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No, We Shouldn’t Have Stayed in Iraq – and "History" is Not on our Side if We Go Back

September 11, 2014 in Economics

By Christopher A. Preble

Christopher A. Preble

Before Americans follow Barack Obama into another war in the Middle East — this time in two countries simultaneously — it would be a good idea to get a handle on the history of the last few U.S. wars there.

This history is, after all, relevant with respect to the current debate over what the United States should do to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

If one believes, for example, that nation building in Iraq could have worked, or was working in January 2009, when George W. Bush left office, then one can also believe that Barack Obama is the reason why it failed, and that Obama can succeed this time around, so long as he is truly committed to the mission.

We see this notion among some Republicans in Congress who seem to believe that the relevant history of the last Iraq war begins in January 2007, and ends in January 2009.

Before Americans follow Barack Obama into another war in the Middle East, it would be a good idea to get a handle on the history of the last few U.S. wars there.”

“We can argue over whatever about the Iraq war, but most of our guys believe Bush left in 2009 with the U.S. in position to win,” Representative Tom Cole (R- OK) told the New York Times. Barack Obama has been president for nearly six years. “At some point,” Cole continued, “it can’t be Bush and Cheney’s fault.”

According to Washington Post columnist Mark Thiessen, none of it is their fault. George W. Bush set Iraq on the path to peace and reconciliation. He warned that a failure to leave troops in Iraq for an indeterminate period of time would amount to “surrendering the future of Iraq to al-Qaeda.”

It would risk, Bush said, “mass killings on a horrific scale.” And, of course, leaving Iraq would increase “the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous.”

But this particular history is flawed on several counts. First, it ignores the depths of the political dysfunction in Iraq precisely at the time when Bush was boasting of the success of the surge. As Gen. David Petraeus explained during congressional testimony in November 2007, “The fundamental source of the conflict in Iraq is competition among ethnic and sectarian committees for power and …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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