Much has been made of a formal cessation of US military activities in Iraq. It feels good. We’re done with the war, right? For now, yes. We left because we couldn’t strike a feasible bargain with the Iraqi government over our occupation of that country and all of the policies associated with it. Basically, we were like the unemployed boyfriend who’s living with the girlfriend, and after a while, the girlfriend gets sick of said boyfriend on the couch half of the day, and shows him the door. But, as we all know from real life, sometimes the boyfriend ends up back on the couch, eating Cheetos for most of the day.
The fact of the matter is that this absence of US forces may be temporary. If the country descends into chaos again, a not altogether unrealistic proposition, as after three decades of Saddam Hussein, three wars (two with us, one with Iran), the country, physically and politically, has been devastated. Most of its best and brightest citizens have fled the country, ethnic and sectarian divisions, while for now are somewhat stabilized, the country could well come apart from the center. And if that were to happen, a redeployment of troops would be tempting, both for the US, and some Iraqis.
Were that to happen, I would urge restraint on both sides. For whatever issues that arise, they’re best addressed by Iraqis, not Americans. Yes, we want to help, and that’s all well and good, but what we’re actually capable of helping with is far more limited than we realize. American military power, for all the benefits that it can bring, will never stabilize a country. The solution must first be political, then economic, and it must be implemented by those actors involved, which, hard as it may to believe, is not always the US. Our missionary zeal is somewhat touching sometimes. But for the good of our own country, not to mention our budget, we cannot recast the world in our image. It’s neither in our best interest, nor in the interest of those countries that need our usually destabilizing ‘help.’