For nearly 50 years, the Soviet Union had been America's greatest enemy. Commies had the bomb, they had big military parades, and their boxers were really mean to Rocky. But we'd finally beaten them! The Berlin Wall was coming down, the Russians were friendly, and America was the lone superpower on top of the world. Screaming Eagles, baby!
And that was supposed to be it for America. Since the '70s, the nation had been suffering from "Vietnam Syndrome," a disease that other countries call "being cautious." After Vietnam, nobody wanted to get involved in another war without plenty of allies, a clear timetable, and a full license to cut and run if things got real stupid. So with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the country wanting a little break from war, things were strangely peaceable. U.S. military spending went down in the 1990s, from 5.2 percent to a mere 3 percent of the entire GDP. Only 3 percent of ten trillion dollars?!
Council on Foreign Relations Pictured in the middle: cowardice.
But you remember what happened next, or at least you better. After all, you vowed to "never forget." On 9/11, America took a hit on the home turf, something that hadn't really happened since Pearl Harbor. So of course those old war muscles started twitching again. Unfortunately, those were exactly the wrong muscles to use to tackle terrorism. Terrorism is all about forcing a response, and carpet-bombing an entire country in the hopes of maybe hitting a few dudes with suspiciously long beards is certainly "a response."
After 2001, neoconservatives (the New Coke of Republicans) wanted a war to restore moral order to the West. The result? Iraq War II was more than twice as long as World War II. Al-Qaeda morphed into other homegrown terror outfits, like ISIS and Boko Haram. Between Afghanistan and Iraq, America has spent close to $5 trillion on foreign wars. In the '90s, people thought the world was approaching the endgame of history, when liberal democracies would rule, prosperity was universal, and we'd all live happily ever after. Well, zero out of three ain't that bad.
V.R. Craft always heard you should write about what you know, so she decided to write a book called Stupid Humans. She also writes science fiction stories, some of which appear on her blog, Stellar Sarcasm, as well as satire under the pseudonym W. T. Fallon -- the same name she used to publish Fail To The Chief, a novel that imagined the presidential election as a reality show. Fancy that. Steven Assarian is a librarian. He writes stuff here.
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For more, check out Why Everything You Believe About The '90s Is Wrong and 5 Ways The '90s Made Us Strong.
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