The present war in Iraq began with the invasion of Iraq by United States Armed Forces in 2003. Since then there have been many bloody skirmishes and fights not only between the American forces currently stationed there and the remnants of the Iraqi forces but also among the ethnic and religious groups in the area. The recent data on the War in Iraq estimate the death count of American troops alone to be 2,815, while the civilian deaths resulting from the conflict are estimated at over 100,000. Economically, the United States has already spent $505 billion of taxpayers’ funds on the War in Iraq. The rising death toll and the economic burden that the war in Iraq has caused the United States makes it high time for it to reconsider its options and decide whether or not the War in Iraq is worth all of the lives that have been sacrificed and the dollars that have been spent.
This short discourse will provide an analysis of this ongoing conflict and try to examine the pros and cons of the current situation. This discussion will also try to propose what the best action is for the United States regarding this conflict. To properly arrive at a solution regarding this issue it is essential to first understand the advantages and disadvantages of continuing the war in Iraq. It is also relevant for the purposes of this discussion to examine the current military trends that have been implemented as well as the controversies that are surrounding the issue.
One way by which to properly understand any issue is by examining the facts and carefully threshing out all the controversies. In this case, there are several issues surrounding the War in Iraq, top of which is the conspiracy theory that this is all merely a guise of the United States to control the oil in Iraq. This segment will seek to provide a clearer view of the War in Iraq by first resolving the current controversies.
The attack on Iraq as a retaliation for the 9/11 attacks on America have been theorized by many as merely a guise of the United States to control the oil markets of the Middle East. In fact, even the previous military campaign in Iraq in the early 90s has been seen as nothing more than a play for oil in the volatile Middle East rather than a genuine effort to liberate Kuwait (Schuster 2005). This is bolstered by the military presence that the United States has had in the Middle East since the rise of the oil sheiks in the area. It would therefore not be difficult to claim that the attack on Iraq was nothing more than a shielded excuse to ensure stabilization of the oil markets.
Before one accepts this plausible theory, however, there are a few things that one has to consider with regard to the attacks on Iraq. The first thing that must be examined is the fact that Iraq was, at that time, not dominating the oil production market. Iraq was not the main player for oil in the Middle East during this time since it was controlled by its neighbor, Saudi Arabia (White 2006). The take-over of Iraq would, therefore, not totally ensure the stabilization of the oil industry since Iraq was not a major player since it was still recuperating from the first military campaign in Iraq during the early 90s.
Secondly, given the situation in the Middle East during that time, any military campaign in Iraq would actually lead to a de-stabilization of the oil industry. The damage that war causes would lead to a decline in the oil production of Iraq, thus bringing up the prices. Furthermore, any military take-over in the Middle East would cause a lot of political tension that would affect the oil producing countries in the region.
Therefore, the more acceptable theory is that the attack on Iraq was no shielded excuse but it was in direct retaliation for the 9/11 attacks on the United States of America. This leads to the next issue which concerns the justification of the Bush Administration for starting the War in Iraq.
Justifying the Attack:
With the recent data on the War in Iraq estimating the death count of American troops alone to be 2,815, while the civilian deaths resulting from the conflict are at over 100,000, this rising death toll that the war in Iraq has caused has made the United States reconsider its options and on deciding whether or not the War in Iraq is worth all of the lives that have been sacrificed and the dollars that have been spent in name of freedom. While there are those who oppose the war in Iraq, there is a positive side to this conflict and it is that this will help stop another 9/11 and help stop the worldwide spread of fanatic extremists.
One of the advantages that continuing the War in Iraq could lead to the creation of a model democracy in the Arab world and that such creation could possibly lead to other governments in the Middle East to follow suit. The reason for this is based on the lack of understanding that the governments in the Middle East have of the United States and of U.S. policies (Shuster 1). By continuing the war in Iraq, the United States has a chance of installing a democratic form of government that could greatly affect the general sentiments of the countries in the Middle East regarding America.
