You break it. You own it.
==The Pottery Barn Rule (per General Colin Powell)
Of all the arguments for sending troops back into Iraq, the most plausible (to me) is that we owe it to the Iraqi people—and in particular the Kurdish Iraqi people—to clean up the mess the original U.S. intervention created.
The people of Kurdistan and Baghdad would not be menaced by the would-be Islamic Caliphate (aka ISIS) if the U.S. invasion had not broken down orderly government in Iraq, and opened up an opportunity for these murderous fanatics. So do we Americans not have a responsibility to fix the situation before we leave the Iraqis on my own.
But it was that very argument that led me, 10 years ago, to support the original invasion of Iraq. I thought to myself that we Americans had supported Saddam Hussein in the first place. Our government provided him with weapons, encouraged him to attack Iran and protected him from international sanctions when he used poison gas against the people of Kurdistan. Then we turned against him, and waged a low-level war of blockade and bombing through the Clinton years.
So it seemed to me (wrongly) that by invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam, we could partly make up for the harm we had done to the Iraqi people.
And even now I sometimes think (wrongly) that the U.S.-led invasion would have worked out—
- If the U.S. forces had recognized the local governments the Iraqi people spontaneously chose and worked with them, instead of installing puppets of U.S. choosing.
- If the American authorities had not discharged the Iraqi army, had kept control of weapons and armories and had not allowed the country to disintegrate into anarchy.
- If the United States had employed the Iraqi people in rebuilding their own country instead of turning Iraq into a vast cash cow for American contractors.
- If Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had not excluded everybody in the government who knew anything about Iraq from the planning.
But when I think that, I am just fooling myself. I am fooling myself when I think that the U.S. government had any goal in Iraq other than getting control of Iraq’s oil supply and establishing military bases on Iraq’s soil.
And even if American intentions were wholly good, democracy and freedom are not something that any country can give another country. Every free country has to win and maintain freedom for itself.