US-made F-16 fighter jets in action..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
General Daniel Bolger, a leader of tens of thousands of US soldiers in Iraq, recently wrote a book titled, Why We Lost. It highlights the lessons learned in a war that ended in 2011. However, just three years and several Islamic State beheading videos later, many people have seemingly forgot the lessons of Iraq, so here are General Bolger’s words as quoted in Time magazine: “‘Both wars were won, and we didn’t know enough to go home’ after about six months, Bolger argues.
“They should have been limited incursions and [then] pull out – basically like Desert Storm...This enemy wasn’t amenable to the type of war we’re good at fighting, which is a Desert Storm or a Kosovo.”
Therefore, no matter how you feel about the scourge of terrorism or the evil of IS (and both are global security threats), it’s a fact that the US has been overburdened by two wars in the Middle East. It’s also a fact that the original threat of al-Qaida has now been surpassed by IS. In all likelihood, once IS is defeated, another new terrorist group in the region will rear its ugly head, and America will be asked once again to defeat yet another global threat. Unfortunately, the US plays right into the hands of these terrorists by risking lives, spending trillions and engaging in counterinsurgency wars against an enemy that wages guerrilla warfare. The US should no longer be in Iraq, the country should be defended by its own forces, and IS is not worth another American war in the Middle East.
First, the horrific IS beheading videos have seemingly made everyone forget about the monumental sacrifice of the US Armed Forces in the past decade.
After 4,486 US soldiers died in Iraq and 2,345 US soldiers died in Afghanistan, one million US soldiers wounded in both wars, and a potential cost of up to $6 trillion, a new group like IS now causes havoc in the Middle East. We’ve done enough battling an enemy that grows new appendages like a hydra.
Even if more US blood and money is spent in the ultimate goal of defeating of IS, who is to say another terrorist group won’t take its place? Furthermore, we still have a horrendous VA crisis. Both Republicans and Democrats should remember the VA crisis that is still taking place: over 514,000 veterans are still waiting for disability benefits, the average wait time for their first claim is 318 days, and the average wait time for additional claims is over 160 days. America has done enough and our soldiers, and their families, have sacrificed enough. Another war in Iraq against IS should be waged by the 250,000 Iraqi troops, Kurdish forces and local and regional enemies of IS. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are enemies with IS, so let them pitch in to destroy the group.
Finally, terrorism is not the scourge to Americans that some people assume and IS is certainly not America’s Hamas. Using State Department numbers, there was a total of 19 American citizens (including the Boston Marathon Bombing) killed by terrorist attacks in 2013. In 2013, there was a total of over 17,800 deaths around the world from terrorist attacks; the majority of these attacks taking place in unstable regions like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. America can’t be in all those countries at once and can’t address terrorist groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria, or Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, without stretching its forces dangerously thin. Truly fighting terror means being all places at once; nobody knows if a group in Yemen or Somalia or Nigeria will be the next organization linked to a terrorist bombing that affects the West.
While Hamas and its rockets terrorize Israel all the time, IS doesn’t have ICBMs – it’s a long way from Iraq to the US. Linking the possibility of another 9/11 to each and every terrorist group in the globe will lead to never-ending and perpetual American wars.
Destroying IS, like defeating al-Qaida before it, will not ensure stability in Iraq or global security from terrorism.
The vast majority of terror attacks affect human beings in other countries and as General Bolger and many others have stated, America fights best in short wars; not protracted and never- ending conflicts like Vietnam or the recent Iraq War. American troops should no longer be in Iraq and we ignore recent lessons learned at our own peril.The writer is an author based in the US who often writes on Jewish and international affairs.