The most sensible argument for the invasion was not that Hussein was about to strike the United States or anyone else with a nuclear bomb. It was that containment could not be preserved indefinitely, that Hussein was repeatedly defying the international community and that his defiance appeared to both the Clinton and Bush administrations to be gradually succeeding. He was driving a wedge between the United States and Britain, on one side, which wanted to maintain sanctions and containment, and France, Russia, and China, on the other, which wanted to drop sanctions and normalize relations with him (Salvatore 1). The main concern of senior officials in both administrations was that, in the words of then-national security adviser Samuel “Sandy” Berger, containment was not “sustainable over the long run.” The pattern of the 1990s, “Iraqi defiance, followed by force mobilization on our part, followed by Iraqi capitulation,” had left “the international community vulnerable to manipulation by Saddam.” The longer the standoff continued, Berger warned in 1998, “the harder it will be to maintain” international support for containing Hussein. Nor did Clinton officials doubt what Hussein would do if and when containment collapsed. As Berger put it, “Saddam’s history of aggression, and his recent record of deception and defiance, leaves no doubt that he would resume his drive for regional domination if he had the chance.” Nor should we assume that, even if the United States and others had remained vigilant, Hussein could have been deterred from doing something to provoke a conflict. Tragic miscalculation was Hussein’s specialty, after all, as his invasions of Iran and Kuwait proved (Shuster 1).
Perhaps the strongest position why the War in Iraq should be continued is the evidence of the link between extremists and the Iraqi government (Hayes 1). While there is no evidence of many transactions or dealings between Iraq and Muslim extremists, it is clear that there was one. Internal Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) documents, which have records dating back to 1992, report that the former Iraqi regime regarded bin Laden as an Iraqi Intelligence asset. The former Iraqi regime provided safe haven and financial support to an Iraqi who has admitted to mixing the chemicals for the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. These documents also show that Saddam Hussein agreed to Osama bin Laden’s request to broadcast anti-Saudi propaganda on Iraqi state-run television. There is also evidence that shows that Saddam Hussein welcomed young al Qaeda members “with open arms” before the war, that they “entered Iraq in large numbers, setting up an organization to confront the occupation,” and that the regime “strictly and directly” controlled their activities. Time magazine, in one of its issues, reports that confidential documents from Zarqawi’s group, recovered in recent raids, indicate other jihadists had joined him in Baghdad before the Hussein regime fell.
All these reports show that indeed there is a link between the Iraqi regime and the Muslim extremists. 9/11 may have even been the product of such an alliance. What is clear therefore is that by toppling the Iraqi regime and continuing the conflict in Iraq all connections between the Muslim extremists and Iraq will be severed. This will effectively cripple the activities of the terrorists and keep not only America but also the world safe from terrorist attacks.
One of the advantages that continuing the War in Iraq could lead to the creation of a model democracy in the Arab world and that such creation could possibly lead to other governments in the Middle East to follow suit. The reason for this is based on the lack of understanding that the governments in the Middle East have of the United States and of U.S. policies (Shuster, 2005). By continuing the war in Iraq, the United States has a chance of installing a democratic form of government that could greatly affect the general sentiments of the countries in the Middle East regarding America.
Another potential benefit which the United States can derive by continuing the conflict in Iraq is in the long run containing the conflict in Iraq costs more in lives and dollars as opposed to continuing the war and resolving the conflict (Salvatore, 2003). This position maintains that the United States will eventually be involved in the conflict in Iraq and in the Middle East because of its current involvement in Afghanistan. It is therefore a cheaper alternative for the United States to continue the conflict in Iraq.
The final and perhaps most controversial reason behind the decision to continue the conflict in Iraq is because to continue the war in Iraq will protect the credibility of President Bush and the United States (White, 2006). This benefit is the most controversial because it may actual be the main reason why the United States is currently involved in Iraq. The main idea here is to discourage any nations from attacking the United States and from supporting any terrorist movements.
