2012-01-20 / Columnists

Left, Right And Middle

Commentary By Glenn DiResto

Now that the last of our brave men and women in our military have left Iraq and have come home to be with their families, it is time for our country to take a deeper look at the war and the use of military force. What have we learned as a nation about the war in Iraq and the use of military force around the globe? Is putting our young men and women in harm’s way half way around the world always in the best interest to protect our national security and promote democracy?

Although many of the long term consequences of the war in Iraq are unknown, we know there were huge human and financial costs associated with the war. Some in our government have projected the cost of the Iraq war at around $1 trillion, while some think tanks have projected the cost to be as high as $4 trillion dollars due to many long term indirect costs of the conflict. We must remember that the cost of war does not end when the conflict is over. There are many indirect costs associated with the war including long term care for our brave veterans, the cost of replacing and updating military equipment and supplies, foreign assistance related to the war, and the interest on the money that taxpayers will be stuck paying since the cost for the war was financed with borrowed money.

In addition to the economic costs, what have been the human costs of this war. Almost 4,500 brave men and women of the United States Military have been killed and over 30,000 injured; many of them severely. Countless veterans have endured the physical injuries and emotional scars of the war that will require long term care to deal with these issues. Returning veterans are plagued with post-traumatic stress disorder, high rates of suicide, increased drug and alcohol dependence, etc. Countless innocent Iraqis have been killed, families torn apart and millions have become refugees.

After the Iraq invasion, the United States was told by the international community, “You broke it now you own it.” Well, we owned it for a total of 2,988 days. In that time we have trained the Iraqi military forces and spent billions of dollars to reconstruct the country. Despite all these efforts the country still remains insecure, politically unstable, with widespread corruption, and sectarian violence. Unfortunately, the future and balance of power in the country will depend on many factors that are outside the control of the United States and many other foreign powers will most likely play a role in the future of the country as well.

There is no doubt that the war in Iraq has changed the political landscape in Iraq from a brutal dictator to a democratically elected government. However, has the cost of the war been worth it to the American people? I guess that remains to be seen and will depend on what type of government Iraq ends up with in the future. When Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki steps down in 2014 will Iraq remain democratic and an ally of the United States?

Will they respect human and women’s rights? Unfortunately, we may not have the answers to these questions for years to come.

As Americans we believe in promoting democracy and allowing people to choose their own government and leaders. However, what happens in a case like the Palestinians who in 2006 picked the Hamas Party, a United States designated terrorist organization? Will we continue to support democracy if countries like Egypt, Libya and Yemen elect a government that is not pro-American? We have to ask ourselves, should the United States Government continue to be involved in every single conflict around the globe or should we heed the advice of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul who says, “the United States should stop meddling in the business of other countries.” We must really look at our nation’s foreign policy and determine what lessons we have learned from the war in Iraq and how it will shape the future of our foreign policy.

Whatever the future may hold, we have to remember that war must always be a last resort and that being patriotic does not make you pro-war and being antiwar does not make you unpatriotic. Americans will always support their troops and those who make grave sacrifices for our nation. We will also stand with our leaders and support military action when it is warranted, and necessary to our national security. Whatever the future may be, may God continue to bless all our troops, their families and our great nation.

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Hind sight is indeed 20/20,

Hind sight is indeed 20/20, less we blind it with the astigmatisms of politics. Great article Glenn! Thanks for your clear vision.

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