Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The war that won’t go away

    The current news from Iraq is devastating. Neoconservatives in the administration of President George W. Bush promised a short, successful war when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. Right-wing talk radio and television hosts declared that all the costs of the war would be paid for with Iraqi oil revenues. A New York Times editorial could hardly be more correct: “Iraq is one cautionary example of how much can go wrong.”
    The invasion of Iraq lasted from March 19 to May 1, 2003. Unfortunately, the involvement of American ground forces lasted nine more years. Troops were finally pulled out in December 2011.
    Last week, the Iraqi army—troops we armed and trained—cast aside its weapons and uniforms in the face of attacks from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
    Far different than the illusion that the Iraqis themselves would pay for the war, the cost to the U.S. to date has topped $4 trillion. Now, Americans are watching the weapons of war become part of the arsenal of our enemies as opposed to the arsenal of democracy that we thought we were building.
    Somehow, in the midst of this misadventure, there arose a notion that America was going to be able to make some move dramatic enough to solve issues that have pitted groups against one another in that part of the world for hundreds of years, even though regimes born in that region couldn’t pull that off.
    In 1958, Egypt and Syria, Muslim-majority nations ruled by nonsectarian governments, came together to form the United Arab Republic. It lasted barely three years before Syria seceded.
    Having eliminated the largely nonsectarian government of Saddam Hussein, the legacy of the Iraq War pitted Sunni Muslims against Shiite Muslims, and Sunni and Shiite groups against Kurds. After spending years and dollars and lives, America is still lost in this conundrum.
    Any observer of the American misadventure in Iraq would have trouble making the case that that we truly understand, or ever really understood, what’s going on in this region. It can only be described as a mess.
    It would be comforting to know that the nearly 5,000 Americans killed in Iraq, and the 32,000 wounded, had a positive effect. The fighting currently raging in Iraq, however, demonstrates the futility of Western attempts to bring stability to a region torn by religious war.
    U.S. troops will do what their commander in chief orders. President Obama should resist calls for any American reinvolvement in Iraq.

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