Julius Caesar said about Gaul, “Veni, vide, vici.” I came, I saw, I conquered. It was elegant in simplicity. There is nothing elegant or simple about Iraq, however, nor do we seek to conquer it.
Americans and American politicians are polarized. Some want the troops pulled out of Iraq as soon as possible because our troops are targets and our very presence in Iraq creates a fertile recruiting ground for terrorists. Some want to stay the course and fight terrorists far from American shores. There is a disconnect between Democrat and Republican candidates for President of the United States. Democrats only talk about ending American troop presence in Iraq; Republicans only talk about the war on global terrorism, including al-Qaeda.
It is indisputable that American casualties in Iraq are far lower than in other conflicts such as World War I and II, Korea and Vietnam. That is cold comfort to the loved ones of those killed and wounded in Iraq’s random violence. It is almost a cliché to say that we won the war but are losing the peace. The shock and awe of the military campaign has given way to shock and awe by insurgents.
Might the troop surge work while the Iraqis prepare to fight their own battles? Of course it might. American troop presence certainly keeps Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions from wholesale slaughter of each other. Instead, it is only retail factional slaughter.
What if the troop surge does not work? If we pull out of Iraq, will there be a bloodbath between Shiites and Sunnis or led by neighbors such as a mostly Sunni Syria, a mostly Shiite Iran and an anti-Kurd Turkey? Will Iraq as we know it dissolve in the type of ethnic cleansing we saw between Hutu and Tutsi tribes in Rwanda, between ethnic Serbs and Muslim Bosnians in the former Yugoslavia or which is still occurring with disturbing frequency in Sudan?
Perhaps it will; perhaps it will not because a pan-Arab force or a stronger central Iraqi government will emerge. Perhaps Iraq should never have existed as a country at all. Iraq was one of the countries created by the British and the League of Nations from the defeated Ottoman Empire’s huge Middle East holdings after World War I. Americans should not shed blood without end to preserve an old mistake of geography.
We do not have to surrender in the war against global terrorism if we withdraw troops from Iraq. We will instead have the resources to respond disproportionately to terror threats wherever they arise. We will also have the resources to hunt down Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants. Veni, vide, cecedi. I came, I saw, I killed.