Second Bite of the Cherry

27 June 2021


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

US Ending Combat Mission in Iraq, Again


The United States under George W. Bush led an attack on Iraq in 2003 claiming the Saddamite regime had or was developing weapons of mass destruction. That turned out to be a lie, but the US had taken Baghdad by then, so the US stuck around. Eight years later, the Obama administration announced the end of the combat mission. Then, the Iraqi army ran away from ISIS, and the US came back to shore up a government for which few would fight. Now, a decade later, the Biden administration and the Iraqi government have agreed on an end to the US combat mission in Iraq again. One hopes there won't be a third time.

Reuters reports, "U.S. President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi sealed an agreement on Monday formally ending the U.S. combat mission in Iraq by the end of 2021, but U.S. forces will still operate there in an advisory role."

This is perfectly acceptable. The country is still a cauldron of extremism in places, and the threat of some kind of attack on US interests is more than credible. Leaving an anti-terrorist force behind with some intelligence assets backing it up is wise.

With this change in status, it is appropriate to review the last 18 years the US military spent in Iraq. The administration of George W. Bush made the first and greatest mistake, taking the world to war over a lie. Saddam Hussein was a nasty piece of work, and his regime was abominable. Removing him was the job of the Iraqi people, and they didn't seem all that interested in rising up and destroying it. They had learned their lesson when the First Gulf War ended. They did rise up, and the global powers that had kicked Saddam out of Kuwait stood by as the Baghdad regime murdered its own people.

That initial error worsened when the premise of the attack proved false. The Saddamite regime had no nuclear, biological or radiological weapons nor any active programs to develop such. The chemical weapons it did possess were old and useless. The war destroyed American credibility as an honest player in the region, if it had any.

The Bush administration was adamant that "as Iraqi's stand up, America can stand down." That didn't happen. Until 2011 when the Obama administration ended the combat mission for the first time, the Iraqi army and government remained content to fight to the last American. That is not to say there were no noble, partiotic, democratic soldiers in the Iraqi army, bur rather there were far too few of them.

When ISIS came on the scene, the Iraqi army ran from the battlefield, leaving behind millions of dollars' worth of American equipment. The lesson here should be that the will to fight is more important than the calibre of materiel in an army's possession.

With ISIS defeated in Iraq and Syria, the US and Iraq are back to the status quo ante bellum secundum. The threats to Iraqi security now come from Iran, and the Shi'ites of Iraq have a great deal of sympathy for their co-religionists. It is best for the US to scale down its commitment lest it find itself in a shooting situation with Iran. A US-Iranian war is in no one's interests.

Above all, the mess that has been Iraq since 2003 is a warning to the world about military over-reach. Conquering Iraq was easy given the ability of the US military compared to that of Iraq. Occupying territory taken by force is much harder and requires more, not fewer, troops. The Israeli experience in the West Bank should have been sufficient instruction, but global leaders tend to have egos that prevent them from learning from the mistakes of others.

The Biden administration is in the process of leaving both Afghanistan and Iraq. Within the next couple of years, one expects revisionists among the chatterati to try affixing blame for losing both. The truth is neither one was ever America's to lose. That hidden lesson is probably the most important of them all. Not every problem is America's to solve by force, or even at all.

© Copyright 2021 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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