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I would be remiss if I didn’t take note of the official end of the War in Iraq.
Like the majority of Americans in 2003, I supported President George W. Bush’s decision to remove a murderous dictator from power in favor of giving Iraq a chance to govern itself, to be an ally of the United States and to achieve greater peace in the Middle East.
Of course, there was large opposition to invading Iraq as well as to some of the tactics deployed in the War on Terror. Interestingly, much of this opposition dissipated once Barack Obama took up residence in the White House.
Back in October, I posed a question I thought I would never ask, “Should Saddam Have Stayed in Power?” I asked the question not because of any retrospective appreciation of Saddam Hussein but rather because Iraq appears far more beholden to Iran than it does to the United States as evidenced by their support of Bashar Assad’s reign of terror in Syria. This despite the fact that Nouri al-Maliki, who lived in Syrian exile in the Saddam years, would never have touched the reigns of power if not for the efforts of the U.S. and Coalition troops. The same could be said of Iraq’s Shiite majority which was severely subjugated under Saddam. The post-Saddam Iraq also appears to be even less tolerant of Christians.
The worst case scenario would be if Iran were to launch an attack against the United States or U.S. interests with the help of the Iraqi government which result in the deaths of American civilians. If that should come to pass then the deaths of 4,487 U.S. soldiers in Iraq will have been in vain. I do not say this lightly. Of course, this doesn’t have to be. Perhaps a generation of Iraqi leaders will come to resent being in Iran’s shadow and be unwilling to do its bidding. But of course this very much remains to be seen.
It is worth noting that fewer American soldiers died during our near nine year commitment in Iraq than died during the Battle of Iwo Jima which took place in a space of just over five weeks in WWII. I’m not trivializing our men and women in uniform who gave their lives in Iraq. Far from it. What I am saying is that the American public is far less willing to endure the sort of casualties incurred in previous wars.
With that we must be mindful that we have a new generation of military veterans (who fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan) who have come back home wounded physically, psychologically and in many cases both. They richly deserve our gratitude, our support, our care and, above all else, our respect.
What I fear is that there will come a time (and it may come sooner rather than later) when we are in a far more perilous situation and because of what occurred in Iraq we will be far more hesitant to defend this country. While this hesitancy might earn us greater standing in the international community it could also cost the lives of thousands, if not millions of innocent American civilians. Our enemies are mindful of this hesitancy our increased intolerance of military casualties.
In the final analysis, things didn’t go as planned in Iraq. They seldom do in war. But in other wars, the United States attained victory and went out on its own terms. The same cannot be said for Iraq.