It has been eight years, eight very long years, since we invaded Iraq. That is the same length of time I spent in the military during the Vietnam era. And no, I did not fight in Vietnam because my specialty was repairing the guidance and flight control systems of a nuclear missile. But I wonder if we feel any safer now than we did eight years ago? The stink over a mosque in New York City would suggest that we do not. Ironically, the hateful rhetoric surrounding the mosque is undermining General Petraeus’s strategy of peaceful coexistence in Afghanistan and the US State Department’s message that our war is against terrorists and extremists, not Muslims. Our intentions may seem good but very shortsighted as we seem to have a knack for causing more harm than begetting peace.
Last week we saw the last combat troops leave that piece of quicksand in the desert. Even though we leave 50,000 troops and will have a military presence for decades to come, it is time to evaluate whether this pyrrhic victory has been worth the loss of 4,500 soldiers, the current and future expense tied to more than 32,000 injured, and $750 billion dollars. A discussion such as this must point out that every reason we were given for invading Iraq turned out to be false. I wish we had found WMD’s and links to the 9/11 terrorists. That might have provided justification for this tragedy. However, nation building and spreading democracy are not reasons to invade any country. Hating that toothless tiger Saddam was not sufficient reason to pay such a heavy price. Our increased security would have been but where is the evidence that this is true?
Many political pundits are worried that Iraq cannot remain stable without our combat troops. That may be true or it may not. However, don’t you agree that it is time for Iraq to determine its own future? By August of 2010, we have trained and have in place 410,000 Iraq police officers and 245,000 Iraq military personnel. Those numbers are far higher than the number of US and coalition troops at the height of our engagement. If those police and troops cannot maintain stability in their own country then they need to accept the consequences. Our investment in their stability cannot be greater than theirs. And if Saudi Arabia is worried about Mideast peace and stability, they should spend some of the tons of oil money we send them on promoting stability in Iraq and the region. Since when should we be their policeman?
What we have accomplished with Iraq is to reveal the limitations of our military. We were no more prepared for guerilla warfare than the British were during the Revolutionary War. We did not have the proper strategy, equipment, or training to deal effectively with an insurgency. Our troops have been strained to unacceptable limits, divorce and suicide rates have skyrocketed, and we have had an over reliance on contract troops (mercenaries) that make six figure incomes.
It is too subjective to ask whether the price has been worth the results and consequences. Everybody has a different answer. In my opinion, our treasure and talent are better spent in non-combat pursuits such as tracking terrorist funding and improving passport control measures. There are, literally, hundreds of ways we can fight terrorism without placing our troops in harm’s way. We just have to be smarter about it. I wish we felt safer as a result of our eight year struggle but we do not.