Here's the strange thing for the self-proclaimed greatest power in history, the very one that, in this century, has been fighting a series of unending wars across significant parts of the planet: if you exclude Operation Urgent Fury, the triumphant invasion of the island Grenada in 1983, and Operation Just Cause, the largely unopposed invasion of Panama in 1989, Washington's last truly successful war ended 74 years ago in August 1945 with the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japanese cities. Every war of even modest significance since – and they've been piling up – from the Korean and Vietnam wars to the ones in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Libya, and elsewhere in this century (and the last as well, in the cases of Afghanistan and Iraq) has either ended badly (Vietnam) or not at all (see above).
And if that seems a little strange for the greatest power in history, here's something hardly less so: the reputations of so many of the men and women who promoted or directed those failing wars and the generals who commanded them remain remarkably intact. And that's in a Washington that still promotes more of the same – with the exception of our bizarre president, notes TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich, author of the soon-to-be-published, aptly titled book, The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered Its Cold War Victory. These days, it seems, you can't lose a reputation fighting a losing war for the United States. If you want proof of that, just check out the photo that Guardian columnist Julian Borger recently highlighted. It's a smile-a-thon of self-satisfaction that happens to include former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (think: Vietnam, Cambodia), former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice (think: the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq), and former CIA director and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (think: America's twenty-first-century forever wars), among others. All three are still admired and have kept their reps in Washington, which should tell you what you need to know about what passes for American foreign policy and the top officials of the national security state in 2019.