(OPINION) — Iraq is becoming a thorn in the side of America and we have no-one to blame but ourselves. Um, well, let’s just say, we can blame former president George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and others, for this mess. We made a horrible mistake when we invaded Iraq on a lie — that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but like former secretary of state Colin Powell said, “if you break it, you own it.” We are seeing the results of George Bush’s handiwork day by day as the country sinks into a civil war.
Slate writer Reihan Salam makes some ridiculous assertions in his latest article that we should re-intervene with good intentions. Really? That’s impossible, since they see us as the enemy. Then he pushes the notion that somehow, the U.S. has some magical power that can help it stave off catastrophe in the world. You know, President Obama can just wave a magical wand and all the problems will be fixed and averted. We can’t continue to send our young men and women in harm’s way, considering the price they pay when they get back — VA hospital, no jobs, etc. Salam writes that a U.S. military presence could have mollified the Sunnis and prevented a civil war. So, our soldiers are babysitters now? What about the families of these soldiers?
The notion that we were wrong to go in but that we were also wrong to get out is hard to comprehend for many people. Once Americans collectively settled on the idea that the Iraq War was a disaster, it was perhaps inevitable that we’d want to wash our hands of the whole ordeal. President Obama appeared to do just that when he declared in December of 2011 that “we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq,” knowing full well that we were doing no such thing. The disaster that is the Iraq War did not end when the last convoy of U.S. combat troops left the country more than three years ago, as many of us are now learning as the fragile Iraqi state loses ground to Sunni extremists.
There are precious few people who’ve been right about Iraq from the start. One of them is Brent Scowcroft, who had served as national security adviser in the first Bush administration. Americans had two big opportunities to listen to Scowcroft on Iraq. We blew both of them.
There are no easy answers as to what the United States should do next in Iraq. The U.S. has so far refused to launch drone strikes in support of the Iraqi government, though the Obama administration might still have a change of heart. Sunni militants are still on the march, and I have to assume that Iraqi Shias are not going to be in a compromising mood in the weeks and months to come. Kenneth Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution best known for having offered a very hedged, very cautious case for invading Iraq, has recommended that the U.S. government use Maliki’s desperation to its advantage by promising Iraq the military support it needs in exchange for sweeping political reform designed to create a more inclusive Iraqi government. But one wonders what might have happened had we listened to Scowcroft—had we kept a residual U.S. military force in Iraq to prevent this nightmare from having occurred in the first place.
The fact is, Iraq is a tragedy, but the U.S. must refrain from putting boots on the ground. Cooperation via an international coalition would be appropriate and not taking unilateral military involvement as George W. Bush engaged in. The horrors we are seeing today are the result of a failed Bush strategy, but the Republicans would have you think President Obama is the author and finisher of this mess. There are no easy answers, but another military intervention isn’t the answer.