Ten Years Later

On the ten year anniversary of the Iraq invasion the violence in Iraq was devastating. I supported the invasion when it occurred but developed serious concerns over strategy, tactics and whether Islam would overwhelm secularism. The anchor that held me was possibilities. The potential importance of a democratic Iraq and the message it could send to the rest of the Middle East. A democratic Iraq represented the potential for a bulwark against the rise of radical Islamism; a democratic system that the Middle East had never truly seen.

I am, however, left with the fear that the powers that be, current or future, will look to Iraq and decide they have learned sufficient lessons concerning nation building. My fear is that nation building will be tried again. If so, it will fail again.

The Iraqi population was the most literate population in the Middle East, oppressed by a violent tyrant, ruled by a religious minority; denied basic human rights and rudimentary legal protections. And yet, ten years later Iraq is still a question mark. Iranian influence is clear, anti American sentiment pronounced. Sectarian violence is an all too regular occurrence and politics that allows for throwing your opposition in jail; typically Middle Eastern.

The final result in Iraq is in the future, but the symptoms of that future are cause for concern.

Iraq, also, sees an uncertain future in the region. How long of in what configuration will the Saudi Royal Family hold on? Is a fully radicalized Egypt in the region’s future? Will Iran cross the red line with Nuclear weapons? Turkey has been moving away from the West and toward Islamic dominated rule for a decade and still has access to NATO. East Africa is an Islamist mess. The Gulf States are dancing on the head of a pin.

Decadent Dubai remains untouched by Islamist violence. How is that? Iconic buildings, Capitalism and infidels everywhere! The rhetorical answer is money, lots of it; likely the biggest protection racket in history! Nothing else makes sense in context.

Afghanistan is and has always been tribal. Us, the Russians back to Alexander the Great, tribal then and it will be tribal after we leave. It’s the only thing that Afghans know that works from their point of view. Afghanistan will, after we leave, be essentially the same as it was when we got there; it won’t take long.

We, of course, make things worse. What threats justify fighter jets and tanks for the Egyptian Army? It’s a simple question. Given the history of the region over the past 60 years, it occurs to me that Egypt was invaded once as a preemptive strike to eliminate a planned invasion of Israel. Egypt on the other hand has participated in invasions only against Israel. None of Egypt’s neighbors have either the capability or inclination to threaten Egypt.

Anwar Sadat was murdered by an Army Officer who was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood for the act of making peace with Israel. Brotherhood control of Egypt is, for the moment, irrefutable. Reports of the Army being infused with Brotherhood devotees is no secret. The infusion will solidify Brotherhood control of the Military and fully politicize it. The momentum will build to take another shot at Israel.

Ten years later, it is undeniable that the Middle East is a more dangerous place than ever. While the final answer is not upon us it is difficult to find reasons for optimism or the justification for nation building.

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  • Bob

    When President Kennedy was inagurated on 20th January 1961 the United States and the world were a different place.In his speech that day he said “Let every nation know whether it wishes us well or ill that we shall pay any price,bear any burden,meet any hardship,support any friend,oppose any foe in order to assure the survival and sucess of liberty.”……………..THEN WE HAD VIETNAM AND AMERICAN SOCIETY CHANGED!

    Over the ensuing 40 years we used Vietnam as a template for our invovlement into foreign engagments.The military academies went through intensive studies to determine the pit falls of the Vietnam war and every foreign policy decision was held up for comparison both by the military and civilian leaders.President Clinton used the military for humanitarian aid which lead to nation building in the carrribbean.This was one of the main points George W Bush ran for president on the policy that he was strictly against nation building in 2000…………THEN WE HAD 9/11

    Well President Bush changed his mind and became a firm believer in nation building using the justification that a government need to be set up after we overthrew the tyrant.In fact during his second inagural address in 2005 he sounds very similar to JFK 44 years earlier only with a hint of playing world policeman (and a lot less eloquent).President Bush stated “The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world…………..So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democracy movement and institutions in every nation and culture with the goal of ending tyranny in the world.” His support among the nations leaders,media and ultimatly the public lasted only as long as a honeymoon and was determined along party lines.

    Now nation building whenever it takes place ignores all the lessons you were supposed to have learned from previous bad encounters.We are now as a nation less inclined to support any foreign intervention and have less patience……no make that no patience for ANY extended engagment.In fact America today has what I call a “Gameboy” mentality toward this where they want a set time limit for this exercise to end and with no casualties either military nor civilian.

    Will there be justifacation for future foreign intervention?….OF COURSE. Will the United States be up to it? Not if the world sees that it doesn’t take much to make the United States cut and run.

  • Bob

    After re-reading my post I find it either leaves a question open or gives the wrong impression to the reader and needs a clarification of my opinion.

    Like Landreaux I also initially supported the Iraq invasion BUT WITH EXTREME HESITATION.You see I am a Vietnam veteran and remember quite well the mood and mindthink of the country back then.I also am a realist and realize that not only hasn’t the mindset changed over the years but the people who were against the war back then now teach our children and grandchildren.

    So where I’m heading with this isn’t to infer that the country should take on ANY new nation building but simply it shouldn’t because the country doesn’t have the stomach for it nor the brains to learn from past mistakes.

  • Bob

    The Wilsonian direction of promoting the United States to “strive to extend the benifits of freedom across the globe” President Bush wished to take the country suffers from questionable assumptions.It suggest that all people desire peace,prosperity and political freedom to the exclusion of all other beliefs such as obedience to their God,revenge,or lust for territory and power.It especially downplays the importance of religious faith and it’s difference between Islam and Christianity.

    Republican hawks who advocated the wars in the Middle East have taken a heavy hit and haven’t a full view of how much trouble they are in politically from the Bush era foreign policy decisions.The country doesn’t believe in Wilsonian wars and the “Arab Spring” has shown nation building for democracy lost all credibility.

    America needs to find where we want our foreign policy and involvements to take us.I believe we should head NOT to Rand Paul’s isolationism nor to President Bush’s crusading internationalism for democracy but an America engaged for America’s interest in the world.We should sustain the commitments and treaties we are obligated to and make sure our economy and citizens are protected at home and around the world.If protecting our economy means going to war for oil……and it most certainly does then so be it BUT be aware also today America imports very little oil from the Middle East.

    What is Conservatism but the wariness of grand design and the willingness to place limits on the state.