Iraq War is Over (?)

(Today is Veterans Day, a time to honor America’s heroes. And happy 236th birthday yesterday to the Marine Corps.)

The Iraq war, also known as Operation Iraqi Freedom, which commenced with an invasion of Iraq by US forces on March 20, 2003, is coming to an end.

By December 31, 2011, all US troops will be pulled out except for a small skeleton force. This original pullout date was set by the Bush administration and could have been pushed back by Obama through negotiation with the Iraqi government. But Obama has decided to bring the troops home.

After 4,476 American military deaths, 318 coalition deaths, 32,102 Americans injured – some very badly – 16,000+ Iraqi military deaths and an estimated 100,000+ Iraqi civilian casualties, along with huge damage to Iraq’s infrastructure and the exiling of 850,000 Iraqi Christians and 4 million others internally and abroad, this dismal war is finally coming to an end for America.

And we may collectively say “Thank God…”

The cost to American taxpayers is estimated at $750 billion.

But we should not be so anxious about retreating. After all we finally have a very, very costly “victory”. Yet Iraq is still fragile and if it is besieged by Islamic extremists after we leave – and rest assured that that could easily happen – we will have a choice to either to go back in and save our American victory or to allow Iraq to fall.

If we keep forces there, however, we would not have that momentous decision to make. Then again, our presence could be required indefinitely to keep Iraq stable. It truly is a Hobson’s choice for an impossible situation.

The Democrats want to see Iraq fall. They have been seeking our defeat in Iraq since the war started. That is why Obama is pulling out the troops. Then again it is questionable for Obama. He could be seen as the “leader who gave away victory in Iraq” if things go bad.

The real cost of this conflict among survivors of those Americans killed and among those maimed and to those families disrupted by long military, Reserve and National Guard deployments has done so much harm to this nation that it will never be accounted for. This was no small war.

And the cost to the Iraqi people in the disruption of their society and economy is incalculable.

And to think that the original rationale for going in – weapons of mass destruction – did not even exist makes this whole misadventure triply painful.

This should be a wake-up call for America. No more wars unless we are directly threatened. And bring our troops home from Afghanistan now! There is no reason to be there losing our boys and squandering billions. There never has been. It is a violent, chaotic wilderness that can never be tamed, that famously defeated both Alexander the Great and the Soviet army.

This Iraq war has been one the most ill-conceived conflicts in American history. And while 68% of the American people supported it as it began, and while 77 US senators voted in favor, it did not turn out as we might have wished. Because it was something called “war” and in war nothing is predictable.

It was not a matter of conquering Baghdad and hoisting a flag and swearing in a new parliament. No, the takeover of Baghdad was the easy part. The story is well known. ‘Mission Accomplished’

But the mission was not accomplished. Even today we cannot say so. There still is enormous uncertainty in Iraq with a malicious Iran on its border and a growing radical presence all over the Middle East just itching to topple another government, particularly a soft “democracy” like Iraq that is not going to fight back like Ghaddafi did in Libya, with brutal force.

Indeed there were critics of the Iraq conflict from the start and the critics turned out to have been right. We had no business intervening in a nation that was not threatening us directly. Even if it did have WMDs that could have been handled by other means.

But it is easy to talk from hindsight… So easy.

Yet the erroneous intel on weapons of mass destruction was uniform, that Saddam Hussein had them and the we needed therefore to go in and take them out. And we didn’t.

It no longer can be America’s role to intervene in such conflicts. For instance we could intervene in Iran with air strikes on key nuclear facilities. But after Iraq, we have lost our legitimacy to do even that. It will now probably be left to Israel.

With the recent deposing of Gahddafi in Libya and Mubarak in Egypt, this is a good time to ask serious questions about American policy in the Middle East.

Many of us would, if we could wave a wand, undo Iraq and bring back every lost American life and injured soldier.

What should we say about George Bush’s decision to go ahead with this conflict? Did he not have advisors who were predicting that what has happened could happen? That the war would drag on in sectarian violence for almost 9 years?

Was he negligent to go ahead even if Iraq had WMDs? Could we not have simply restrained Iraq in other ways? Was Bush too eager to go in? Was the war just a personal vendetta against Saddam Hussein who was alleged to have conceived a plot to assassinate Papa Bush on a visit to Kuwait in 1993?

Did Bush have a responsibility to consider all possible outcomes? Because he certainly must have been warned that what did happen could happen.

And the outcome has been horrible.

If Iraq were to become a stable democracy over the long run, then we might be able to think differently. And it still may turn out that way – we can pray. But Iraq is in a very unstable part of the world and Iran is going to threaten Iraq for decades. Those nations have bad blood between them and it is not going to end now.

So now the war is over. And Obama’s pullout could allow the snatching of defeat from the jaws of a very fragile victory.

In the final analysis, however, the whole Iraq war was a mistake. Let America never, ever make such an error again.

Please visit my blog at www.nikitas3.com for more conservative insights.