For the last few years there has been much coverage of the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and our fighting insurgency wars there. There is much hand wringing over our fighting these battles and cries that we have done this too long. In fact the US is not the only country during the 20th century to have fought these types of conflicts. They have been fought for many reasons. Some have to do with colonialism and its demise during the 20th century. Others have been fought on ideological or religious grounds.
We fought in Viet Nam for 10 years give or take. The last couple of years of that conflict were dramatically reduced in combat scope due to the pullback ordered by Nixon and his program to turn the bulk of the fighting over to the Vietnamese. He did wind down the war greatly. By the start of his second term our troop levels were only about 20% of what they had been earlier. But call it ten years. Then we have been in Irag/Afghanistan for about 6 years so far. So all together the US has been involved in insurgency type operations for a total of 16 years in recent history. Who do you think would be our equal in the last 60 years or so? I don’t know who you guessed but I think France would probably be the right answer.
Our US view of world history can be so myopic at times that we overlook the actions and events involving other major nations around the world. After WWII France returned to Viet Nam. It had been removed from power by the Japs during the War. When WWII started the French had been there for a very long time. The Vichy French controlled the area until the Japs came in early 1942. As soon as the war was over the insurgency began by the Vietnamese to gain their freedom. That war went on until the fall of Dien Bien Phu in the mid ’50’s. We didn’t really have much of a presence there until the mid ’60’s. The battle the French fought was just as savage and difficult as the one we fought there in many regards. There were certainly casulties and deaths on both sides and the insurgents would strike like they do in Iraq from the least expected places and without warning. It was not army versuses army but the French troops fighting to regain control after an attack on a remote place or in the city were a terrorists attack would occur. The French finally decided it wasn’t worth the candle anymore and withdrew. Besides they had another battle brewing closer to home that needed attention.
Algeria was a part of France after WWII. It was as much France as Burgundy or Provence. The part of France that was on the European continent was called Metropolitan France. Algeria was not a colony but a full province. The muslims began a full blown insurgency in 1954 and that war lasted until 1962. France finally granted independence to Algeria at that time. That war was vicious and bloody on both sides. There was no quarter given or asked. There were many in France who were outraged about the granting of independence because to them it was giving up “French” soil. You recall the movie about the Day of the Jackal. That was about a plot to assassinate De Gaulle. There really were such plots. The French Army in particular felt betrayed by the withdrawal. It caused about 27,000 French deaths not to mention the wounded over those years. Again this was a war fought by terrorists attacks primarily. De Gaulle was determined to end the fighting because he concluded it wasn’t worth the cost and would last forever. He had lots of support at home but also strong opposition. There was no coilition of countries fighting with France, just as there had been none for them in Viet Nam either. They went on their own regardless of the world community opinion. The Soviets opposed them naturally. England supported them but only vocally, not materially. There is a good history of the Algerian war called the Savage War of
So we are not the only ones who have found ourselves fighting these types of wars. But I would posit that our motivation has been quite different from those of some of our most vocal international critics. How short memory is when it serves a current goal or policy. Let’s hope that our current battles in the Mid East can end soon with some semblence of stability and security for us. 9/11 did change things. Pearl Harbor changed things too. France didn’t have a 9/11 in either Viet Nam or Algeria.
I read that the total bailout for the Big Three is now likely hit 130 billion. I have a suggestion. Give the money to me and I promise to start a brand spanking new auto company from scratch and employ tens of thousands. I already know of some vacant manufacturing plants that are still equipped that could be bought cheap and a ready labor force. In fact make in 100 billion. I will save the Government money and produce jobs. I guarantee it.