Iraq Is Vietnam 2.0 And U.S. Drones Won’t Solve The Problem

Roundup
tags: Iraq, Vietnam, Mosul



Leslie H. Gelb, a former New York Times columnist and senior government official, is author of "Power Rules: How Common Sense Can Rescue American Foreign Policy."

When the jihadis took over the city of Mosul and began their march towards Baghdad, Washington was of course shocked. But officials, legislators, and policy experts in that fair city should not have been shocked. What happened in Iraq was history as usual. The U.S. fights in Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya and Vietnam and other places (maybe next in Syria), provides billions of dollars in arms, trains the friendly soldiers, then begins to pull out—and what happens? Our good allies on whom we’ve squandered our sacred lives and our wealth fall apart. That’s what’s happening in Iraq now.

And before the U.S. government starts to do the next dumb thing again, namely provide fighter aircraft and drone attacks and heaven knows what else, it should stop and think for a change. If America comes to the rescue of this Iraqi government, then this Iraqi government, like so many of the others we’ve fought and died for, will do nothing. It will simply assume that we’ll take over, that we’ll do the job.  And when things go wrong, and they certainly will, this cherished government that we’re helping will blame only America. Don’t think for a moment it will be otherwise. Don’t think for a moment that the generals and hawks who want to dispatch American fighters and drones to the rescue know any better today than they’ve known for 50 years.

Sure, I’m in favor of helping governments against these militant, crazy and dangerous jihadis. But first and foremost and lastly, it’s got to be their fight, not ours. As soon as the burden falls on the United States, our “best friends” do little or nothing and we lose. If they start fighting hard, and we’ll know it when we see it, there will be no mistaking it. Then the military and other aid we provide will mean something. 

Just look at the situation in Iraq these past months. We helped the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to field an Iraqi army that was the 20th-largest in the world, with more than a quarter million soldiers and a million-man Iraqi security force including counter-terrorism troops and police. By psychedelic contrast, jihadi forces in Iraq probably number several thousand.





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