(This opinion piece appeared in the Retriever Weekly on April 12, 2007.)
Launching a war against Saddam Hussein and Iraq was a mistake. Scarcely anyone disagrees with that now. Even if Hussein possessed “weapons of mass destruction”, it was still a mistake. But I’ll save that for another time.
Four years after the fall of Saddam, the United States is still in Iraq, and it seems unlikely that we will be leaving anytime soon. That is a good thing. Congressional Democrats are leading the charge to attach a timetable for the extraction of American troops from Iraq in the next funding bill. Bad idea. The only thing worse than the ill-advised invasion would be a premature withdrawal of troops, and here’s why:
Anyone who believes that removing American troops from Iraq will free us from the perils of war in the Middle East is either fooling themselves or they themselves are a fool. Any politician who tells you that the withdrawal of troops will end our involvement in Iraq is a liar, and they know it.
Let’s start with a little history lesson. Saddam Hussein was a Sunni Muslim, who are a minority in Iraq, though they predominate elsewhere in the Islamic Middle East. During the reign of Hussein and his Baath Party, the Sunnis were the top dogs and the majority Shi’a were oppressed. Neighboring Iran is over 90% Shi’a. This is one of the underlying causes for the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. Over one million people died in the war and the economies of both countries have never completely recovered. Iraq used chemical weapons to kill a hundred thousand Iranian civilians. Ugly stuff.
When the Americans overthrew Saddam, the Iraqi Shi’a were thrilled, and began to flex their majority muscle. Almost immediately, the Sunni and their Baathist followers launched an organized resistance to the new, American-imposed order. Four years later, the killing goes on, with Iraqi citizens themselves far more likely to be targeted than the American soldiers on the ground.
Iraq now sits on the verge of civil war, with the continuing presence of the United States the only thing keeping Humpty Dumpty together. Should the Americans pull out, the Sunni and the Shi’a would soon inaugurate a titanic death match for control of Iraq and its rich supply of oil. Scared yet? You should be.
If there ever is an all-out Iraqi Civil War, don’t think for a minute that it will remain an entirely Iraqi affair. Depend on Iran coming to the aid of the Shi’a, and Syria (and perhaps Jordan and Lebanon) coming in on the side of the Sunni. When this happens, what we’ll have on our hands will be a general Middle East Regional War, involving multiple countries and millions of soldiers. Still unconcerned? Just wait.
The next step is that the supply of oil from the Middle East will be targeted by opposing forces (because it represents funding and petroleum for the various war machines). Count on the flow of crude being interrupted and perhaps cut off entirely. How’s $15 for a gallon of gas strike you?
Not to worry. When this happens, the industrialized nations of the Western World will have no choice but to enter the war, so that the lifeblood of our economies can be restored. Soon, all of the major world powers will have chosen sides and will be blowing each other up with amazing regularity, all the while proclaiming their goal to be bringing peace to the Middle East. So, after a one, or perhaps two year vacation from the Middle East, American troops will be back, only in numbers that dwarf all previous deployments, with casualty figures that make the last four years look like a springtime allergy. A return of the draft at that point would be a distinct possibility.