I still know plenty of people on the left hand side of things who think that we should stay in Iraq more-or-less indefinitely for humanitarian reasons. I would recommend to such readers Charles Krauthammer’s enthusiastic write-up of the surge and the war. He’s dead wrong, but at least relatively clear-eyed:
That’s why so many Sunnis have accepted Petraeus’s bargain — they join our fight against al-Qaeda, and we give them weaponry and military support. With that, they can rid themselves of the al-Qaeda cancer now. And later, when the Americans inevitably leave, they’ll be better positioned to defend themselves against the 80 percent Shiite-Kurd majority they are beginning to realize they may have unwisely taken on.
And that right there is your training. If your concern about Iraq is humanitarian, the solution is political reconciliation. Unfortunately, we’ve spent the past two years showing that the US government has no way of bringing this about. The training, by contrast, does sometimes “work” and create somewhat disciplined armed groups of people trained and ready to do some killing. This, though, is the civil war. The policy is to make training and equipment available to multiple factions so as to encourage different groups to try to curry favor with us. The consequence is that we’re arming multiple sides of a hugely complicated civil conflict — fueling the violence and distrust that have torn Iraq apart in order to better maintain the viability of a large US military presence in the country.
There’s a demented Krauthammerian logic to this, but it’s the logic of a war without end. There’s no guarantee that our friends tomorrow will be the same as our friends today. The Sunnis we’re arming were fighting us twelve months ago. It’s folly and it’s hubris. At best, it’s cold-eyed cynicism. Nothing about it is humanitarian.
Defense Department photo by by Cherie A. Thurlby