Now that the advantages of continuing the conflict in Iraq have been discussed, the disadvantages must also be examined to provide a better understanding of the conflict and of the risks involved.
The first reason why the United States should discontinue all activities in Iraq is contrary to the first advantage that was mentioned in that continued American involvement in the war in Iraq could possibly result in Anti-American sentiment could growing all over the world, creating new potential terrorist recruits (Shuster, 2005). Any further death and destruction caused in Iraq war is likely to be blamed on the United States and lead to growing resentment of United States policies.
Another negative effect of continued involvement in Iraq is because of the instability and destructiveness of the situation in Iraq post-Saddam (Shuster, 2005). The assumption that with the United States invasion of Iraq a democracy will soon follow is flawed because it fails to consider the diversity in the culture and the religious differences between the ethnic groups in the area (Salvatore, 2003). The existence of the independent Kurdish minority in northern Iraq, the ruling Sunni minority in Baghdad, and the Shi’ites in the South makes for a very volatile environment that could erupt in prolonged wars between these groups, as it is currently happening, and could escalate end affect the other countries in the Middle East who may invariably find themselves in such conflict.
These negative factors are the main reasons why the United States should already pull out from Iraq. As time has revealed, the supposed advantages that can be gained by getting involved in the conflict in Iraq have not yet materialized and actually seem as if they can never be attained. It would now seem from this point that the disadvantages clearly outweigh the advantages of continuing the war in Iraq. The next section will provide a discussion on what the best alternative may be for the United States regarding this issue.
As previously mentioned, the disadvantages, it would seem, far outweigh any possible advantages that the United States can gain by continuing this conflict in the Middle East. At this point it is best to mention that it is unnecessary for the United States to consider foregoing all of the advantages that it can gain in lieu of damage control by pulling out of Iraq. This section will now try to provide the optimal solution for the United States with regard to this issue.
As previously argued, the United States got involved in Iraq in the first place to presumably re-establish its credibility as world police. As the results of the continued stay in Iraq have shown, this is not happening (White, 2006). Instead more of the Middle East is incensed at the intervention of the United States in Iraq. The United States can still re-establish its credibility by pulling out of Iraq and letting the conflict resolve on its own.
The United States has arguably already lain down the framework for any democracy to begin by overthrowing the dictator. The recent sentencing of Saddam Hussein by the Iraqi courts shows that the Iraqis have taken an active role in determining themselves as a nation. The first step of any democracy is the removal of the oppressors, as with the United States when they fought for their independence. The next and most crucial step is to let the citizens of the nation decide if a democracy is indeed the best form of government for them. Democracy can never be shoved down anyone’s throat.
The exit of the United States from Iraq will not mean that the United States has failed because they already won when Saddam was successfully overthrown. The United States government must realize that its priorities are in America and not in other parts of the world. They have done enough already and it is time to send home the troops and use the war budget to helping the American economy and not using it instead to wage a costly war in the Middle East.
Trends in Military Spending:
The United States currently accounts for nearly fifty percent (50%) of the global military spending at fort-eight percent (48%). This figure has grown since 1998 but has increased dramatically since the 9/11 attacks in 2001. One of the main items on the military spending list of the United States is on ensuring the safety of American soldiers. In pursuit of this goal, the government has made sure that all American soldiers receive the best equipment and training possible. It is therefore the subject of this discourse that the increased military spending by the United States government is to ensure that American soldiers receive the best equipment possible because these soldiers are the greatest asset of the United States Military.
Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States has deployed its troops to various countries around the world to combat terrorism. Deployment in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan are hostile and dangerous places that pose a grave danger to the lives of all the soldiers stationed there. Given this situation, it is imperative upon the United States government to increase military spending in order to ensure the safety of the lives of these soldiers.
