Little more than a decade ago the U.S. invaded Iraq. The promised cakewalk turned out far different than expected. Today the government—and entire state—created by Washington are in crisis. Yet the same voices again are being raised calling for military intervention. With the promise that this time everything will turn out well.
Social engineers never seem to learn. It is hard enough to redesign and remake individuals, families, and communities in America. It is far harder to do so overseas.
As I point out in my latest Freeman column: “Nation-building requires surmounting often vast differences in tradition, culture, history, religion, ethnicity, ideology, geography, and more. Doing so also requires suppressing the natural desire of people to govern themselves.”
Yet these days Washington continues to try to fix the world’s problems. However, reentering Iraq would be unique, an attempted redo barely a decade after the first go.
The original Iraq operation was supposed to be a quick, bloodless war that destroyed dangerous weapons of mass destruction and “drained the swamp,” eliminating terrorism. The U.S. would guarantee a friendly, compliant government by imposing as president an exile who hadn’t lived in the country for decades. The new Iraq would implement democracy, eschew sectarian division, protect women’s rights, and even recognize Israel, while providing America bases for use in attacking neighboring states, including Iran.
This wonderful wish list was pure fantasy.
The conflict killed thousands and wounded tens of thousands of Americans, and killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions of Iraqis. The ancient Christian community was destroyed.
The ultimate financial cost, including the expense of caring for those who sustained debilitating wounds, to America likely will run $3 trillion or more. America’s reputation was stained, Iran was empowered, and terrorists were trained. Finally, Baghdad’s sectarian misrule wrecked national institutions and fostered the rise of an ugly Islamic totalitarianism.
The obvious—indeed, only—policy for Americans is to run, not walk, away from the mess. Yet many of the architects of the original disaster are back, advocating a second shot.