News / Middle East

Soldiers, Pundits Debate Whether Iraq War Was Worth It

A northern Iraqi woman sits in front of her house with her four children, in the bordertown of Chamchamal, Iraq, March 30, 2003. Writing on wall reads:
A northern Iraqi woman sits in front of her house with her four children, in the bordertown of Chamchamal, Iraq, March 30, 2003. Writing on wall reads: "This house is for sale."
Cecily Hilleary

Of all the campaign promises U.S. President Barack Obama made, his pledge to pull troops out of Iraq is among the most memorable.  Last Friday, Obama made good on that pledge, but not necessarily by choice.

For months, Shi’a Muslim leader Muqtada al-Sadr had been warning U.S. troops to get out of Iraq or face “resistance.”

US Marines of the 1st Division walk to a briefing prior to a mission outside Fallujah, Iraq, November 1, 2004.
US Marines of the 1st Division walk to a briefing prior to a mission outside Fallujah, Iraq, November 1, 2004.

Al-Sadr’s anti-Western movement enjoys a strong following, and many believe that pressure from Sadrists is what drove Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to disallow any further U.S. military presence in Iraq.  By New Year’s Day, 2012, an approximate 41,000 U.S. troops currently in Iraq will have returned home. They, along with observers across the globe, will likely be scratching their heads for years, asking whether the invasion of Iraq and ensuing conflict were worth their $800 billion price tag, the loss of more than 4,400 U.S. troops and the deaths of as many as 112,000 Iraqis.

In a September 20 article in Foreign Policy, Peter Van Buren, State Department Foreign Service Officer and author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, argued that things do not look well for Iraq, at least in the short term. There has been, in his words, “no resolution to the Arab-Kurd issue, no resolution to the Sunni-Shia issue, no significant growth in the oil industry, a weakened U.S. presence more interested in a Middle East land base and profitable arm sales than internal affairs, and an increasingly influential Iran seeking a proxy battleground against the United States and a nicely weak buffer state on its formerly troublesome western border.”

Michael Rubin
Michael Rubin

Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School takes issue with such grim assessments. “The Iraqis, for the first time, really had a shot at freedom,” Rubin said, “and while Iraq today isn’t perfect, for the vast majority of Iraqis, life is much better than what it was under Saddam.”

Rubin points to the same issues - Kurds, religious sectarianism, Iran’s looming influence - were not resolved during Saddam Hussein’s regime. “The issue that many people forget is that Saddam Hussein didn’t bring stability. Indeed the Kurdish Civil War started in 1961, and what we learned after Saddam’s fall was that the Republican Guard may have controlled the streets in southern Iraq during the day, they didn’t control things at night.”

In short, Rubin says, the status quo in Iraq was falling apart. “Too many people in hindsight will look at the issue as a choice to either go to war and unseat Saddam, or simply to have stability and sanctions. The sanctions were falling apart, and what all of Saddam Hussein’s doctrines show, he had every intention of reconstituting the worst aspects of his force and his capabilities, as soon as the sanctions collapsed.”

The scholar says President Bush had two choices: “Either to unseat Saddam or see him re-empowered to the fullest. I do think that most people in the region are glad he made the former choice, even if they disagree with how the war was conducted.”

As for the troop pullout, Rubin is among those who have felt strongly that the U.S. should retain a military presence in Iraq.  He says he would have preferred a lasting military presence in Iraq, “as long it takes to fill the vacuum, as long as it takes to bring stability.”

Karen Kwiatkowski
Karen Kwiatkowski

Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D, is a retired United States Air Force lieutenant colonel, who for four years prior to her retirement in 2003 worked in the Pentagon’s Near East South Asia Policy Office (NESA). While there, she wrote a series of articles accusing neoconservatives and other interest groups of kidnapping U.S. Middle East policy. She retired from the Air Force a year later; today she teaches, writes about defense issues and is running for Congress. She is as outspoken now as she was a decade ago.

“It’s pretty sad, really,” she said, “that almost ten years have gone by since stories were told to justify the invasion of Iraq, a country which was very weak militarily, very weak economically, that had been suffering under sanctions that we enforced for many years, over a dozen years, and had no air force, had no navy, had nothing to do with 9/11, had nothing to do with associations with al Qaeda… and yet we were able to basically drum up a war and invade, topple their government, destroy not just their political system, but their society - you know; we went for the infrastructure, the water and electrical grid.  And yet, to this day, we have not yet repaired that. And now, we’re drawing to a close and leaving behind what? Not a victory, but probably multiple generations of hatred for Americans - and oh, are we pumping oil there yet?  No, we’re not.”

Harlan Ullman
Harlan Ullman

What about the man who many credit with being among the architects of the Iraq War? Dr. Harlan Ullman, co-author (along with James P. Wade) of the “Shock and Awe” doctrine, which was implemented in the 2003 Iraq invasion.  Today he is a Senior Advisor at the Atlantic Council and also a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the National Defense University. “Iraq was probably one of the worst foreign policy blunders in our history,” Ullman said, “and in terms of the damage that it has done and will do to the country, far exceeds the Vietnam War.”

He still supports the doctrine of “Shock and Awe,” which he says has gotten a “bad rap.”

“’Shock and Awe’ was used to characterize the strategy we used in Iraq in 2003,” he said.  “But that was not ‘Shock and Awe.’ That was Desert Storm on steroids.”

The problem, Ullman says, lies in what he calls America’s “national DNA”, an ideological view of the world is framed by what Americans think the world should be, not the way it really is.

Ullman says the point of “Shock and Awe” was simple:

“You decide what is the outcome you want to achieve, then you work back to get it. The outcome we wanted to achieve was to destroy the Iraqi army and destroy Saddam Hussein. That’s fine. But that’s not a tactic, that’s a strategy.  And what we would have done if we were going to employ ‘Shock and Awe’ correctly was to say, ‘OK, what do we want to see? We want to see a stable Iraq, under the rule of law, with a new form of government.’ If we had established that from the very beginning, we wouldn’t have had to defeat the Iraqi army. We could have simply made the attack. I think the army would have deposed Saddam Hussein; we could have forced them to surrender more quickly.”

Perhaps the greatest American experts on the success or failure in Iraq are those who are not as easily heard from: the tens of thousands who already served in Iraq and the more than 40 thousand war-weary troops who will shortly begin straggling home to adjust to lives as civilians in an uncertain economic and political climate. After the saga of the Iraq War appears more fully in the rearview mirror, these men and women – who have sacrificed so much personally for the conflict – may speak out about lessons learned, and whether or not wars like the one that took place in Iraq was indeed worth it.

الجنود ومناقشة الخبراء ما إذا كانت الحرب على العراق تبلغ قيمتها الأسعار مع ما يزيد على 4,400 الأمريكية الأرواح التي أزهقت و 800 بليون دولار أنفقت، تلوح أسئلة كبيرة ما إذا كان لها ما يبررها في الغزو والصراع التي تلت ذلك.
Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video Empire State Building Highlights Cecil the Lion

People gathered in streets and rooftops in Manhattan to see the image highlights that covered 33 floors of the building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs