So the good news is that the U.S. military will essentially be out of Iraq by the end of the year, President Barack Obama announced today.
But it is a strange way for us to end a war. We are for all intents and purposes being kicked out by the country we invaded, help set up a new government in, and occupied for nearly a decade.
It’s as if either Japan or Germany had kicked us out before we had decided our occupation after World War II was done.
Besides the fact that it was probably a needless war, it shows how we began from a position of strength and then wimped out (the civilian leadership, not the soldiers) then how we almost lost the whole enchilada for a while and then how we came on a little tougher in what was called the surge and then how we wimped out (the civilian leadership again) and are now being run out the country with its government, which is supposed to now be on our side, telling us it can no longer guarantee immunity to our soldiers and contractors. We let them tell us that?
The upside to our modern wars is that not as many people (on our side anyway) die (although a lot do — too many), but the downside is that they don’t seem to settle much and they are a severe financial strain on our economy.
And what is really exasperating in all of this is that anyone knows that the overriding reason we went to war in Iraq in the first place was to secure our oil supply. But we did not even do that. We had a good excuse to take the oil fields over as spoils of war.
Now Iraq is subject to the influence of Iran.
Afghanistan, after a decade remains a quandary and a quagmire.
While our recent adventure in Libya was pulled off without our troops on the ground being involved and no cost of American lives — NATO and the Libyan rebels did the heavy lifting — it is hard to know what will happen there now. Obama took a gamble on that one, bypassing congress, and seems to have won.
But my own position on war continues to be avoid it at nearly all costs, but once there is no way out, do it, go for total victory and unconditional surrender by the forces you face (although with non-state connected terrorists that might not exactly be possible) or at least annihilation of them as far as possible if they do not surrender, and then any occupation for as long as it seems necessary.
As I understand it, we will still have some military and contractors remain in Iraq to train them how to use the weapons we sold and/or gave to them (which they with the help of Iran may one day turn on us).
Hey, but if it all works out for the good, fine. I have my doubts. And the cost has been high — some 4,200 of our troops dead and thousands more gravely wounded and a trillion dollars that could have been spent on health care, business investment, environmental cleanup or just mad money in the pockets of American consumers.
I often compare the military actions we have taken since World War II with WWII itself, as if that were the model of how we handled everything in the past — I realize, and perhaps sometimes conveniently forget, that throughout our history we have made various military interventions around the world, to include an unsuccessful one early in the last century into Mexico going after Pancho Villa, as well as sending troops to help put down the Boxer Rebellion in China, and our occupation of Haiti back in our own Hemisphere and other interventions. But I feel that simply using our military as a tool for international relations is generally not good (although as Madeline Albright quoted herself as saying in reference to opposition to intervention in Kosovo: what good is a military if we can’t use it? — I suppose she does have a point). I think we should do our best to practice what we preach — peace.