Good Guy VS Bad Guy Wars where the good guy wins

The current Russian VS Ukraine seems to be an example. WW2 is a classic case.

But what other wars were “Good” vs “Bad”. Many wars have been fought by one King vs another King. Emperor vs another Emperor. Dictator vs Dictator. All just examples of two bad guys fighting at the expense of common folk.

The American Civil War. The Union wasn’t exactly fighting for racial justice, but they sure as fuck were fighting against racial injustice, and their victory ended slavery (though, quite clearly, not all of American racial injustice) in the US for good.

The American Revolutionary War? The British must have seen it coming, but nobody was betting on the Americans to win. King George III fought military conflicts around the world during his reign, and he did suffer from recurrent and eventually permanent mental illness.

1991 Gulf War seems a pretty straightforward case.

They weren’t a good guy, but Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia. They ended Pol Pots regime of terror.

Tanzania’s invasion of Uganda that removed Idi Amin from power is another example.

These weren’t good vs bad guys. They were bad guys vs really bad guys.

Dictator vs Emir. Doesn’t count in my opinion.

How was Tanzania in the early 80s the bad guys?

There was the first war between Italy and Ethiopia in the late 19th century in which the Ethiopians fought off the attempts by Italy to colonize them.

A surprising number of prominent Britons, while perhaps not outright supporting America during the war, were firmly against the war. William Pitt the Elder, for example, was not nearly as sanguine about the outcome as some people were.

I think that we have come to ascribe an unwarranted optimism about the war to the then-contemporary British that is not completely grounded in fact.

I’d say Operation Deliberate Force in 1995 was pretty just, even if it wasn’t a “war”, per se. Same goes for the bombing of Serbia in 1999.

Both essentially ended the ongoing wars, and forced the aggressors to the negotiating tables and emplacement of NATO peacekeeping forces.

The Falklands war was clear unwarranted aggression by the Argentinians against the UK.

The Haitian Revolutionary War - slaves against slaveowners, doesn’t get much clearer cut than that from a good vs bad perspective.

I don’t see a massive Good/Bad distinction in the American Revolution - we know how much “all men are created equal” really meant when the chips were down. From the perspective of a slave or a Native American, it wasn’t entirely clear who the good guys were. Unlike in Haiti, when the dust settled the colonisers were still in charge, just with a different flag.

Similarly, while I’m pretty much duty bound to bring up the Scottish Wars of Independence, it was really just a dispute about which feudal nobles would be at the top of the tree.

Anti-colonial wars are probably your best bet, e.g. Algeria, Mozambique, Indochina, Ireland and arguably India depending on your threshold for “War”.

IMO, we’d be better off today if the revolution had failed and the US had eventually gained self-determination along the lines of Canada and Australia. For one, we wouldn’t be tied to an almost immutable 18th century document that sanctifies guns and religiously-motivated prejudice above basic human rights, and we probably wouldn’t have a government that’s constantly deadlocked because the executive and one or both houses of the legislature are controlled by different parties.

The Rhodesian Bush War 1964-1979 installed Robert Mugabe and his regime; arguably swapping out one bunch of “bad guys” for another bunch of “bad guys”.

Mozambique’s war of Independence, with with one group of bad guys defeated, led to South African sponsored civil war, with the remaining two groups both being bad guys. (Note: South Africa in this case are another bunch of bad guys)

I’m not sure if the premise of this thread is even possible to attain. War is bad, and full of bad guys.

For example, the current Ukraine war. We get a lot of information from Ukraine, including victories, occasional defeats and admission of error, and of course, cat videos. We get nothing from Russia, really, aside from talk-show hosts. I am totally on the side of Ukraine, but I cannot argue that this is a single coin of good/bad binary options.

Example: the troubling Azov Battalion. True heroes and absolutely deserving of respect for their fighting. But less so for their foundational beliefs. Are they “good guys” or are they “bad guys”? It is hard to tell.

Slavery would have ended in the Colonies likely in 1833. And without a bloody Civil War. (probably)

I think if you want to do it you have to draw some clear distinctions through fuzzy topics. For example, you have to distinguish between the cause of the war and the conduct of the war (the old jus ad bellum, jus in bello distinction) because as you say, it’s all but impossible to go to war and emerge with clean hands. But you also have to distinguish between the cause of the war and the effect of the war. There are plenty of revolutions that ended with “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”. Does that make the initial cause of the revolution unworthy?


  • The people of X went to war to win freedom against a brutal despotism.
  • But they made up for being outnumbered and outgunned by using terror against civilians as a weapon.
  • Ultimately, they allied with a more powerful country which was itself notably evil.
  • After the war, the more idealist leaders ended up imprisoned and dead and the new regime was corrupt, autocratic and cruel, to a lesser/equal/greater degree than the previous rulers.

How much the latter three factors undercut the claim to be good guys will be a matter of judgement of the particular circumstances.

For example, if the Vietnamese were the good guys when they overthrew the French, what were they when they allied with the USSR to fight off the USA’s neo-colonial interference in their domestic politics?

Maybe? Or maybe a much stronger slaveholding constituency within the British Empire (possibly even Parliament depending on the settlement that prevented war) would have delayed the abolition of slavery by decades. Or maybe the Civil War would have been fought earlier but won more quickly with the might of the motherland behind the North.

That’s why I think you have to take a very narrow focus when judging goodness vs badness.

Meh. As justified causes for revolutions go, the American case was pretty weak. “You just finished fighting a global war with the world’s other superpower, France, which we kicked off, and now you want to recuperate some of your costs? HOW DARE YOU?”

Don’t get me wrong, I think the American Revolution was a net positive for the world. But in terms of the causes the sides fought for, it was hardly a war of good against evil the way that WW2 or the Civil War were. More of an economic dispute between the colonial elites and their British overlords.

From the perspective of a Native American, it was pretty clear that the French were the good guys, the British and Americans both bad. Hence the French and Indian War, as it is known from the American perspective, or the Seven Years War from the global perspective. And hence England raising some taxes on their colonies.

It’s an interesting counterfactual, but I could certainly see the Southern states, along with places whose economy depended on slavery like Jamaica, rebelling against the British in that situation.