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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Iraq: I hate to say "I told you so", but...

I'm going to take time out from working on the book and professional obligations to say something that does not come out of any sense of pride or gloating.  There is nothing at all to crow about regarding this.

That said, it has been a long-time contention of this blogger that our getting involved with Iraq was a mistake of unimaginably severe proportions.  For as long as this blog has been active I have written on many, many occasions (like here and here and here and here) that the United States should never have set out to topple Saddam Hussein from power.  And why is that?

Because as evil as Saddam was, he was the only thing keeping Iraq from imploding and making the situation worse than it already was.  My line of thinking was that Iraq is (or was) like Yugoslavia under Tito: a strong ruler who keeps all those otherwise-warring factions in line, under penalty of death and destruction.  When Tito died it was just a matter of time before Yugoslavia came apart at the seams and began eating each other alive.

Iraq, divided between Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, as well as what used to be populations of Christians and Jews (before they had to flee) was like that.  It was held together by a strongman figure.  That strongman being Saddam Hussein.  Without that strongman, Iraq as a stable presence in the Middle East was not possible.

That is the biggest reason why the United States should never have become involved with Iraq, why we never should have made it our mission to remove Saddam Hussein.  History argued against such a thing.  No, worse: history raged against such a thing.

But at the time we had a president and an administration that wasn't very keen on history, were they?

And now we've got a president who, whether he wanted to or not, inherited the responsibilities that came with that mistake.

What responsibilities?  Only the ones that came with removing Saddam Hussein from the equation.  Nature abhors a vacuum.  Worldly politics far more so.

The United States removed Saddam Hussein from being the strongman in Iraq.  And when it did, it was the United States itself that became the strongman.  We bought it.  We owned it.  We paid for it with the blood of thousands of soldiers, marines and other service personnel.  We committed ourselves to Iraq.  When we took out Saddam Hussein, we effectively became the power that Saddam Hussein was.  Albeit we saw ourselves as the more benevolent.

We thought that same benevolence would transform Iraq into a bastion of democracy in the Mid-East.  We thought that doing so would absolve ourselves of any future responsibility.  We thought that all of our sacrifices had been worth it.

The past several days have proven that they were not.  And that in all likelihood they will not.

We should have never gone into Iraq to begin with.  We should have not left Iraq, ever.

The two most recent Presidents of the United States have together perpetrated the most massive affront to wisdom, to humanitarianism, and to responsibility in the entire history of this country.

What we are seeing now in Iraq, with the takeover of that country by ISIS and now the threat of civil war, would in every likelihood not be happening had the United States veered completely away from involving itself more than eleven years ago.

We are witnessing what could only be described as the beginning of a caliphate which may stretch from Syria through Iraq into Iran and beyond.  A stable Iraq was the bulwark against that happening.  The United States these past several years was the bulwark against it.

We never should have gone into Iraq.  But we did.  And when we did, we could not afford to leave Iraq.

This is a call that I made more than ten years ago.  I have no reason to celebrate it.  This is an instance where I absolutely hate it that I was right.

What we are seeing in Iraq today is going to only get worse.  A lot of people are going to die.  People who don't have to.

If anyone wonders why I don't write as much about politics as I used to, I can only say this: that I'm thoroughly disgusted with the ways and means of this world, if this is the best that our "wisdom" can accomplish.