End the Wars We Have – Don’t Expand Them
To the surprise of practically no one, the turbulent political and military situation in Iraq has been going from bad to worse of late. Islamic insurgents have taken control of key cities outside Baghdad, including Mosul, the country’s second largest. Some three years after US combat troops left Iraq, there are now pleas for assistance coming from the elected Iraqi government, along with calls by some here to provide military assistance to avoid a potential catastrophe.
The ill-conceived invasion and occupation of Iraq by American and Allied forces never seemed to achieve much. Calling the allegations of the existence of weapons of mass destruction and claims of collusion with terrorists which were concocted and used as excuses for the invasion anything other than blatant lies is an insult to the intelligence of us all. True, Saddam Hussein and his regime were deposed and dismantled, but the regime change never seemed to pacify the country or improve the lives of many of its inhabitants. The key beneficiaries appear to have been private defense contractors who made billions, along with multinational oil companies who were able to make a mint restructuring the Iraqi oil industry. Some member of groups repressed under the Hussein regime came to control the government left in power when foreign forces were removed.
The attempt by Western forces to complete a regime change never really worked. There has been no real attempt by the current regime to unify the country in any tangible way, except through the use of brute force (much as Saddam had done, only with different groups in charge). There seemed to be no lull in the action after we left, with steady instances of bombings and insurgent attacks killing increasing numbers of civilians and government forces alike. Militant forces appear to have become more organized and better equipped in recent months, leading to the current dire straights in which the government has totally lost control over vast areas of the country and millions of its inhabitants.
Many of the internal forces battling for supremacy in Iraq predate American interference. They predated Saddam as well. The first Gulf War at least had a somewhat valid reason for occurring, in that Iraq had forcibly occupied Kuwait. There was also at least a tenuous ending point short of occupation once Iraqi troops left Kuwait, despite the creation of a no-fly zone enforced by sporadic bombings by Allied forces afterwards, including during the Clinton Administration. The invasion of 2003 had no seeming goal other than occupation and total regime change. Trillions of dollars have been spent, thousands of American lives lost for lies and profits for a few. The current regime seems no more capable of enlightened governance than its predecessor – only the oppressed and oppressors have pretty much reversed roles, with foreign arms, personnel and funding threatening to turn it into a regional conflict rather than merely an insurrection or full-blown civil war. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria, among others, have become involved. Oddly, at this point, American politicians calling for US intervention appear to want us to be on the same side of the conflict as Iran – backing the Maliki government.
This conflict has not and will not benefit America as a nation. Doubling down and making even more enemies while creating more anti-American sentiment by using drones, missiles and airstrikes will do little other than further deplete resources which could better be used to improve life for American citizens back home. Continuing to bombard Iraq will do nothing to improve the lives of those living there without a political solution to end the conflict. We tried something similar to a “no boots on the ground” solution in Libya, which eliminated another dictator, but has also not resulted in peace or stability there. Any pretense at support for democracy has pretty much evaporated in light of the upheaval that has resulted in most of the Middle East in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Democracy doesn’t now exist in any of the countries which were clamoring for it. Only different names and faces have been placed in tenuous charge of very similar regimes.
For the US to go back in now and try to “rescue” the corrupt government in Iraq would be just as disastrous,in terms of human suffering and treasure, as was the initial invasion and occupation. True, the use of drones, missiles and aerial bombing would result in fewer immediate American casualties. But the damage to American goodwill and reputation in the region and world as a whole would be inestimable. Only defense industry contractors and other war profiteers stand to gain. Those who have the least to gain will lose the most - the innocents abroad who die in the crossfire and those at home who suffer from neglect due to the fact that precious resources are being used to destroy land and peoples abroad rather than improve their health, education and overall wellbeing here.
Barack Obama was nominated by his party for President in 2008 in no small part due to his opposition to the Iraq War and his promise to bring our involvement there to an end. He has kept that promise. Little good can come from heeding advice from those he defeated politically back then who now seek to criticize his doing so. Throwing good money after bad trying to force a military solution where a viable one does not exist does not deserve serious consideration. We cannot afford to conquer and occupy every land that disagrees with us politically indefinitely. Examples exist where we have kept significant forces in countries for extended periods after the cessation of hostilities ( Germany, South Korea and Japan come to mind). However, these forces are not occupying forces in the sense that those in Iraq and Afghanistan are/were.
John McCain, Lindsey Graham and other Congressional representatives and conservative pundits who never found a war they didn’t like need to be ignored in light of the failures of their policies in the recent past. American might must be used for right if it is to ultimately succeed. Wars of convenience do not suddenly become righteous causes because we have allowed them to spin out of control for too long. Iraq and Afghanistan were very different situations, but neither promises to become a shining moment in American history if they continue along their current paths. The US has done far more damage to innocent people abroad than was ever incurred by our citizens here at the hands terrorists aided and abetted in Iraq or Afghanistan. We will encourage future tragedies even worse than those of 9/11/01 if we insist no continuing to throw our weight around militarily as we have ever since that date. The time has come to stop trying to advance an international agenda predicated on the aggrandizement of the wealth and power of a few at the expense of the many simply because we have the military ability to force others to bend to our will or die in opposition to it.
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