If insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, then perhaps the United States’ foreign policy truly is insane. Let’s admit we have been wrong in Iraq and stop making the same mistake.
What is that mistake, you ask? It is to claim very vaguely that American interests are in danger (what those may be we are never told), and then to intervene militarily in the affairs of another nation. I realize that in Iraq’s case it will be difficult for us to walk away, since we are largely responsible for the current mess that the nation is in, but will further intervention ultimately bring the type of change that we want to see there? If modern history holds true, the answer is clearly no.
First, after decimating Iraq’s infrastructure twice in the last two and a half decades in expensive wars, they are no more free and stable now than they were under Saddam Hussein. They are arguably in even worse shape now than they were before the U.S. arrived. Twenty-three years of U.S. involvement in Iraq has given us what we are watching unfold on our television screens right now. Since 2003, we have spent 1.7 trillion dollars, lost over 4,000 U.S. service personnel in battle, and sent home over 35,000 wounded soldiers from Iraq. There are estimates that as many as half a million Iraqi civilians were killed between 2003 and 2014 as well. These have been destructive, expensive, bloody, and extremely sad years for both Iraq and America. While we bombed Iraq in the name of freedom over weapons of mass destruction that did not even exist, our government has removed precious liberty after precious liberty, spent us into the ground, and printed money into oblivion. America and Iraq are less secure and less stable due to our reckless disregard for the truth, human life, and the laws of economics. It is time for a change in U.S. foreign policy.
We need to become acquainted with the roots of our own liberty again. Liberty is not forged in a vacuum. Securing and maintaining liberty takes “eternal vigilance”. Liberty, in America specifically, and the West generally, was more than 2,500 years in the making, going back as far as Greece. Our understanding of liberty was forged in the fire of history, and we are still refining it. Constitutional republics are not instant pudding or microwaveable popcorn. They are not produced on a whim with few ingredients. The idea that we were going to waltz into Iraq, topple a dictator, write a constitution, erect voting booths, and have long-standing democracy was foolish and short sighted. The intentions may have been good, but good intentions are not enough. The Iraq War was naïve, and reflects a poor understanding of our own roots.
Iraq is also less safe for minorities now. Some of the oldest Christian communities in the world were in Iraq. For the most part those Christian communities had lived peacefully side by side with Muslims for centuries. But due to America’s interventionism, those communities have all but been destroyed. Why? When America stationed its troops in Iraq, Iraq became a lightening rod for Islamic extremists. Radical Muslims poured into Iraq to fight America on the ground. As radicals fought Americans, they killed Christians along the way. Before America arrived in Iraq there was not a single verifiable Al Qaeda cell in that country. Before the fall of Mosul and Tikrit to ISIS, Al Qaeda backed forces controlled about 20% of Iraq. Iraq went from a nation without Al Qaeda at all in 2003, to a nation faced with being controlled by Islamic radicals in just over a decade. This obviously bodes very badly for minorities in Iraq like Shiite Muslims and Christians.
Instead of stabilizing the region, American wars have destabilized it. Now there is the very real threat of Iraq, Libya, Egypt, and Syria all being controlled by Sunni radicals at the same time. All these states were once secularized Muslim nations. They were once our friends. Now, due to America’s intervention in these nations, they all have fallen, or have nearly fallen, into the worst of hands. These places will now be safe havens for more and more terrorists to train, receive funding, and even gain state sponsorship.
I suggest at this point we take a step back, admit that America’s foreign policy of aggression in Iraq has been wrong, and seek a new way forward, one that promotes free markets and liberty, but does not involve the U.S. military. Let’s try friendship and becoming a beacon of peace and prosperity again. Perhaps we should secure our own borders, make citizenship and work visas easier to gain, and try trading with nations instead of invading them. Economic sanctions should be lifted from nations like Iran. Sanctions only serve to hurt the people of a nation and allow the real problem, dictatorial governments and thugs to use us as a scapegoat. Let’s get out of bed with every tin-pot dictator in the world. Let’s love freedom, let’s promote liberty, but let’s do it without violence. Liberty that is spread by the sword is not liberty at all. That was the problem with Iraq’s liberty all along, it wasn’t real. It was only an illusion, one that would be ill-fated to try and manufacture again.