictatorship. You get rid of Hussein, the Shiites who are a majority in Iraq come into power, and wish to ally with and maybe imitate that lovely theocratic Iran next door. Good move, boys.
13. Wars do not always go the way you want or expect.
Many Americans are used to believing that a war will go their way, that they will be victorious in some sense of that word. This is sheer delusion and ignorance. First, Americans have not always won wars but many wars end with ambiguous results. Second, you can win and lose a war at the same time. Third, you can win every battle and still lose the war. Fourth, wars have a life of their own, and unexpected things happen. A small war may become a big war and a big war may become an annoying small war. You will not know for sure going in.
1. Sherman's "March to the Sea".
2. Read Steven Coll's "Ghost Wars" about our involvement in Afghanistan after the Soviet Invasion. We did support the resistance against the Soviet Union, but our involvement was always with the Pakistani's and the Saudi Arabians, and they have had much more to do with what transpired than we did, in spite of our self-image as being all powerful. We were one of many players in that episode.