Scientists conduct experiments that are intended to confirm predicted outcomes. When that happens the experiments are considered successful. Lawyers are taught they should never ask a question for which they don't already know the answer. But U.S. foreign policy? Not so much.
Time and time again we see this country's foreign affairs falling victim to the law of unintended consequences.
The so-called "Red Scare," which made mortal enemies of all things "Communist" led America into Afghanistan, supporting those – including Osama bin Laden – who were willing to fight to oust a Communist government which was supported by the country's neighbor Russia, which was then known as the Soviet Union.
The United States armed and trained the Mujahideen rebels because they were fighting against the dreaded Commies. That's all they needed to know at the State Department and the Pentagon. Then, the Taliban government rose up and they sheltered Al Qaeda, and those very fighters this country trained and armed turned their guns on America. America "let slip the dogs of war."
In William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar: the line is "Cry 'Havoc!' and let slip the dogs of war." Indeed, time after time, this country has unleashed the dogs of war, only to the peril of this country in the end.
Now, it's happening again in North Africa. The United States, with the "permission" of the United Nations Security Council, unleashed the dogs on supposed "allies" Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, and then on Libya's Muammar Qaddafi.
"Good riddance," many foreign policy "experts" proclaimed and so it appeared to be, only the law of unintended consequences kicked in, and the weapons that were pumped into Libya, and the weapons the Libyan government had stored for itself were unleashed and turned over to all manner of insurgents.
Now, some of those weapons have been used to topple formerly stable and friendly governments like the one in Mali.
In the 1990s Mali's democratically elected President Alpha Oumar Konare was America's "hail fellow well met." He was pals with President Bill Clinton and was received at the White House. Now, his country has been overrun, first by Tuareg rebels from the north who deposed Konare's successor, and then again by another group of rebels affiliated with Al Qaeda. What's a country to do?
Call in the French, that's what. While the U.S. was bogged down in election-year politics, and weariness from its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the French wasted no time in mustering a garrison of troops to rush in to beat back the rebel bad guys, who were unleashed when their patron Qaddafi was overthrown. "Cry 'Havoc!' and let slip the dogs of war."
In Shakespearean English, the term "havoc" is a military order permitting the plunder of the spoils of war after a victory, and "let slip" is to release from the leash. Time and time again, this country has unleashed the dogs of war on hapless countries in Africa and Asia and Latin America, as if there would never be any consequences for such hostile behavior.
Like the days when the French Foreign Legion began in 1831, composed of nationals – misfits generally trying to leave behind their lives and families – from any number of countries outside of France, the French in this case have assembled a band of African soldiers to go into Mali and fight those they now call "terrorists." The United States apparently has no stomach for such an adventure at this time. But the U.S. is glad that the French are intervening, and is supplying some logistical support.
But what can this county expect when its foreign policy is one which only threatens mayhem –as in Shakespeare's prologue to Henry V, where that warlike king is described as having at his heels, waiting to be unleashed, the hounds of "famine, sword and fire" – behind the mask of friendly relations and the oh, so, coveted American "foreign aid."
What can this country's foreign policy advisers expect from its reckless and wrong-headed ideology, other than another worn out set of clichés, like "weapons of mass destruction," like "the war on terrorism?"
The dogs of war have been unleashed; will they bite the hand that fed them again?