US Troops To Stay In Iraq For… “As Long As Needed?”
by Scott Faith
Our most recent war in Iraq started in 2003 and 14 years later, “victory” remains elusive.
Like most soldiers of a certain age, I served in combat in Iraq. Like many of us, I served there multiple times. But unlike some of my peers, I don’t resent getting sent to Iraq. As a nation we acted on the information we had at the time, which with the benefit of hindsight was terribly wrong, but at the time seemed plausible.
And like almost all Americans, or at least the ones who know our country is still at war and care what happens there, I wonder how long we’re going to have to stay. A unilateral withdrawal of all of our forces from Iraq, as many people have advocated for years, would be a huge mistake. We already saw that movie back in 2011; we don’t need a sequel. But the question remains: how much longer will we have troops in Iraq, at great risk to their lives and at great expense to our nation?
According to recent comments by a Department of Defense spokesperson, the answer to that question is, “as long as needed.” Well, that’s frustratingly vague and unspecific.
The problem, of course, is that they will probably never “not be needed.” We killed, captured, drove out, disbanded, and/or “de-Baathicized” almost anyone and anything who had a chance of making post-war Iraq a stable and prosperous nation. When the shooting stopped–ok, it never really “stopped,” let’s say when the shooting “died down”–the other organizations that were supposed to stand up a “government in a box” and make democracy break out all over Iraq, particularly the State Department, were not up to the task.
Two of Iraq’s neighbors, Iran and Syria (well maybe not so much Syria right now, they kind of have their hands full at the moment) actively encourage instability and regularly target US troops in Iraq. Iraq is in a bad neighborhood with bad neighbors, its economy is in ruins, terrorists thrive within its borders, and internal ethnic tensions between the Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds could split the country apart permanently. Consequently, US troops will probably never “not be needed,” not if we want Iraq stable and in line with our national interests.
The defeat of ISIS in Iraq is, at this point, a military certainty. But ISIS came after Al Qaeda in Iraq, which came after Saddam Hussein. Folks, we’re getting worse, not better. Where are organizations who can move in after the military to make sure we don’t have Saddam Hussein 2.0 come in and put us right back where we started?
Speaking of which, religious extremist, Iran puppet, and all-around terrible human being Muqtada al Sadr is consolidating power in Iraq, nothing could go wrong with that, right?
So I guess
America sorry, I mean the US military better buckle up for another 14+ years of fighting, dying, and blowing oodles of money in Iraq. And I guess I better start going over Iraq’s topography with my children, since they’re likely to rack up time downrange there just like their old man.