This increased spending has paid off. Command Sergeant Major William Gainey, has remarked that “(American) young men and women of all the services are better trained and have more combat experience than anyone in the last two generation.” This level of confidence is supported by the fact that over the past few years the United States Army has invested much of its budget in the acquisition of the best equipment available. There are currently 13,000 level 1 Up-Armored HMMWVS units from only 350 a few years ago and also 919,425 new sets of Interceptor Body Armor. This means that American soldiers are not only better trained and prepared for the battlefield situation but that they are also well equipped to deal with anything in the battle zone.
The improvements have not ended there as FCS Program Manager Maj. Gen. Charles Cartwright has announced that, “Within a year, FCS capabilities will begin to be integrated into the current force through our Evaluation Brigade Combat team. The EBCT will provide a structure that will allow us to test, validate and then deliver to our Soldiers new capabilities that are specifically designed to address 21st century threats.” Increased spending on unmanned ground and aerial vehicles has also been implemented, thus promising that fewer and fewer American lives will be placed in direct danger on the battlefield.
All of these developments reinforce the fact that the Army recognizes soldiers as the most valuable asset. As such, it must ensure that these soldiers receive the best training and equipment necessary. As the United States becomes more involved with acts to combat terrorism on a global scale, so will the involvement of American soldiers overseas. While much of the military spending has been geared towards the safety of American soldiers on foreign soil, the deployment of live troops on the battle field or their exposure to potentially fatal situations remains inevitable. There is still not enough funding to fully remove the life hazard that these American soldiers are faced with out there in the battle zones.
This large military spending by the United States has been argued by some as unnecessary and unproductive. It has been argued that this can be used to finance infrastructure projects in the United States or be diverted to healthcare. Yet, as the 9/11 attacks have shown, such an expense is necessary when the enemy is capable of attacking Americans in their own homes. The best answer against that threat is the United States military and the brave soldiers who defend the United States against these terrorists. As such, the safety of these men and women must be ensured by giving them the best training and equipment possible.
The challenge that remains for the United States Military lies not in avoiding conflict zones or situations, since history has time and again shown this to be inevitable, but ensuring that the American soldiers that are deployed to these areas have the best training and equipment necessary to not only resolve the conflict as fast as possible but also prevent the loss of American lives
It is clear therefore that given the various advantages and the disadvantages of continued stay in Iraq that the United States should try to remove all the American forces in that region. The only question that remains however is how this scenario will be played out given the new democratic majority that now controls senate and the House of Representatives. It is clear that the results of this recent election may result in new developments regarding this conflict. It is also obvious that the current President of the United States, George W. Bush, can no longer steamroll any new resolutions or bills past congress like he did in 2003 to gain congressional support for the invasion of Iraq.
The conflict in Iraq will largely be determined by the new developments that may occur in the United States congress. The only thing that the world can do right now is just watch, wait and hope that Congress makes the right decision this time around.
Casualties in Iraq
The Human Cost of Occupation
Edited by Michael Ewens :: Contact
American Military Casualties in Iraq
Since war began (3/19/03):
Since “Mission Accomplished” (5/1/03) (the list)
Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03):
Since Handover (6/29/04):
Since Election (1/31/05):
22000 – 100000
Latest Fatality November 9th, 2006
Page last updated 11/10/06 6:37 pm EDT
US Military Deaths by Month
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US Military Deaths – Afghanistan
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Sources: DoD, CentCom, MNF, and iCasualties.org
Daily DoD Casualty Release
“The Road Ahead: Lessons in Nation Building from Japan, Germany, and Afghanistan for Postwar Iraq” by Ray Salvatore Jennings May 2003 Peceworks No. 49 United States Institute of Peace retrieved on November 30, 2006 from, http://www.usip.org/pubs/peaceworks/pwks49.html
Shuster, D. (2005) “Road to war; How the Bush administration sold the Iraq War to American people”. MSNBC, Nov. 8, 2005 Retrieved on November 30, 2006 from, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9962149/
White, D. (2006) Iraq War Results & Statistics as of November 2, 2006 Liberal Politics: U.S. retrieved on November 7, 2006 from, http://usliberals.about.com/od/homelandsecurit1/a/IraqNumbers.htm