Written by Roy Smith
I consider myself well read when it comes to certain things and how certain things work. I know the ultimate judgment of the Iraq War will be determined, not by you and me, but by history. People very much like us many years from now will study the Iraq War, the War on Terrorism, the Afghanistan War and everything that goes with it with the critical eye of time. They will research and determine its long term effects, the cost, and ultimately whether it was successful or not. They will make this determination without the emotional baggage that those of us living now carry. They say history is written by the victors, but victory is relative. After all, we don’t know if we will ultimately be successful in rebuilding Iraq and our ultimate success will not be known for many, many years. All we know for sure is that militarily defeated the Iraqi Army during the invasion and then mostly defeated a tough insurgency.
My Own Opinion on the Iraq War
Will history determine the war was justified and necessary? Only time will tell. My own opinion is that it was necessary, but not necessarily justified for the reasons given at the time by our leaders. Those of us in the military who knew what Saddam Hussein was up to prior to our invasion knew our war against Iraq would not be over in six months like it was in 1991. Nor did we expect to still be there seven years later. As I write this, I am reading the news where two more US Soldiers died when one of their “allies” in the Iraqi Army shot them because a pastor in Georgia had decided to burn Qurans. On the outside, the war in Iraq may seem justified but in my opinion, not when put under a microscope. Certainly, even by the war’s staunchest supporters, it is hard to justify the duration of our stay in Iraq.
My view is my own but comes from someone who was at war for over half his career in the US Army and deployed a total of nine times to various parts of the world including four in Afghanistan and two to Iraq. Again, ultimately, history will be the judge of whether the war in Iraq was justified or not and whether the Iraq War was the right thing to do or just the over reaction of a country used to its sense of supremacy and invulnerability.
Either way, the Iraq War and ultimately the War on Terror has composed a large portion of my life. Large enough for me to pray it was justified and right. I suppose it is that hope that is the reason why the things we do during our lifetimes is judged by the generations which follow. We are too close to the events and cannot disassociate our feelings and emotions long enough from the events of our lives to view them with that critical eye of impartiality necessary to make an unbiased judgment.
Iraq Served as a Rallying Point for the World’s Extremists
I do think the Iraq War, though painful for the country and the Soldiers who fought in it, will ultimately be considered a success for many reasons. The entire war was covered in controversy almost from the beginning which distracted the nation and its leaders from pursuing other targets and objectives in the larger War on Terror. It could be viewed as a drain on resources better devoted to other objectives. However, the Iraq War could be considered a success as well for many reasons. Unfortunately, I can find little proof that these were the reasons from the beginning, but instead became the reasons for us to stay in Iraq following the initial invasion. As I stated before, no plan survives contact with the enemy. From a strategic standpoint, the war in Iraq served as a defined battlefield in which extremists from all over the world came to fight the “American invader”. This simply made it easier for us to find them and kill them in a single country instead of having to look for them all over the world.
There is another old military saying which fits here pretty well. If you can target the enemy he can target you. In other words, if they are shooting at you, you don’t have to go looking for them. It may sound flawed but it is true and it is a military tactic from ancient times to present a military force in the open and when that force comes under attack you know where the enemy is so you counterattack.
American Military is Now Most Experienced in the World
Additionally, every Army even one as powerful as the US military, has to eventually get its nose bloody before it can improve its fighting ability. You can only train so much and reach a certain level of readiness with using blanks in nice safe training area. Everyone talks about how the US Army and US Marines are tired and worn after so many rotations to Iraq. How our equipment has to be replaced due to overuse. How the suicide rate of combat veterans is at an all time high. All of this is true but not unexpected from a military professional’s point of view. However, I defy you to find a fighting force anywhere in the world better equipped and trained for war at this point then the US Military. It was rough getting here, but we are here and that is why I believe you don’t see a lot of attacks or casualties anymore. The insurgents in Iraq and the fighters in Afghanistan don’t have nearly the likelihood of survival as they had a few years ago when attacking any US Military targets. We have become very good at what we do.
Ultimate Goal is to Win the War on Terrorism
The War on Terrorism is a global war not going anywhere soon. The battlefields will change countries and even continents, but it will continue until groups like Al Qaida cease to have the resources to carry out attacks. There are other groups in the world which also must be dealt with before we can declare victory in this war. This is the war that we must ultimately win and individual victories like Iraq and Afghanistan are simply battles in the much larger War on Terrorism.
History Is the Ultimate Judge
As I live today and will not be alive when history does pass judgment on our actions over the past ten years I can only hope we are judged well. Either way, history will say these were difficult times for a country and world torn apart by strife and war brought on by fanatical religious beliefs, intolerance, and ignorance. Hopefully, what has happened in the past ten years will come to an end and the rest of the century will see some semblance of peace and prosperity instead of appearing to be the hangover of the last dying vestiges of the disastrous bloodshed of the twentieth century.
After all, most of our current political and military issues in the world today had their foundations in the 20th century. Hopefully, we can keep the 21st century from becoming the same. I only hope.
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