One of my conservative friends sent me an item reminding us that in 2007, when then-President Bush pushed for the ‘surge’ in Iraq, he warned us that if we left Iraq prematurely, the same problems would be back, only worse. Now we have ISIS (or whatever they’re calling themselves this week) taking over the place, and the armchair generals in Washington saying that we need to go back and hit them hard.
In 2007, we owned the mess in Iraq, and there really was no way that we could duck out honorably. But once something resembling peace had been achieved, the next step would have been to negotiate an agreement by which we could maintain some forces in place in Iraq, to help keep the peace if trouble should flare up in the future. But we didn’t do that: as far as I can tell, both the Americans and the Iraqis wanted us to leave. So there was no agreement to maintain forces, and we left.
And our hands are not clean in this affair: we built ISIS when we decided, instead of going to war in Syria ourselves last year, to arm the ‘Syrian rebels’ to fight on our behalf. But the rebels realized that actually fighting the Syrian government would be work: extending their reach across lightly armed Syrian and Iraqi territory, where the locals would either be happy to receive them or ashamed to admit otherwise, would be far easier and more rewarding.
‘But don’t you see it?’ my conservative friend implored. ‘They’re like the Terminator: they won’t stop until we’re all dead.’
But they get their strength… from us!
We congratulate ourselves that we haven’t had another terrorist attack on the US since 11 September, but we don’t realize that the terrorists didn’t have to do anything. They can roll on the floor of their caves laughing as we turn ourselves into a police state and blow trillions of dollars fighting a war that kills people and destroys buildings, but leaves the movement pretty much unscathed.
‘Where would you rather confront them? There, or here?’
Well, if confronting them ultimately serves to strengthen them, and weaken us, what’s the point?