Soldiers patrol in Mosul, Iraq, in this 2008 photo. (Ali Yussef / AFP via Getty Images)
Capt. David J. Lenzi II (Courtesy Capt. David J. Lenzi II)
There seems to be an awful lot of people who think any excuse to travel to a foreign country and kill people is a good one. It’s a shame that the two-edged sword of technologically enabled communication cuts in a way that provides them a platform from which to spew this nonsense.
Killing people for fun/sport is the province of sociopaths, not the measured, responsible foreign policy of a nation that envisions itself as a world power. I cannot be sure how many of these mental invalids are members of the Armed Services, but they don’t belong here. Our professional obligation is to defend the United States. Ultimately, this viewpoint makes us look like 21st century barbarian hordes — that’s not a good thing.
The second most objectionable category, to my mind, are the folks who think we left Iraq too soon and that more ’MURICA is what that country needs. These folks often have bouts of amnesia where they forget that the withdraw plan followed by our sitting president was approved by his predecessor.
They also tend to suffer from the illusion that a small cadre of U.S. personnel working with the Iraqi military can somehow significantly impact the culture of Iraq and the course of its government. They seem to think that the U.S. of A. needs to be involved in the business of determining who should govern other countries and then taking military action to install/supplant/support their leader/government of choice.
Ignoring, for a moment, the blatant amorality of this concept, let’s look at the historical record. How did we do in Vietnam? What about Iraq when Hussein rose to power? How about Afghanistan, in the midst of yet another massively corrupt election sequence staged by a government that is completely ineffectual at the business of governing (kind of answered it, sorry)? The U.S. has no real demonstrated capacity for playing the long game — establishing a legitimate and capable government abroad.
We play the short game and use military power to install a government we think will work out for us near term. There is a difference between isolationism and objection to military intervention as the primary/sole foreign policy option.
Though not a mutually exclusive group, there are also folks that insist Iraq is a security threat, and we must intervene to protect ourselves. First off, horse s---. If you cannot see the flaws in that argument, let me help you out. Why is Iraq a supposed security threat? Terrorists, one assumes, since it certainly isn’t the capacity of its military to project power abroad.
So, if we buy into the idea that any country that might potentially shelter or sponsor terrorists is a grave threat that requires military action, why would we start with Iraq? Indeed, Iraq is such a small potato, why would we even bother with it at all? As we learned firsthand while fighting in Iraq, Iran is a far larger and more dangerous sponsor of terrorism.
We discuss the threat of Al Qaeda frequently, but seem to remain mum on the point that our “friends” in Saudi Arabia are the single largest sponsor of that particular organization, whether on an official basis or no. Pakistan harbors terrorists (I seem to recall finding someone of importance there not long ago ... Bin ... Bin ... Bin something) has confirmed nuclear weapons and is every bit as dysfunctional as Iraq in some respects. Libya? Lebanon? Now we’re discussing known shelters for terror camps and terrorists, but seemingly not worthy of U.S. military intervention.
On that note, if controlling terrorism is our goal, the idea of a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Iraq should make us giddy with excitement. Two major terror sponsors spending their money to kill one another in their backyard — it’s like they’re doing our job for us. Think about that for a moment — the usual bad actors and suspects focused on each other instead of us for a little while. We ought to be thankful, not figuring out a way to put ourselves in the middle of their s--- storm.
The hard reality of the Middle East is not a reality that we can deal with effectively. We have this American-centric view that holds forth that we are the solution and some more exposure to us will somehow heal the woes of Iraq. It just isn’t true. It’s not true in Afghanistan either.
Iraq comes from a very different place culturally. They have a huge number of unresolved issues underlying their internal politics. There is nothing we can do to fix those things. It’s not a car or a plane where just swapping some parts around yields the desired results when it isn’t working correctly. It’s a country and a people that were thrown together without their own consent (or even participation in the process) that is now attempting to define its own identity. They need to work that out for themselves — call it a civil war, if you like, but they need to settle their own differences. That is what they are doing right now.
I know we’d like everyone to sit around a table and talk their differences out, but not everyone does things that way.
Troops in Iraq are not going to fix that country or strike a resounding blow against terrorism or make the world a safer place. Troops in Iraq are just more blood and treasure we don’t need to spend on a cause we’re not seeing any return on for our investment.
The writer is an active-duty Engineer officer. He has deployed three times to Iraq and his experience includes a year serving as an adviser to the Iraqi army.