By Alan Caruba
I had an odd thought the other day. Apparently we have won the Iraq war.
The president of Iraq thinks so and he wants us to leave. That's good enough for me, but apparently not for George W. Bush or John McCain. Neither of these gentlemen seems inclined to be leave. Meanwhile, Barack Obama is still trying to make up his mind when to leave. If elected, my bet is that he will find an excuse to stay.
There's all this talk of departure "horizons" versus "timetables." The good news is that we not engaged in shoot-outs every day and that the Iraqi army and police force now numbers over 500,000 men.
As matters stand now, Rasmussen Reports has posted notice that 63% of those surveyed as of July 22 want the troops to return home. That is a virtual mandate.
This war has been marked by endless absurdities starting with the USS Abraham Lincoln where President Bush announced that combat had ended and reconstruction would begin. That was in 2003. The war had been pursued on the grounds that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Turns out he didn't by the time we invaded, but—surprise—he did have tons of "yellowcake", the stuff you need to make nuclear weapons.
Was there ever a more political round of absurd nonsense than the fuss over The New York Times opinion piece by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, followed by the revelation his wife worked for the CIA? A massive and needless investigation of White House aides ensued, led by a prosecutor who knew exactly who leaked the facts about her. Wilson had written that he had found no evidence that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy yellowcake. He has been proclaiming his indignation ever since. Nobody likes a crybaby.
The Iraq War will likely qualify as one of the most curious in our very long history of military interventions in the Middle East. The troops, bless'm, were in Baghdad within in a week or so, but once there the Iraqis began looting everything that wasn't nailed down and burning a great deal of their own infrastructure including schools, libraries and universities.
Having gone in with too few troops, nothing could be done to secure the city and, after the looting, the nation became a killing ground as various internal and external factions made war on each other and on us. In the process we lost some 4,000 troops. Eventually, the level of Iraqis killing Iraqis reached a point where even they found it nauseating.
The result? Peace, glorious peace!
Americans tend to forget that, in the Middle East, most political disagreements are settled with assassinations such as the murder of Egypt's Anwar Sadat and, more recently, the killing of Benezir Bhutto in Pakistan. In Lebanon, the Syrians assassinated a whole raft of politicians whom they found irksome. Several efforts have been made to kill Hamid Karzi of Afghanistan. In Gaza, Fatah was forced out by Hamas at gunpoint. Having achieved zero cooperation for decades, world leaders keep insisting that the Israelis negotiate with Fatah, giving them land and lollypops.
In the midst of the speculation about a possible war with Iran, people forget that, under Saddam's leadership, Iraqis fought Iranians for eight years in the 1980s. The result was a million casualties and a total stalemate. Then Saddam invaded Kuwait, occasioning our first visit there. And people still wonder why Bush43 concluded that it was cheaper in the short run to just invade and kill Saddam.
The history of conflict in the Middle East suggests that Arabs are not very good at fighting wars. If Lebanon's Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy, decides to attack Israel again, the only thing left of Beirut and the rest of the nation will be its wall-to-wall smoldering ruins. It's always a bad idea to attack Israel, particularly for a second time.
Listening to presidential candidates arguing back and forth about withdrawing from Iraq is a tad surreal. Realistically it will take at least a year or more to get out of Iraq because we have a ton of hardware there. Most of it will be warehoused in Kuwait and Qatar.
Tucked away in desert wadis, encampments of American troops will likely be pulling duty in Iraq for a very long time to come. Once we invade a nation we never really leave.
The Middle East is what it has always been; a festering cesspool of oppression, corruption, backwardness, and despair. What else is new?
In truth, the United States has been sending troops to the Middle East since Thomas Jefferson commissioned our first Marines to kill Barbary pirates. We built the first U.S. Navy precisely for that purpose.
No doubt there will be some kind of big international confab to conclude the recent unpleasantness in Iraq and everyone will toast each other with champagne and toss back some really good caviar.
Saddam Hussein is dead. We won. It's time to redeploy to some other nation foolish enough to get our attention.