Over 11 years ago, American and coalition forces invaded Iraq. In December of 2003, Saddam Hussein was captured. Since then over a million troops have served in Iraq with 4,5oo dead and approximately 32,000 wounded according to NBC. And Reuters reports that the war currently costs $2 trillion with another possible $6 trillion in the decades to come. Also the terrorist group ISIS, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, has captured key cities in Iraq and is marching toward Baghdad with little to no resistance. Naturally, many Americans are upset. The war was supposed to oust a Middle East dictator and found a new democratic state in the region that would help combat Islamic terrorism. Now that the costs of the war are continuing to grow and much of the territory won by the lives of US troops is being lost to the same terrorists they had vowed to eliminate. It is almost certain that the moment American soldiers leave the country, the current Iraqi government will fail and be replaced with a new fanatical regime dedicated to jihad against the West and anyone else who isn’t a Sunni Muslim.
So I guess the question now is, “Where do we go from here?”
So far a great deal of blaming and name calling has occurred. Democrats blame Bush for putting the US in this mess, a continuation of Obama’s motto “I inherited this.” Republicans like former Vice-President Cheney blame Obama’s inadequacies as a leader and his incompetence for allowing the formation of ISIS and the failure of Iraqi forces to defend against the new al-Qaeda network. And then there are the backbiters who blame their own party for what has happened. But this gets us nowhere.
Yes, President W. Bush did put us in Iraq back in 2003 with no clear plan to get us out. Yes, President Obama is an inadequate buffoon whose incompetence with foreign policy has cost America a great deal. Yet all of that is irrelevant to the matter at hand. “Where do we go from here?”
One immediate reaction is just to walk away. “Iraq was just another Vietnam. Only instead of Charlie and the Viet Cong we have ISIS.” And there is some appeal to this. Americans are tired of war and have never been known to support military engagements for a long period of time. Pulling troops out of the Middle East would help bring some sense to the federal budget and save the troops’ lives from fighting in a senseless war. America could finally focus on America. The problem with this solution is that it leaves the possibility for the formation of a terror state that can use oil revenues to fund its projects. Also a belligerently pro-Sunni Iraq would definitely invite a conflict with a Shia Iran. Normally I’d say two enemies fighting each other is a good thing, but both of these states are oil producers in an unstable region that holds most of the world’s oil. Even if ISIS were to wage war with Tehran and no one else got involved, the consequences on the oil industry from such a war would bring the global market to its knees forcing outside players to intervene causing a domino effect similar to the beginning of WWI. Face it ladies and gentlemen, we are in an era of globalism and minding our own business isn’t going to cut it any more.
Of course that doesn’t mean a plan of continued intervention is without faults. As mentioned above, America is just shy of 40,000 casualties and expected to pay somewhere between $2-6 trillion for the war right now. Furthering our involvement will not bring either of those numbers down. And unless our next President is a war-hawk who can persuade voters to be energetic and supportive of nation building for the long term, it is unlikely we will be able to leave Iraq as a strong democratic bulwark in the Middle East.
So what should we do? Well I would suggest conducting a poll. See how many Americans are interested in keeping Iraq united or letting it divide along ethnic and sectarian lines. If a majority greater than 55% approves of a unified Iraq, then politicians need to stand together and support the necessary funds to keep an America presence in Iraq until the Iraqi armed forces can fight on their own and the government honors free elections and the opinion of the disgruntled. Since it is unlikely this would occur, a multinational task force should be made to divide Iraq along ethnic lines as much as possible. The oil fields will be guarded and managed by the same task force with the revenues being equally distributed among the newly founded countries and the task forces guarding the fields. This would take the elements surrounding the current crisis with ISIS out of the equation. The Sunnis would no longer feel slighted by the Shias. The Shias would no longer fear the return of Sunni oppression. And keeping the oil fields in more modern and, preferably, more democratic hands like the EU, UN, and NATO would prevent giving any of the new states an unfair advantage and having a death grip on global markets. Plus a multinational coalition would relieve America from having to carry the burden of nation building and oil protection on its own. It could divert some of the resources being sent to Iraq somewhere else at home. Perhaps we can finally have a secure southern border!
Now there are some problems to be worked out with this plan. At this moment America has the largest and best organized military. If any multinational task force were to be made, America would still be expected to play a large role. This won’t sit well with those who would want a smaller American presence. Also, the EU and NATO are too Western. Russia and China would want to be included or else feel threatened that the West is surrounding them and cutting them off from participating in world events. The UN would be the best choice to avoid any pleasantries with them. Unfortunately the UN is for the most part useless unless America steps in to take the lead. And considering Putin is trying to put Russia back on track as a world power, I doubt anything would happen but a new Cold War. (That’s assuming the conflict in the Ukraine hasn’t already sparked one.) But despite these problems, this solution is by far the best that anyone has come to offer. We can’t stand around pointing fingers. We can’t continue with the status quo or pull out of the region entirely. We and the world need to become involved to stabilize Iraq or risk taking a few steps closer to WWIII.