Down the Ballot

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Iraq: Land of Confusion

Some lessons are hard to learn. Iraq will for sure be a lesson our country will take a long time to learn, much longer than the decade it has already been since the 2003 invasion and toppling of Saddam Hussein.

Don't get me wrong, I agree with everyone that Saddam Hussein was a bad dude. He really was. Most of us from the get go understood that 'getting rid of a bad dude' was not the primary motivation for entering that conflict. Even the flawed '9/11' connection or 'WMDs' arguments didn't hold the weight that having an ally with easy access to some of the world's richest oil wells would bring to our leaders in the Bush Administration and Congress.

We've come a long ways from Colin Powell's utterance of the 'Pottery Barn' rule. 'You break it. You buy it.' While this simple business motto might be good for a pot or cheaply made foreign product that so pervades modern shopping outlets, it was a poor reason to stay in Iraq. Now, the U.S. will be doing what most major retailers do: Write off the loss.

Even my handful of foreign policy classes in college taught me that the best thing we could have done in Iraq was topple Saddam and then allow the people of Iraq to chart their own destiny without our direct involvement.  We know that our leaders had a stake in Iraq or else they would have left within six months of Saddam being toppled.

A civil war was going to come to Iraq regardless of how we divided it up. In an ideal world, Sunni, Shiites, and Kurds could all live happily together in a Republic of Iraq. In an ideal world. In the real world, once the common problem was removed (Saddam) the three sides have picked up their age old arguments and disagreements. While most of the trouble seems to be between the Sunni and Shiites, it leaves a bitter feeling for most Americans who wonder 'was all that necessary?' There is a chance they could avoid a full scale civil war, but I wouldn't place that bet. The biggest difference between the last time (prior to 2011) when sectarian violence broke out is that US troops were on the ground in numbers helping broker a uneasy ceasefire.

How can you ever live in a city or state with people who consider you heretics? That's the divide between Sunni and Shiites today.

If you asked an old question in a new way to a random Iraqi resident, 'Are you better off today than you were a decade ago?' I have no idea what they would answer. Most of us will be long dead before we ever truly figure out if our involvement in Iraq was an ultimately good thing. We wait for history.

Self determination is not an orderly business. While creating a unfriendly government was not a wish of the Bush Administration, it might have been the only way we might have earned the respect of  Iraq in the long term. You don't have to like what people do with their freedom, but we should at least respect them enough to let them have that freedom. After all, wasn't it then Governor Bush who told us he wasn't interested in 'nation building'? We already knew they were not good at it. Congress shouldn't have let them try. Instead, we'll continue to 'write it off'.

Here's to the land of confusion. Never seems to be enough love to go around.

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