Diane Mufson: US should have learned these lessons
Hindsight is amazing; it gives us 20/20 past vision, but to be useful, we must really learn from it. As a nation we seem to be remiss in using past experiences to improve future outcomes. Here are a handful of lessons our country should have learned by now.
Number one: We cannot make other nations follow our democratic pattern, but they do appreciate us for some things. We have labored to make Iraq and Afghanistan think like us. We can't even get them to "Like us." We want other countries to have democratic voting processes as we do, but then we were relieved at Egypt's un-democratic coup when it disposed of an elected president who was staunchly Islamist.
Just because they don't love us, it doesn't mean that other countries don't love our military equipment. According to Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub, Iraq recently received Hellfire Missiles and assault rifles and "since mid-January, Iraqi security forces received more than 11 million rounds of ammunition."
Speaking of arms, we may be sending $7 billion (even by government standards that's real money) worth of armored vehicles and leftover equipment from the fighting in Afghanistan to our "close friend," Pakistan. No wonder that many Americans are concerned this may come back to haunt us.
Here's a second lesson we need to understand. There will always be a political war someplace. Some of these will be "cold" as in the old USA-USSR détente and the continuing Cuba-USA situation; some will be sizzling hot, as in Syria and the Ukraine. We may want to be the world's policeman, but we should understand that is a no-win role. We can't afford it in human or financial terms and there is no end to wars in which we can become embroiled. Some day we are apt to need to take an active military position, but we should weigh that decision with utmost care.
Lesson number three reminds us this nation has a "Breaking News" mentality. We forget the crisis of the day when it is replaced by the new crisis of the day. And there always is a new crisis. The senseless massacre of little children in a school that occurred in Newtown, Conn., just over a year ago riveted the nation's attention for a while. It has become a distant memory to those not immediately connected to the carnage. An associated Press story by Pat Eaton-Robb noted that there is no longer enough money to provide the psychological counseling still needed for those affected by this tragedy.
Current news helps reminds us of lesson number four, which tells us that regardless of how many females are now in the military or how many are upper echelon officers, the military still remains an "old boys club." The future will see some changes, but when a brigadier general can plead guilty to very much reduced charges regarding sexual assault, it's clear that "boys will be boys" is still the military's mantra.
Today's final lesson is that our nation isn't really very good at predicting how swiftly change will take hold. Ten years ago few would have expected that same-sex marriage would be legal in more than 25 percent of our nation's states, while immigration reform would still be in the closet. And we certainly won't know the real effect of "Obamacare" for at least another decade.
There are many lessons our nation should have learned by now, but this handful would be a good start.
Diane W. Mufson is a retired psychologist. She is a former citizen member of The Herald-Dispatch editorial board and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page. Her email is email@example.com.
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