Looking at a map of the Middle East here, and trying to think…
United States and coalition forces had defeated Saddam Hussein’s regime and managed quite a bit of nation-building, to include reducing violence to an unprecedented level, removing a large quantity of yellowcake (concentrated natural uranium that can be used for ultimately creating nuclear bomb material) and getting different Iraqi factions to actually work together to create a government. In other words, the protracted campaign, including the much-maligned surge, had worked, and Iraq was on its way to rejoin the family of nations.
But the most important thing was that the presence of a large and powerful contingent of United States troops in a strategic location all but guaranteed stability in the region. Just think:
- To the east lies power-hungry Iran that seeks to expand its influence westward into Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Arabian Peninsula and beyond, not to mention its goal of destroying Israel. With U.S. troops in Iraq, Iran’s ambitions are effectively checkmated, and plenty of military power is in place to take decisive action should the need arise.
- To the south lie Saudi Arabia and the various small Arab nations on the Arabian Peninsula that provide a major percentage of crude oil to the world. Iran hungers for control of those resources. The presence of U.S. troops in Iraq protects them from Iranian ambitions.
- To the northwest lies aggressive, dictatorial Syria which is actively seeking to expand its influence in Lebanon and beyond. It too, seeks to destroy Israel. Its ambitions have also been checkmated, too, and sufficient U.S. forces are in place to make Syria play nice or to intervene if it does not.
- Allied but increasingly unstable Jordan lies to the west. Should subversion of Jordan reach a critical stage, the U.S. can provide meaningful support.
- Any attempt to attack or destroy Israel could have been met with overwhelming combined force.
But, according to Barack Obama, this was the wrong war. U.S and coalition troops were withdrawn before the job was done, and Iraq has been going downhill ever since. Instead, Obama decided to invest his efforts into Afghanistan, which has no common boundaries with any friendly nation, and where, in order to withdraw, U.S. forces are destroying billions of dollars’ worth of equipment that should not be left to the Taliban who will retake control of the country shortly after U.S. troops are gone, reestablishing the status quo ante as if the U.S. had never been there.
But Obama’s misguided adventure in Afghanistan, though a terrible tragedy, is a different story.
In looking at the mess in Syria today, I cannot help but wonder how easy would it have been to secure Syria’s cooperation with respect to yielding its (and formerly Iraq’s) weapons of mass destruction, if a 100,000 or 150,000 battle-tested U.S. troops were lounging in Syria’s backyard?
I wonder how different the Middle East would look today if, instead of delusions of being a global fixer, Obama had any realistic understanding and strategic vision.