We committed to this course in 1968, when America elected Richard Nixon on just such a platform. Order at home, American order abroad. Vietnam was a Cold War activity, and even before it ended we had started another one, in Afghanistan, a war that even a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Barack Obama, has found unable to end “with honor.”
Peace with honor, to Americans, means peace with a promise by the other side not to attack us again. We left Vietnam, the North took over, but they have kept that promise and we have no problems with them today. Afghans won’t make that promise. They never have, they never will. So that war goes on.
What of the war back home? That war seemed to end in the 1970s, but it never really did. It remained a low-grade conflict under many names, the most common being The War on Drugs. The name of the drug changed, but the battlefield never did. It was poor people, brown people, often Hispanic people that generations learned to fight, hate and fear.
In 1864 the Civil War seemed intractable. It had been hiding under the tables when the Constitution was written. Slavery’s hands are all over the document. So that war had been going on, with increasing intensity, for a lifetime by 1864’s battles. That was to be war’s bloodiest year, and the outcome wasn’t certain until the November re-election of Abraham Lincoln. That result was made certain by some of the bloodiest battles of the war, especially one that destroyed my own home, Atlanta, and which is still remembered with an annual celebration that is taking place now.
In 2016 the Second Civil War also seems intractable. So, too, the foreign war. But as in 2016 we may be closer to the end of both than we realize.