We Are Leaving Iraq, Except That We Are Not Leaving Iraq
If you find yourself on the border of two state and you make one step over the imaginary line to end up on the side of the neighboring state, would you consider that a momentous achievement? Would you assume that your situation has changed radically?
Neither would I.
On the heels of the announcement that U.S. military forces are leaving Iraq and “coming home” by the end of the year, the New York Times delivers some very sobering news. The headline itself says it all:
U.S. Planning Troop Buildup in Gulf After Exit From Iraq
I have elsewhere lamented the demise the anti-war left, which ceased functioning to protest the wars of choice in the Middle East after someone with the “correct” letter after his name was elected president. However, I also made the point that the wars have not stopped. Although it is welcome news that we will be leaving Iraq, I simply do not see the significance of taking that one step right over the border to Kuwait.
Not only that, but this fictional drawdown is in reality closer to a buildup!
The Obama administration plans to bolster the American military presence in the Persian Gulf after it withdraws the remaining troops from Iraq this year, according to officials and diplomats. That repositioning could include new combat forces in Kuwait able to respond to a collapse of security in Iraq or a military confrontation with Iran.
…In addition to negotiations over maintaining a ground combat presence in Kuwait, the United States is considering sending more naval warships through international waters in the region.
What are the issues that we have this war in particular? (I will not touch the larger and more philosophical issues due to space constraints, but maybe one day I will sell a book on it.) And more importantly, how are these issues being addressed?
First, the war is incredibly costly. We have spent more than a trillion dollars in Iraq, and it certainly does not seem as though anyone’s life is better for it, except maybe Nouri al-Maliki’s. This move does nothing to mitigate the flood of red ink. In fact, it might make it worse by erasing the final traces of an defined mission and replacing them with a vague blanket security mandate with no end in sight.
Second, blowback is an issue. There exists a fringe of people who hate us because they hate us. They are unreachable, but I will argue that they are not worth a war. However, there are now millions of Iraqis who hate us because we invaded and occupied their country. Although we are now “leaving” Iraq, it will not seem like it to the Iraqis if we are a stone’s throw away with guns pointed to border. And worse, we will now be occupying up to six other countries to keep an eye on Iraq, and they will likely resent us now as well.
Third, we still have no definable interest in the region. Terror concerns exist, but it is more likely that U.S. military operations in the Middle East will stoke terrorism rather than contain it. Be that as it may, terrorists will continue to target innocent people, and sadly, they will succeed again in the future. This is not defeatism – it is reality. And since the “war on terror” is a fool’s errand anyway, what good is it doing us to occupy the region?
Finally, the war in Iraq has pushed legitimate defense and security concerns to the back burner, stretched our military and our leaders’ credibility, and exposed our weaknesses abroad. Ultimately this war half a globe away has made us materially weaker right here at home. The drawdown in Iraq will not solve the problems of prioritization, military personnel issues, or the perceived veracity of our leadership. If anything it will make it worse.
I suggest that we make it known, by voting, calling, writing, blogging, even talking with friends, that this is unacceptable. We have demanded an end to this foolish military adventurism and we have been rewarded with fraud. This cannot stand.