The Second Iraq War

Daniel Ashman

March 23 2017

The President has recently sent marines back into the Middle East [1]. This event has gotten little play in the media compared with hot topics like Obamacare and Russia in part because there was no congressional vote. As Trump said, he doesn’t, “want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what the plan is” [2].

Trump’s new war on ISIS comes a mere six years after the Iraq War ended. Taking a broad view, it would seem odd to start a new Middle East war given that the last war is so unpopular that President Trump campaigned on statements like, “[the Iraq War] may have been the worst decision… any president has made in the history of this country” [3].

Notwithstanding the failure of our last war, we are told, this time is different. Because ISIS is super duper evil. This is a singular situation.

Or is it? Grizzly though the atrocities of ISIS may be, are they actually unique? In fact, a cold analysis of the facts reveals the upcoming war with ISIS to be strikingly similar to the Iraq War.

Trump presented the case to Congress in moral terms, saying that ISIS has to be destroyed immediately because they are, “a network of lawless savages that have slaughtered Muslims and Christians and men and women and children of all faiths and all beliefs” [4].

However, there are many “lawless savages” on this earth. Saddam Hussein was a pretty good example and he wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill “bad dude” as Trump would say. This was a guy that amputated ears, dragged people over asphalt, and beheaded pregnant women [5]. Oh yeah, he also had that incident where he dropped mustard gas on his citizens [6].

Saddam’s abuse of his citizens stretches back decades. George H.W. Bush didn’t remove him and Americans were fine with it. George W. Bush did remove him and afterwards Obama was elected and Jeb got smashed. Simply put, American’s have repudiated the idea of a humanitarian war.

The other aspect to Little Bush’s Iraq war was the national security component. Bush framed the war almost entirely as a national security issue, ending a key speech pushing the war by saying, America must accept her “duty to defend our people” [7].

American troops went in and wiped out Saddam’s nuclear aspirations [8] and his chemical weapons [9]. But after the dirty deed was done, Americans were not pleased. The bottom line to voters was that Saddam did not have an imminently usable nuclear weapon. This distinction was so important, and backlash so great, that Americans now refuse to accept the fact that Saddam had any WMDs at all.

Saddam was in charge of a huge nation state. He had consolidated power over decades. If he couldn’t build nukes, then how exactly is ISIS — notorious for its backward idiocy and already living in a war zone — going to get one?

When the excitement wears off, this war seems likely to disappoint once again.

ISIS has the unique characteristic of propagandizing, rather than hiding, their greatest atrocities. This has a distorting effect. It gives the illusion that ISIS is a greater threat to America than they really are. If ISIS had caused the exact same damage to America, but used traditional disinformation techniques to protect themselves, there would be no talk of war.

This is not to say that ISIS poses no national security threat. They do. These are evil people, willing to die harming Americans, and they have money from oil.

But running the most powerful country on earth is more than simply going to war anytime a security threat exists. No one seriously believes that every security threat, regardless of its level, deserves a war.

After all, ISIS’s worst attack on America was the Pulse attack killing 49 people. Is that number of casualties worth a war? Then why no war on Iran [10] [11] [12] for their extensive role in 9/11? Just how much of a security threat ISIS poses to America deserves very close scrutiny.

The other angle to consider, is that once again, America is going to attack Sunni Muslims.

Though Saddam was in charge of the Baath Party, which was allegedly secular, he actually promoted Islam quite substantially. There is some debate over whether he was a true believer or not, but if he was faking it, he was damn good at it [13]. Either way, Saddam implemented sharia law, funded religious schools and suicide bombers, and made Quran study a national focus [14].

Saddam, was considered the “shield of the Arabs.” He was a check on Iran’s power. Any loss of power for Saddam was a gain for Iran causing chaos in the region and growth of a power inimical to America.

The exact same thing is going to happen if America wipes out ISIS and then leaves. Unless Trump wants to stay and nation-build again? On the other hand, if America marches into Syria and is unsuccessful in the mission to eradicate ISIS, our enemies will be equally pleased to see America bogged down, losing lives, money, and prestige.

Part of the reason the Iraq War was problematic is that Iran sent in terrorists to kill Americans [15]. They were successful [16]. If that war was bad, Iran will do even more damage this time considering they have spent the last decade establishing a presence in the region, and are boosted by Obama’s generous treatment alongside lifted sanctions.

A difference worth noting, between the Middle East in 2003 and today, is that Russia now has a significant military presence in the area and they have also grown considerably more assertive. Right now, America and Russia are not exactly on the best of terms. America is coming down on Russia with sanctions while Russia buzzes our ships and conducts drills with millions of Russians and underground bunkers in Moscow [17]. It seems dangerous to put America and Russian troops together into a chaotic war zone.

It is of considerable irony that Trump slammed the Iraq War, only to start his own. After all, ISIS resides in Iraq too, and Syria is just the starting point, although it is impossible to know exactly what the President has in mind, as he has made a point of not telling the public.

As Trump would say, America is “low on energy” these days. There is no capital, neither money nor energy, to spend in the Middle East.

If ISIS poses a security threat to anyone, it would be foremost to their regional neighbors and Europe. Trump said he would destroy ISIS. But he also promised to get away from “neoconservative” policies where America acts as the world’s policeman and other countries don’t do their fair share. America can close her borders, prosper, and let Europe, Israel and the Arabs handle it. Hell, Putin claims to be gungho about taking out ISIS, have at it!

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