IRAQ: How We Won the War, But Lost the Peace

When I think of the situation in Iraq, I am reminded of the scenario that Jesus describes in Matthew 12:43-45:

When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.

Eleven years ago, American and British forces expelled Saddam Hussein from power, liberating the Iraqi people from his dictatorial control.  His sudden departure created a power vacuum, thereby attracting terrorist organizations to this oil-rich country.  Coalition forces spent the next eight years warding off this insurgency.  In 2010, President Obama announced that the United States would pull out of Iraq.  By December 2011, we were gone.

I realize that I have used quite a broad brush to describe Operation Iraqi Freedom.  However, why we went into Iraq and what we did there are no longer important to this discussion.  What matters now is that the United States no longer has a military presence in Iraq, and as such, our enemies have taken advantage of our absence to bring instability to the region.

It’s been said that “when the cat’s away, the mice will play.”  When it comes to foreign policy, this is all-the-more true.  If the United States doesn’t engage the world, our enemies will.  And where the United States is absent, our enemies will thrive.

President Theodore Roosevelt advised that we should “speak softly but carry a big stick.”  A century ago, he took his big stick and put it on a grand world tour.  Calling it the “Great White Fleet,” the Rough Rider sent sixteen battleships around the world.  Today, Navy historians refer to it as “a grand pageant of American sea power.

Even though he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace just the year before, President Roosevelt saw no problem in displaying American military exceptionalism to the rest of the world.  Unlike the 2009 recipient of the Nobel Prize, he didn’t apologize for our strength; he touted it.  President Roosevelt understood that peace is achieved — and then preserved — not only though a show of strength, but also by a show of presence.

Which brings us back to today.  Two-and-a-half years after the United States withdrew its military forces from Iraq, the President now states that he is sending 245 men to protect our embassy.  (He explains that they will not be doing combat operations; they will only be protecting the interests of our people in the Embassy.)

I’ll admit, 245 men doesn’t seem like a lot of military support.  But in fairness, there may be more military forces that he is sending, by way of, perhaps, top-secret presidential findings for which we are not aware.  So, maybe we should give him the benefit of the doubt.  After all, this is more support than the Benghazi consulate received in 2012 after it fell under attack.  Maybe the President has learned from what happened there.

Still, the fact that the President is reluctant to commit publicly to a significant show of strength is disturbing.  It seems almost as if he is ashamed of having to use military force.  (Perhaps someone should ask him.)

In any event, the problems associated with Iraq have resulted from the lack of an American military presence in or near the area.  Whether this is the fault of the President or the Congress or whoever else is immaterial.  What matters is that Iraq has gotten worse because we cleaned the place up and left it in the hands of people who were ill-equipped to maintain order and security.

Let’s keep something in perspective here.  If the Allies had maintained a military presence in Germany following World War I, there wouldn’t have been a World War II because Hitler wouldn’t have been able to rise to power so quickly.  Conversely, because we kept a presence in Germany following World War II — even to this very day, mind you — peace has been preserved.

We defeated the Japanese in 1945.  Sixty-nine years later, we still have a force of about 50,000 troops in Japan providing defense to the island nation. Likewise, in 1953, North and South Korea stopped fighting (although, technically, a state of war still exists.)  Sixty-one years later, we still have troops stationed near the DMZ.

Had the President followed suit in Iraq, the situation wouldn’t be as bad as it is now.  Yes, we still would have casualties each month.  Yes, there would still be suffering and pain for our brave men and women (as well as their families back home).  But we would still be in the position strategically to put a stop to terror before it could return to our shores. Instead, the strategy of the United States is to trust the security of Iraq with … Iran.

How absurd!  Secretary of State Kerry is asking IRAN — you know, the guys who coined the phrase “death to America,” who held our own embassy personnel captive for 444 days — to keep the peace in Iraq.  (You may also recall that Iran and Iraq had a really nasty conflict from 1980-1988.)

Asking Iran to keep the peace in Iraq is like asking the Boko Haram to #BringBackOurGirls.   That dog just don’t hunt.

It was naive to think that the United States could leave Iraq without maintaining any military presence and still expect that al Queda — or ISIS, or whoever the bad guy de jour is — would avoid the place.  As a result of this naivety, we are now so powerless to protect our interests that we feel compelled to ask Iran for help. That’s just plain embarrassing!

In the final analysis, we have left the barn door open for evil to take a foothold in Iraq.  Now the situation is significantly worse than it was before we invaded. Unless Iraq is stabilized quickly, the Axis of Evil may soon extend to Baghdad, leaving the rest of the world in a most precarious state.

For these reasons, we need to pray for our leaders — especially our President  (something that I readily admit I have failed to do).  Beyond this, we must also pray for the brave men and women who will have to clean up this mess, because they bear the greatest burden of all — the burden of keeping the problems that are over there from coming back over here.