What did we gain in Iraq?

political analysis by Dr. Eric Baker

Editor's note: This commentary is part of a collaboration between the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and The City Wire to deliver an ongoing series of political-based essays and reports. Dr. Eric Baker joined the UAFS faculty in 2008 and has a doctorate in political science from the University of Florida. He teaches several different courses in the political science department, including American National Government, State and Local Government, The American Presidency, Public Policy, and International Relations. Baker previously taught at the University of Richmond in Virginia and East Carolina University in North Carolina.

Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of The City Wire.

In May, my wife Cara and I had the pleasure of seeing her son graduate from the Army Academy at West Point. To watch so many young men and women dedicating themselves to the service of their country, in a locale of great historical significance, was a moving experience. Cara and I were proud of William, one of America’s newest 2nd Lieutenants.

We also had the honor of hearing America’s commander and chief give the commencement speech. President Barak Obama was introduced with all the ruffles and flourishes of his position. His address was a refreshing change from the usual back-slapping, “that a boy for making it, now go change the world” commencement speech. In tone and substance it was a sober appraisal of America’s role on the world stage, a perfectly appropriate speech for the nation’s commander in chief and chief ambassador.

When thinking about this week’s post, I had in mind a dispassionate analysis of American foreign policy in the past decade or so, in light of the president’s speech, and where we should go in the immediate future. But recent world events have reinforced with a vengeance many of the themes he broached. In light of these events, especially the deteriorating situation in Iraq, dispassion would be inexcusable.

In his speech to the West Point cadets, the president emphasized the need for restraint in the use of military force. Quoting General Eisenhower, the president said, “War is mankind’s most tragic and stupid folly…”  The cost of going to war must always be carefully counted, and used only as a last measure.

Given the obvious truth in this, where was the justification for our going to war in Iraq? What was gained? Peace in that country certainly has not been gained. A low voltage civil war has brewed in that country since the invasion. Now it seems to becoming worse.

Did it eliminate terrorism in that land? No it did not. Bombings and killings by various groups continued in Iraq, even during our occupation. And now it seems that most of northern Iraq could come under the sway of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). ISIS is well organized, highly radical and very violent.

It controls a number of key cities in Syria and Iraq, and may be on the verge of seizing Baghdad. We could see a state more radical than Iran.

Did America gain from this war? Given the trust, blood and treasure that have been sacrificed, it is difficult to see how. As the president pointed out, American leadership is vital in today’s world. But our refusal to honor international institutions such as the UN and other alliances – institutions we helped create – has led to a decline in trust in American leadership.

Oil, the lifeblood of our economy, has surged to $107 in just a few days; some analysts say it could hit $120 a barrel due to uncertainty whether ISIS will capture the Iraqi oil fields. Considering the importance of oil, recession could return to the nation. Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz in his book “The Three Trillion Dollar War,” argues that the Iraq war led to the Great Recession, in part because of the surge of oil prices

Furthermore he argues that the full costs of the Iraq invasion will be felt many years into the future. Many of these costs are hidden, such as the long term costs of caring for wounded Iraqi veterans.

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The cost in human life is of course the worst aspect of the Iraq war. As an educator, I have had a number of students who have been deployed in the wars overseas, and I have been troubled. Now that I have family in the military, I feel a greater need to say something.

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Comments

Does this "article" contain

Does this "article" contain any substance? It is appallingly lacking in any kind of coherence. The author seems to blame the previous administration for the current negative situation in Iraq and the world in general and thne goes on to say that now that he has a personal stake in the matter he feels compelled to say something. That something appears to be; it's Bush's fault. What?!?!? The current President has been in office for over 5 years. He was given the Nobel Peace prize right out of the blocks and received the adoration of the world. Why is not the curretn situation wholly his fault? If things have actually gotten worse how can you blame someone who has been retired for 6 years? To quote from a Obama administration official, "What difference does it make now..." Syria is in a freefall. Iran is close to having nukes. Crimea has been annexed by Russia and the western half of Ukraine may soon follow. When will we hear an end to the rant "It's just not my fault, everyone LOVES me..." and begin to hear more of "The buck stops here" that this country really needs. Oh, by the way, if you believe war never solves anything then you need to talk to the victims of the holocaust, free living citizens of South Korea, survivors of the Killing Fields of SE Asia, and many other examples of people who have been oppressed and freed through armed might of the the rightous, and don't forget the helpless victims of Udah and Qusay Husseins Rape rooms. War is Tragic and Stupid but sitting on your thumb and spinning is even worse.

War

I agree that way is justified at times. I not saying we should not have intervened. I was opposed to it, but I would had and still support the US. I am furious with Bush and his admisitration, especially Condi, for lying to us over and over again about why we went to war, WMD. We are mad about the war, yet we are more upset the lies that drug us there. Bush is in my opinion is the same as a war criminal.

Lying??

Whoa there, Nelly. The best intelligence at the time was strong that Iraq had WMD. Our Intel analysts believed it, Al Gore and Hillary believed it ( and voted for war), even senior Iraqi generals believed it. There was no lying, just bad Intel.

Winner

The only perons who won in Iraq wsa George W Bush. He was very unpopular and led the economy into the Great Recession. There was no way for him to get elected. He needed to manufacture a war so he, Condi, and Rumsfeld lied to the American people about WMD. It worked and he won a 2nd term. ll 3 of them should offer an apology to the entire US. They spread a lie that cost 6.000 deaths, is an apology to much to ask.

The Price Of Gas

The price of gas for your auto could reach 6 dollars per gallon in America because the royal BO refused to approve the keystone pipeline and the uncertain future of the middle East. You can't blame the last five years on Bush and America could have been the largest supplier of fuel in the world so maybe BO owes every American an apology too! I think Bush was bad but our current leader is far worse.

An educator there a long time ago experienced the same

thing with his students. Doing nothing often doesn't work but on the other hand we should notice when doing something works even worse. It appears that although we have now learned to go around 'Hamburger Hills', we still need to work a lot on 'When should we go anywhere near it to begin with'?