The United States of America went to war against a certain oil-rich state. That state had already declared itself an enemy of the United States, oppressed its own people, and lent support to a regional movement that did threaten the United States and had already attacked American territory. This state was not in and of itself much of a threat, but knocking it over did put the United States in a better strategic position to deal with the real, urgent threat facing it.
Fortunately this oil rich state was conquered with relative ease. Unfortunately, the aftermath didn’t go so well.
Not long after the occupation started, riots broke out. In the capitol and out in the boonies, those who favored the old order responded with violence against the occupiers, and against those who supported the occupiers. Shadowy terrorist groups started operating, causing mayhem wherever they could, and the American occupiers were powerless to stop them.
A new government was instituted, one that would give rights to the formerly oppressed people. A new constitution was written that would guarantee those rights. This new government came under attack almost immediately.
Sounds like the outcome of a real screwup, the kind of thing that would bring lasting infamy upon the President foolish or vicious enough to embark upon this insane course, at least if you listened to the Democrats during the war and the occupation.
But it gets worse.
Ultimately, the United States gave up on the project, removed its troops, left this oil-rich state to its own devices, and washed its hands of the whole mess, just as the Democrats had been demanding ever since the guns fell silent. The new government was replaced with one staffed by supporters of the old order. The worst abuses were officially abolished, but the yoke of oppression did return, and new laws depriving people of their freedom and their political rights were instituted. The terrorist groups continued to flourish all over the region, and regularly staged small but terrifying attacks on American soil.
Did the United States go to war for the oil? Of course not. No one even knew the oil was there until a rice farmer near Jennings found some in his field almost 40 years later.
Today, of course, those terrorists are neutered. The struggle that seemed so hopeless at one time is won, the people are free, and my native state is generally a decent place to live. (It ain’t perfect, but I’ll take it in a heartbeat over any place that’s never been “oppressed” by the Great Satan.) It is there, and in ten other states, after more than a century, that the ghost of Lincoln can smile and say “Mission Accomplished”.
Yes, it was too damn long. Yes, the United States threw in the towel far too early and let the job remain uncompleted, and the progress made in the first few years be largely reversed, for a century. But we should remind ourselves of a few things:
Just because “the people” (i.e., those willing to kill people from the shadows or behind cover rather than accept the demise of the old order) “rise up” doesn’t mean they’re in the right.
Just because people willing to cause trouble keep popping up out of the shadows doesn’t mean the whole effort is doomed to failure. It’s a good sign that it’s not quite time to “declare victory and go home”, but it doesn’t mean that everyone in the area is fixing to grab their guns and set off a general bloodbath, nor is it a sign that America’s leaders screwed the pooch, failed to plan for the aftermath, displayed outrageous incompetence, or aroused the righteous anger of the general population.
Independence is not always a good thing. Liberty is what you want for a society. Sometimes independence is a good way to get liberty, and sometimes it ain’t. In the case of the Confederacy, it definitely wasn’t, not for people of any race.
Anyone who lives where the Confederate flag once flew (officially, that is… unofficially, the damn things still seem to be everywhere, even in Pennsylvania (!) ) can see with their own eyes what American occupation means after the dust (finally) settles. It’s not a sham for American plutocrats to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor natives. It’s not the destruction of local communities and local values and local customs (except, of course, for local values and local customs that richly deserve to be destroyed). It generally boils down to the locals getting a piece of what Americans have always enjoyed, and those that would “rise up” against that can generally be classified as “the bad guys”, at least until the United States somehow manages to find, and end up in a war with, a nation that offers more liberty than our own.
Just because the first year of the occupation is problematic doesn’t mean that we should shut down the rest of the war, or decline to march on nearby states that are part of the overall threat on the theory that the presence of troublemakers implies that the President is incompetent, or that our overall strength in the occupied area is insufficient.