The quandry of intervention: Iraq redux?

Last night I received a mass email from Dave Loebsack, my US House representative, about the sectarian violence in Iraq. “While there are many ideas about how involved the United States should be, I want to know what you think,” he wrote. Included was a link to a “quick poll” to offer my opinion.

So I clicked the link and was asked, “Should the United States intervene in Iraq’s recent conflict?” These were the answers I could choose from:

• No, the US should not intervene at all;
• Yes, but only air strikes and no boots on the ground;
• Yes, but sending troops only to assist the Iraqi army;
• Yes, including sending troops to fight.

Three yes’s and one no. That basically sums up the complicated situation and the quandary of intervention.

To be honest, I do not know how to answer Loebsack’s question. “No” is probably my best option because I really do not want the United States military to return to Iraq. US forces left in 2011 and I would prefer that they not return. Period. The end. I think we have meddled enough in the Middle East. For the most part, extremism and terrorism are the hellspawn of Western meddling in the region and I honestly do not foresee any benefit from further intervention. (BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Shell, and the China National Petroleum Corporation may say otherwise.)

However, the US altered the future of Iraq for better or worse and it would behoove us to help in some way. This is a Pandora’s box we willingly opened. (I say “we” to mean Americans, but it has been easy to forget that Iraq was invaded by a coalition of nations that included the UK, Australia, and Poland. Troops from other nations — including Tonga, Moldova, Norway, and Iceland — were deployed later and withdrawn at different times. When finger-pointers point their fingers about Iraq they always point to the US.) Even though the country’s sectarian and ethnic divisions were there long before the invasion in 2003, and the fact al-Maiki has apparently done a very poor job of fostering an inclusive democracy, intervention unleashed the bloody civil conflict that has plagued Iraq ever since. We aided and abetted in this mess, despite whatever good intentions there were. In some way I would like us to be adults about it and take responsibility. “We fucked up and we will try to make things better, find a solution that works for everyone.”

But how? Can we help? I’m unsure. Perhaps we should let the Iraqis decide their own destiny, choose their own form of self-government. (I suppose that is implied by the answer to not intervene.)

In that way, perhaps Iraq is better off being divided into separate nations. Shit — wouldn’t everybody be happier that way? That, I think, is what I am leaning toward. (The Iranians would not be happy, as Bobblehead pointed out in his blog post. It’s ironic, really. Ten years ago everyone was sure the US would invade Iran, too. Now both countries find themselves taking the same side in the Iraq insurgency, are monitoring the situation closely, and thinking about intervening. Amazing, huh?) Why impose a government on people who do not trust it? Why impose a nation on those who want no part of it, have their own national identity? But, of course, what about the people being terrorized by ISIS and do not want to live under strict sharia law and a caliph? Should they leave their homelands? Carve out their own enclaves? Should we help them do that? What about the regions that are ethnically mixed? Can a lasting peace be struck by the Iraqis themselves?

God, I hope so. And I hope they can do it without our intervention and meddling.

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