Edmund Burke was an Irish political philosopher, Whig politician and statesman who is often regarded as the father of modern conservatism. His most famous quote: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
How involved should the U.S. be? Hitler invaded Poland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia in 1939, and the policy was one of containment (some call appeasement.) His atrocities are well-documented. Today, ISIS announced that they have beheaded another American, they have crucified Christians, stoned other Muslims, massacred thousands of Shia Muslims, and are buying and selling Yazidi women into sex slavery, justifying this concubinage as compatible with the Koran. The Nazis at least attempted to hide some of their atrocities, but ISIS seems to glory in their crimes against humanity, publishing them with seeming impunity. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that they are worse than Nazis. It is well-known that ISIS is making about $2 million/day through black market oil sales.
We all know how difficult nation building is. We still have troops left in Germany and Japan from World War II that ended 70 years ago. We have troops in Korea from that war 60 years ago. Is it a stretch to say that we left Iraq way too soon, if we’ve been in other countries for more than a half-century? Our record of leaving too early isn’t good: just look at Vietnam and Iraq. Some other missions have gone terribly: anyone want to go fix the problems in Somalia?
What responsibility do we have as Christians (or even citizens of the world) to help the people of Iraq and Syria? How much do we help when atrocities happen like Rwanda, or Bosnia, or the Ukraine? Are you willing to nation build Iraq and Syria for a half-century to help rid them of our modern-day Nazis? How do we decide when to get involved and when to stay out?
Much like Obamacare, the only surprise for me has been how clearly, quickly, and spectacularly Obama’s policies have failed. Back in the 2012 election Biden was boasting about how Iraq would be one of the administrations greatest successes. Earlier this year Obama was mocking the credibility of ISIS as a jv team putting on Kobe Bryant jerseys. And don’t even get me started on the red line, no wait lets ask permission from congress, nevermind, lets turn that Kerry flub turned into policy nonsense in Syria. Because of both failed policies (Syria and the premature pull out) ISIS controls vast swathes of territory, is incredibly wealthy, well trained, and potent, in addition to the human rights abuses you mentioned above.
I actually use this example in a teaching discussion about blowback. It is true that our actions have consequences, and groups we helped in the 80s ended up supporting an attack on 9/11. But inaction has consequences as well. We could have made a difference in Syria and in Iraq, but to we pulled out or didn’t intervene in the first place to avoid blowback, and now we have this mess. So we sure dodged that blowback!!
Even a small residual force would have acted as an honest broker. It would have kept the Sunni tribes affiliated with the national government, and prevent Maliki from gutting the military when he appointed his cronies in key military positions. It would have continued the training of Iraqi forces, and acted as a trip wire for forces like ISIS.
I must also counter a false excuse that has developed surrounding the claim that the Iraqi government didn’t want us back. They didn’t sign a status of forces agreement because the forces Obama offered were too small to offset the political hit that Maliki would take for having them there. For 20,000 soldiers Maliki would have leverage against Iran, Shiite militia, and the Sunnis (and vise versa for the Sunnis.) He would be attacked as a tool or puppet of the Americans, but with that kind of leverage (and associated logistical and technical support) he could take the hit. But for the paltry amount of soldiers Obama offered, it wouldn’t provide the leverage he needed to offset the Prime Minister would take. Obama completely rejected the higher numbers, and even the minimum troop requirements set by his generals. So he sabotaged the deal, and then passed the buck when the deal didn’t happen. (Not to mention, his liberal cheerleaders are still blaming this mess on Bush, when victory was in the bag as late as 2012 when Biden was taking credit for their “greatest achievement”).
So now we are in another air campaign in Iraq, have even less prestige and leverage than ever before, and have to fight an enemy arguably the most dangerous we’ve encountered in the War on Terror. So the Colin Powell you break it you buy it rule certainly applied. And we should have kept our soldiers there for as long as it took. Like you said, if the casualties are as low as Korea, Japan, and Germany, nobody would care. It would be one more on top of a handful of large commitments. Our best option now seems to be fighting through proxies like the Kurds and air strikes, though they are pretty lousy options. But when you back yourself into a corner through years of bad decision making, thats what you are left with. I would suggest force of about ten thousand soldiers, with heavy air support to fight on the ground. Much like Cortez and his native allies, our firepower and training would be the core of a much larger army of natives (probably Kurds) that would do the heavy lifting. But the American people don’t want it, and our come and go policy over the last 25 years and current inept president hasn’t engendered any trust, particularly with the Sunni tribes from the Anbar Awakening that are now left to choose sides between horrible terrorists or horrible Shiites in Baghdad.
“Awakening that are now left to choose sides between horrible terrorists or horrible Shiites in Baghdad.”
This makes the decision of what to do even more complicated now.
This seems less like a serious attempt to answer a tough question than to put down the current administration for partisan political purposes. The reason why we left troops in Germany and Japan and Korea so long was because of the cold war and the threat of the Soviet Union and China. But we didn’t enter those wars on false pretenses as we did in Iraq. Iraq posed no threat to us nor to any of its neighbors. We had Iraq bottled up. Gen. Anthony Zinni, former head of Centcom, has laid all this out well. Not only did we invade Iraq under false pretenses, we were totally unprepared to deal with the country after we broke it. The problems we see unfolding in Iraq and Syria and other parts of the middle east today should more fairly be dumped at the feet of George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and all the gung-ho, pro-war firebrands who egged them on such as Charles Krauthammer and just about anyone at Fox news. While you’re at it, why not tackle the question of the cost of this war, which is in excess of a trillion and still counting. And please do me a favor and toss in the cost of taking care of our veterans for the next fifty years while you’re at it. Shakespeare said it best: the evil that do lives after them.
ISIS are the new Nazis.
They’d kill each and all of us, if they could. (unless we would convert to that evil religious/political system)