I'm not sure if it is merely a coincidence or not, but I have updated the Athenaeum every Tuesday for 5 weeks in a row. I plan to make this a habit, dear readers, and hopefully you will see more posts on non-Tuesdays.
In my previous Iraq post, I mentioned that pulling out of Iraq now would be tantamount to isolationism and a refusal on America's part to "share the wealth." I promised our eagle-eyed reader, the Right Rev. Josiah A. Perkins in the comments section that I would clarify this position.
When I wrote that, I was thinking of the differences between World Wars I and II. In World War I, America helped to defeat Germany. Afterwards, Germany was forced as part of the Treaty of Versailles to not only accept responsibility for starting the war but to pay reparations to the Allied countries. Many reputable historians point out that these humiliating terms and the financial constraints placed upon Germany led ultimately to the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.
After World War II, instead of forcing Germany and Italy to pay reparations, the American government came up with the Marshall Plan, whereby the US gave money and aid to help rebuild the countries in Europe not under Soviet influence or control. Many reputable historians point out that the aid distributed under the Marshall Plan spurred the economic growth of Europe and was the beginning of the European Union as we know it today.
During Operation Desert Storm, the US led an international coalition to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait. In the aftermath there were popular uprisings by Shiite and Kurdish groups in Iraq against the rule of Saddam Hussein. They received no support from the coalition and these revolts were crushed. At the time, Bush, Sr., his National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, or then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney did not think it was a good idea to remove Saddam due to the human, financial, and political costs to the US. Since Saddam was still in power, Iraq did not get very much in the way of international aid and assistance.
When Bush, Jr. invaded Iraq in 2003, Saddam was arrested and a new government was formed. The earlier predictions of Bush the Elder, Scowcroft, and Cheney have come to pass. What is different this time is that there is an effort to rebuild the infrastructure that was blown up this time. It might take a long time, but Iraq is putting itself back together. Many Americans, inculding Sen. John Kerry, think that the money we spent blowing up Iraq would be better used to rebuild fire stations in America. At the time the Marshall Plan was implemented, many Americans were none too pleased to see their tax dollars spent on rebuilding Germany.
While the steps leading up to the invasion in 2003 can be endlessly debated, the fact remains that the United States government has committed itself to helping the government of Iraq. Many of the critics who want America to leave Iraq immediately seem to base their opinion on an aversion to war in general. I don't like war nor the prospect of it, but what will happen if we just up and leave? The people of Iraq will have self-determination free from American influence, but what if that ends in genocide, or al-Qaeda running the government? The people I am thinking of are the average Joes of Iraq, the millions of people who voted on the Constitutional referendum and in parliamentary elections. More Iraqis voted on the Constitutional referendum then the number of Americans who cast a ballot in the 2004 Presidential elections. I am willing to bet that these people want to live normal lives; they don't want American troops in their streets nor do they want tyrants or religious fanatics running the government. Is there a more viable option than cutting and running?
It seems like cutting and running would play right into the hands of America's critics in the Arab world. Since World War II, the American government has had a problem with waging open full-on war due to low public support. Maybe this is due to the fact that the horrible images of war can be transmitted into people's homes. The American government is faced with a non-traditional enemy in al-Qaeda, who has committed terrorist attacks against American embassies abroad in Kenya and Tanzania, a Navy ship (the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen), and on 9/11. If we leave Iraq and Afghanistan, will these attacks simply cease? I do not think so. America is in quite a bind here: are we going blow up a country and leave, or are we going to see this commitment we made through to the end?