This is not going to be a popular column.
In fact, I’m not even a fan of what I’m about to write, because it goes against the grain of where I think we need to be going with our foreign policy, let alone what I think the American people have the resolve for. Nevertheless, I’m writing this because I believe it’s true although I wish that wasn’t so, and I’m hoping perhaps one of you reading this can talk me out of it.
So let me just get it out there now so we can deal with it right away: when it comes to the tragedy that has become Iraq, I believe we have to put all options on the table — including going back.
I say that as someone that does not believe we as a people are equipped for nation building, because the collective spiritual and moral integrity of our current culture can barely sustain our own. I say that as someone that has written and said many times we cannot be the world’s mall cop. It’s a drain on resources — both human and fiscal — we don’t have. Not to mention there’s a fine line between being a shining city on the hill that represents a beacon of liberty to the world, and then believing you alone as a people have the market cornered on righteousness. Thus granting yourself permission to determine how everyone else shall live.
One side of that line provides a fallen world the hope it so desperately needs, while the other side establishes the next empire the world most definitely does not.
I’m also someone that has very mixed feelings regarding the entirety of our mission in Iraq, just as most of the American people do as well. Like many of you reading this, I am concerned the trillions of dollars in human and monetary capital we invested in Iraq over the course of a decade will turn out to be a terrible waste.
Which is exactly why I think we have to put all options on the table — including going back.
Debating now whether we should’ve gone to Iraq in the first place is a moot point. Frankly, my audience is divided almost 50-50 on the matter. But the Iraqi children being beheaded, the Iraqi families being slaughtered, the Iraqi women being raped, the Iraqi Christians being crucified, and the Iraqi communities being conquered by this marauding horde of wicked Islamo-Fascists do not have the luxury of our ongoing battle for domestic political supremacy each cynical news cycle. They are suffering mightily at least in part because we did not adequately finish the mission there, regardless of how we feel about the mission itself.
This is different than not intervening in Syria, and I was a vocal critic of potential U.S. military action there last fall. Why? Because by the time we chose to act there were no clear cut good guys vs. bad guys. There was just bad guys vs. bad guys, and like a majority of Americans I found the potential notion of U.S. soldiers fighting on the same side as al-Qaeda repugnant.
But this is different. This isn’t just Iraq. This is our Iraq.
I am staunchly pro-life, and oppose the idea that parents can disregard their own children because they can’t afford them, aren’t ready to raise them, etc. There is always an alternative to the needless extermination of innocent life. I sort of see our lack of intervening in Iraq the same way. We conceived this Iraq. This Iraq is our baby. As inconvenient as the idea may be to re-engage, we are on the hook for the stabilization of this civilization.
I would prefer that weren’t so, and if I’m wrong by all means someone make the moral case otherwise. But I think it’s tough to argue against our acting as a disinterested parent, helped the wickedness that was always gestating under the surface there fully spawn once we were gone.
The blood of these innocents cries out for justice, and as the adult overseer in this relationship we are one of the moral agents responsible to provide it. I wish the fledgling offspring we ill-conceived in Iraq was able to fully function on its own, but the buckets of blood of innocents that has been spilled sadly says differently.
American integrity and moral standing in the world is also at stake here. The ISIS rampage across Iraq will be used as anti-U.S. propaganda by our enemies. They will say we never cared about the people of Iraq, that we toppled Saddam Hussein without a plan for what happens next, and once the going got tough we left all those people for dead. That America has become such a “great Satan” we can’t even be counted on to defend Christians, let alone Muslims, because we left them for dead, too.
This aiding and abetting of Jihadist propaganda by way of our own malfeasance has generational implications. It could wipe out whatever gains we’ve made against Jihad since 9/11, hence emboldening not just our own enemies but Israel’s as well. For if we won’t even defend a nation we essentially founded like this new Iraq, why would our enemies assume we will still defend Israel as well?
I’m not saying this is a “good” idea. I’m saying the situation our feckless foreign policy has created has left us with no “good” ideas–only obligations. My generation has watched classmates of ours go to Iraq now in two different wars. Some of them didn’t come home. The idea of asking another generation to go back there again breaks my heart. However, the only other outcomes are a caliphate or Iraq becoming an Iranian satellite country, which will only strengthen a Jihadist stronghold that is also feverishly pursuing a nuclear weapon.
Either outcome renders all the loss of life and money spent up until this point in Iraq the greatest waste of resources in American history if not the world, which opens up the possibility our credibility might not recover from such a fiasco in our lifetimes. I believe the global ramifications of that are even more staggering in today’s world than the consequences of returning to Iraq once more, for both this and future generations the world over.
If someone has a better way by all means share it with the rest of us.
(Steve Deace is a nationally-syndicated talk show host and the author of “Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.” You can like him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.)