The accomplishments of the next president will depend, in part, on the decisions of the congress and the court systems and the actions of state governments. That is a normal part of our political process. The accomplishments will also very probably depend on unforeseen developments.
When our Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) overthrew the elected government of Iran in 1953, we did not foresee that 25 years later an angered Ayatollah Khomeini would return from exile and lead an anti-American uprising that removed the U.S. installed Shah of Iran and led to the seizure of the American embassy. The dust from that event is still stirring.
When our CIA helped train and supply the Islamic jihadists who were trying to boot the Russians out of Afghanistan in the 1980s, we did not foresee that some of those jihadists would attack us decades later.
During the 1990 planning to evict the Iraqi armed forces from Kuwait, we persuaded the government of Saudi Arabia to allow us to temporarily position U.S. military forces in Saudi Arabia and promised that they would be immediately removed on completion of the brief operation. We reneged on that promise and kept U.S. military forces on Saudi soil not understanding that the decision would enrage a member of the royal family, Osama bin Laden, who subsequently exacted his revenge by attacking our embassies, our naval vessel, and the twin towers in New York.
America mobilized for participation in World War One in 1917. That required mobilization of about three million Americans for military service. California had an exceptionally good grape crop that year. There was an unforeseen labor shortage caused by the mobilization. Itinerant Mexican laborers were recruited to harvest crops in California. It became a trend that hasn’t ended. We are still seeking the best solution for the consequences of that decision.
One Sunday morning in December 1941, Americans turned on their radios and were stunned to learn that the Japanese had bombed the American naval fleet and army bases in Hawaii. Citizens were swept into a foreboding future by an unforeseen event.
Are you old enough to remember things from twenty-five years ago? If so, at that time had you heard of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, or the Taliban? How about rendition and torture? Did you think that the U.S. would become involved in a seemingly perpetual war? Did you think that the NSA would conduct massive spying operations on Americans? Had you heard of climate change? Did you know that burning coal, oil, and gasoline cause climate change? Had you heard of the Glass-Steagall banking regulation that was repealed making way for reckless banking and the 2008 financial meltdown? Did you think that the U.S. Supreme Court would one day pick a U.S. president in a disputed election? Did you think that the U.S. Supreme Court would hold that corporations may spend any amount of money to influence political events because spending money is constitutional “freedom of speech”? Did you think that millions of jobs would be outsourced to foreign countries and most of the manufactured items for sale in the United States would be imported? Did you know anyone who had a cell phone or a laptop computer? Did you know anyone who took “selfies”? Where half of the people you saw on the street covered with tattoos? Had you heard of Ebola or Zika? Did you anticipate the need to remove your shoes before boarding an airplane?
We should expect that presidential plans and promises will be interrupted by unexpected events.
Jack Stevenson is retired, served two years in Vietnam as an infantry officer, retired from military service, and worked three years as a U.S. Civil Service employee. He also worked in Egypt as an employee of the former Radio Corporation of America (RCA). Currently, he reads history, follows issues important to Americans, and writes commentary for community newspapers.