Of course I am happy to see the last troops leave Iraq. I am sad for what has been lost there. Thousands of lives, most of them Iraqis and most of those civilians. Infrastructure providing water, electricity, sewage service – effectively setting a nation back decades. Priceless and irreplaceable artifacts of cultures – Babylonian, Assyrian, early Judaism, early Christianity – and the scholars who best understood them. Oil reserves burnt up and spilled, refining and drilling equipment ruined. An economy now in tatters, with many of the best educated and brightest Iraqis refugees in other nations.
Am I glad that the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein is ended? Yes, certainly. But why Iraq? The Arab Spring makes it clear that one could have tossed dice to choose a nation in the middle east with an oppressive dictator with a populace eager to see him deposed.
In this war, more than others, the United States has never really been able to put forward a cohesive and believable reason for the war. Iraq was played up as a tremendous threat to the USA and the West at the start of the war, but the data all proved to be bogus and perhaps manufactured.
We had a naive belief that we would topple Saddam, be greeted by cheering crowds, and Iraq would go about its business, just without a dictator. I have to wonder if any social scientist was allowed in the room. Political scientists would have pointed to the inevitable consequences of a power vacuum in a system that had no method other than power for assigning any position. Sociologists would have foretold the breakdown in the norms of social control, with looting and pillaging in the short term and all sorts of group rivalries in the long run. Economists would have known that production of just about all goods would grind to a halt in the face of uncertainty. Psychologists could have predicted both the impact of trauma on individuals and the competitive dynamics in a free-for-all. In short, the breakdown of Iraqi society that occurred as soon as we invaded was predictable. The fact that it can’t be put back together again easily or quickly was equally predictable.
So we have a huge government deficit, thousands of traumatized troops coming home, our own economy in tatters, and a government that is as sharply divided against itself as the Sunni and Shi’a in Iraq. While we did not lose this war in a dramatic way – no helicopters lifting Americans off the top of the U.S. Embassy with mobs ramming down the door below – history may well point to this as a loss greater than Vietnam.
I am glad it is over. May we now begin to learn the lessons.
- Last Troops Exit Iraq in Subdued End to 9-Year War (abcnews.go.com)
- Iraq celebrates U.S. exit, worries for future (cbsnews.com)
- Nine years later, last US troops roll out of Iraq – CTV.ca (m.ctv.ca)
- Iraq War: Final US Troops Exit Country – Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com)