Iraq: The End of the Beginning

And so it ends. Not with a bang, not with the thanks of a grateful ally, not with a farewell ceremony by the newly elected leadership, but with a final convoy slinking out of the country — at night and nine days early — after a ceremony featuring two empty chairs where the “host” nation leadership should be, followed by a ten sixteen bomb salute.

We came, We saw, We screwed up from one end of the country to another.

Back in 9/11, AQ spent $50K to attack the WTC and kill nearly 4,300 Americans. Then George Bush said “Y’all don’t know nuthin ’bout killing Americans — here’s how it’s done”, and proceeded to kill 4,500 of them over nine years at a cost of a trillion dollars, or maybe three. Heckofa job, Georgie.

The reasons for going to war were, as we all now know, lies and fabrications from one end to another. There were no WMD. There never were any WMD. There was no effective WMD program. What there was, was a transparent bluff by Saddam Hussein, a bluff accepted by us because the President personally wanted a war. I think that meets the definition of war crime.

Americans get all huffy whenever anyone says anything about our troops dying “in vain”. Well, I’m a troop, who fought in one war and spent another half a decade in foreign countries, prepared to fight two others, and my take is that in future editions of Wicktionary, the entry for “in vain” will be a redirect to “Iraq War”.

  • The Four Thousand Five Hundred American troops who died in-theater didn’t save the world from a dictator with a WMD program. In fact, because of the example of Iraq, and North Korea, the Iranians have obviously learned the lesson that the only way to protect their country is to ramp up their WMD efforts.
  • Those who died didn’t create a Western-style democracy. What they did was to swap out the tyranny of an effective minority for the tyranny of an ineffective minority.
  • They didn’t create a better country, because DoD wasn’t interested in nation building. As I’ve said before, in WWII we bombed Germany and Japan flat, and five years later they were effective democracies with economies that were strong enough to take on a major role in NATO’s guardianship of Europe and support US combat operations in Korea. In Iraq, nine years later, the capital city still doesn’t have reliable electric power.
  • Their sacrifice didn’t even make us safer, or stronger, or better positioned in the region. What they did was to destroy an evil dictator who was the region’s strongest opponent to Iran. We have gotten in bed with evil around the world for decades. Mostly, it did little good. The one time we decide to destroy evil, it’s evil that was effectively doing our job for us. The enemy of our enemy is our friend.

The end result of nine years of war is a diminution of our standing in the region, the loss of the moral high ground internationally because of atrocities sanctioned at the highest level, atrocities that also act as recruiting fodder throughout the Islamic worlds; the creation of a new anti-US IR/IQ axis — one that might soon extend to Syria — the destruction of the effectiveness of the US military, and the death of 4,500 Americans.

This is not the end in Iraq, except for us. It’s the end of the beginning of the destruction of the old balance of power in the Middle East, the one that grew out of settlements at the end of WWII and was maintained for over half a century. It’s the end of the first act of the creation of a new Middle East, marked by Iraqi sovereignty and the transitions of the Arab Spring. The new Middle East, which will create itself in Act II of our tragedy, will be more independent, more Islamic, and less friendly to US interests.

Sometime this spring, I plan to write a two-decade retrospective of Paul Kennedy’s “The Rise and the Fall of the Great Powers”, and show how I was wrong in my original analysis of that book. Iraq will feature prominently as an example of how a Great Power can squander it’s wealth and treasure and people, in vain.

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2 Responses to “Iraq: The End of the Beginning”

  1. Sandra Says:

    Yes. Would we be in Afghanistan had Iraq not been invaded? I always snorted when “slippery slope” arguments were made about Vietnam, but I now wonder if we have created the real slippery slope for ourselves in the region. If so, then it seems that the Iraq war has not ended, and may never end.

    • FoundOnWeb Says:

      Afghanistan has always been problamatic — I’m reading Churchill’s “Malakand Field Force” right now, it takes place on the AF/PK border — but I think there’s general agreement that we could have brought that war to an acceptable conclusion years ago had we not diverted our attention to Iraq.

      As for Iraq, it’s headed for another civil war. However, as a recent FARK headline put it: Sixteen bombs exploded in [not our problem anymore], killing at least [we don’t really care] people. We’ll let the Arab League or the UN worry about it. Unless of course we get a Republican President.

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