The Lessons of the "Small Wars" since World War II
The period following World War II was marked by a staggering number of "small wars." Did any of these have the potential for escalating into much larger wars and thence to nuclear war itself, thus requiring American intervention?
The period following World War II was marked by a long, long list of dismal civil wars: in the Congo, Nigeria, Angola, Laos, Sri Lanka, Kampuchea ( Cambodia), and so on. But none were judged by the United States to have a significant potential for spiraling into World War III or threatening the United States itself.
The Soviet Union intervened with military force in Czechoslovakia and Hungary, it had border clashes with Communist China along the Ussuri River, and it fought a long and bloody conventional war in Afghanistan.
In the 1952 election campaign, the Republicans talked of "rolling back" the Soviets from Eastern Europe, but when the Soviet Union intervened with troops to put down the rebellions in Czechoslovakia and Hungary, the United States did nothing. It became obvious that an American intervention would be extremely costly, that it would have little hope of success, and that it might well lead to World War III.
When the Soviet Union and Communist China clashed along the Ussuri River, there was no talk of intervention. The reaction of most Americans seems to have