Winding Down the War: A Cynical Look Ahead

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A U.S. soldier trains an Iraqi sniper just outside Baghdad / DoD photo

It appears that we are finally withdrawing from Iraq after eight years there. It is about time. We went in with the stated objective of finding and destroying nuclear weapons and Iraq’s other weapons of mass destruction. We also decided to topple the Saddam Hussein regime with the stated objective of bringing democracy (and oh-by-the-way capitalism) to that country.

Instead we got ourselves into a situation so mired and muddy that we could not easily extricate ourselves. We were unprepared to be an occupying force: had few plans for keeping the peace, ensuring the safety and security of the Iraqi people, or even ensuring the safety and security of the priceless treasures of the Iraq archeological museum. We have not met our objectives, but it is time to get out and cut our losses.

The refusal of the Iraqi government to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) makes all of our troops susceptible to a rule of law that is contrary to our democratic values. It also is in conflict with the rules of diplomatic immunity for representatives of the government, of which our military is a part.

There are downsides to our departure. The fear of a martial move by Iran is probably well founded. After all, there have been several Iran-Iraq wars over the years, and the status quo was nearly always maintained. Yet, in the absence of a force like the former Iraqi Republican Guard, no one really knows how effective the current Iraqi army will be against its traditional Persian foe.

I fear  Iran will make incursions into Iraqi territory (much like Iraq did in Kuwait in 1990), Iraq will ask us for help, and we will give it. For unlike in the 1980s — during the last Iran-Iraq war — there is no longer a strong Iraqi leader to hold back the Iranians. I hope that the result will be the same as in Desert Storm: a swift victory and then we’re outta there.

A long war against Iran will probably make the Iraq-Afghanistan conflicts look like child’s play. After all, Iran is getting ever-closer to having nuclear weapons and has expressed a willingness to use them once it gets them. This would be bad news for everyone in the area, but will the U.S. be willing to respond in kind? It certainly would mean the end to Iran; after all, we have the greater number of weapons on our side. But what if the Russians get involved? The possibilities boggle the mind. Hopefully, all that will happen is another Cold War; a replay of nuclear deterrence between the two countries with the most weapons. And instead of it being about ideologies, democracy versus communism, it will be about preserving oil in the Middle East.

So, in the end, from where I sit, the conflict in Iraq was really about oil. Our troops have been dying and sacrificing their bodies and minds so that Big Oil in the U.S. can continue to make hefty profits, and impede legislation that seeks to encourage new sources of energy.

Yes, it will be good to get out of Iraq, but the dynamics in the Middle East will definitely change. I do hope President Obama has a better plan for unintended consequences than his predecessor did.