The Iraq war has been plagued, almost from the beginning, with critics after no weapons of mass destruction were found, after the startlingly poor intel was revealed, dissension grew as the American people came to believe it was a Whitehouse, a president gone awry, completely run a-foul of the constitution or ignoring it entirely. Matters were not helped by the infamous video sent round the world of US troops pulling down a statue of Sadam Huisane and then President Bush giving a speech on Iraqi soil under a banner reading mission accomplished, only for the war to go on for another 6 years, costing thousands of American lives and billions of dollars as our economy began to fail. Compounding American dislike for the war were the horrific injuries soldiers came home with, if they came home at all; burns, amputations, traumatic brain injury turned men and women, providers for their families into disabled individuals now saddled with mountains of red tape in attempting to get the secondary treatments they needed. And so in the 2008 presidential campaign moving troops out of Iraq became a platform resonating with the public. But is leaving Iraq now a good thing; are the 50,000 U.S. troops, there as a peacekeeping force enough?
Questions that still linger as ceremonies mark Iraqis taking control of their country for the first time, as violence seems to escalate, as the political factions have yet to agree on, forget from, a stable government and the soldiers, while seeing the name of the mission change, see no change in their duties and the distinct possibility of even more danger. Astute members of government long questioned setting a date to withdraw troops then broadcasting it to the news and around the world, fearing it would simply tell Al Quada, Hamas and assorted terrorist groups when the area would be theirs for the taking. It was a similar case in the early days of the war, the post Watergate, 21st century media having to be told they would not be given certain strategic information about military targets and operations because of the need to keep them securely away from the enemy. Others question leaving now with all the factors above still in play especially when soldiers there are only cautiously optimistic about the readiness of Iraqi military forces.
The Iraqis themselves have never been shy about making their opinions known; not all were happy to see the fall of the country’s dictator primarily because it lead to war, loss of jobs, money, property and even loved ones. Some of the citizens felt the Americans were out of touch with their needs that included electricity, gasoline while the troops where concerned with security and removing terrorists. Some citizens shot soldiers doing routine patrols, some captured by the media chanting for the Americans to go home, likening them to an occupying force no better than Sadam. Now, 7 years later, once we have convinced a majority of people there we are friends not enemies, we seek to do good not harm, we are leaving, making many nervous about what happens next. President Obama’s comments about turning the U.S.’ attention to things here at home, specifically, the economy may have done much to sooth angry Americans, but it left Iraqis feeling, as one said, like they are being left in a blood bath.
With all that has been said about the Iraq war, considering the bad intel, considering things like Abu Ghraib, innocent women and children killed in raids where suspected terrorists and terrorist sympathizers were supposed to be, citizens, foreign and domestic, in the region and across the globe becoming terrorists or sympathizing with them, people have asked was it worth it? The better question seems to be what was our alternative; as much as people wanted to make this about our oil prospects in the region it’s not. As much as people screamed about the lack of weapons of mass destruction and the fact that the sitting presidents message seemed to change, from preventing more tragedies like 9-11 by rooting out dangerous weapons, to a humanitarian mission about freeing oppressed people, somewhere along the line the American people lost sight of the fact that rape rooms, mass genocide, human rights violations and an egomaniacal dictator do not make for a stable country. The weapons could have been moved prior to America forces arrival, could still be buried undiscovered because you cannot turn over every sand dune in such an area, and yes, it all could have been a bluff to appear more powerful than he was. Yet we also forgot that this dictator had been yanking the UN’s chain for years, going back and forth on whether or not he would allow their inspectors into the country to look for nuclear weapons, inspect nuclear facilities meant for other things, after having already invaded a neighboring country years before. We still don’t seem to comprehend that going into Iraq was an inevitable eventuality to avoid some sort of nuclear fallout impacting the globe.
It’s the same situation we face right now, this minute in Iran, UN sanctions and proceedings to make sure that their nuclear program does not go forward, that they do not end up with home grown nuclear weapons that could be used against allies like Israel or the U.S. itself. In fact, some of the push to retreat from Iraq and Afghanistan is, no doubt, because those charged with monitoring the situation believe we will soon be there doing the same thing and we cannot spread our military any thinner, since we are the world’s policemen. Self proclaimed or not, when we tried to bring other countries in on our actions, intent on getting the world involved in something for mutual global stability the French said no, Britain followed to extreme unpopularity and a current pull out of many, if not all, troops, allies in the region are dubious Pakistan suspected of harboring terrorists, riddled with corruption itself. So who does that leave to handle these types of issues when countries are either uninterested in taking on the task or too busy fighting for their own survival to take part in global affairs?
And the consequences for not intervening are too great for the planet, leaving one to wonder what today’s pacifists, politicians and public alike, who believe in minding your own country’s business and nothing else, think would happen if Iran gets the bomb or terrorist factions in Afghanistan did the same, what would have happened if Sadam was left in power and got his hands on any number of nuclear, to say nothing of biological, threats. They fail to realize that nuclear detonation and fallout can be worldwide, can kill billions; what kind of monsters would we be if we let that happen? We are already criticized at home and abroad for aid given in disasters, help given to other countries in various crises; people abroad saying we don’t give enough, people at home saying we need to take care of our own. Then we are chastised again for our intrusion in other countries issues many saying go away others saying they need the help and aren’t getting it: when we do put ourselves in the middle of stability problems like those in Iraq, we are blasted there for the necessities that unfortunately come with war, the mistakes and simultaneously we are blasted at home for the money spent, the American lives lost.
However, the biggest reason this is a dammed if we do dammed if we don’t type situation is that, like it or not, we may be a permanent peacekeeping force in the region, regardless of if it’s exactly what neither side wants. We may be an indefinite peacekeeping forcing in the region, because it’s the only hope for stability; already having forces in 2 out of the 3 places named tells the terrorists that a formidable military will not allow this to go unchecked, will not allow the terrorist agenda to proliferate around the world along with various types of weapons of mass destruction, exactly what no one wants to hear, because it means there are no quick fixes, no end in sight.
No we shouldn’t be pulling out of Iraq yet and we shouldn’t shout it to the world when we do; why seems obvious but needs to be said, because the Iraqi military is years away from being the force it needs to be to properly defend the country alone, it’s years away from the technological military required in this day and age, because there is no formed government, and because the last thing we want to do is leave a fledgling democratic country wide open for extremist, terrorist bombardment the moment we leave. Yes it was worth it to go there to give people freedom, to at least attempt to quell terrorist activity in the area before it became a bigger problem than it already was at the time, to sow the seeds of democracy there. Yes it was worth it to see Iraqis voting for the first time despite the violence, despite the threats, despite the fraud issues, because if we don’t try then there will never be anything but an endless stream of dictators always in need of taking down, always intent on hurting more prosperous parts of the world. America started this with good intentions we have to see it through, finish it. And finishing it means staying the course not worried about withdrawal dates, popularity of the war at home, how it plays politically or how long it takes to get the job done.