Returning to Iraq: Who Are We Fighting and Who Are We Arming?

Americans are war weary. The nation has been at war since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. We have been involved in Afghanistan, Iraq, and even Libya during its uprising. For the past couple of years, we have even been “secretly” shipping arms to rebels in Syria.

As we finally see our troops coming home from Afghanistan, in what has become this nation’s longest war, we are now talking about Iraq once again. This time it isn’t the nation, but a group that calls itself the Islamic State (also known as ISIL or ISIS). It comes from Syria and has crossed the border into Iraq taking one town after another in sweeping fashion.

A couple of months ago, the United States began bombing ISIL targets on the ground. First, it was to protect a minority group of Yazidis, who are ancient Mesopotamian. Then, we began to assist the Kurds as they fought for their own survival in northern Iraq.

But where has the rest of the Iraqi army been? The one that we spent billions training and equipping?

As ISIL swept through the country, they fled… some even without firing a shot. To make it even worse, they left behind the equipment that we left for them, which includes tanks that ISIL now has and that we now bomb.

President Obama has spoken with congressional leaders and has asked for approval before committing to a larger international mission that he laid out in a speech to the American people on Wednesday night. But how much support is there from Congress or the American people?

Though we are only a couple of months away from an election, and Congress would like to duck this issue altogether, the stakes are too high and it is likely that they will indeed support such intervention. The real question is whether the American people support such action.

We don’t tend to have the greatest luck in picking sides in the region. We have supported authoritarian dictatorships in the region, such as in Egypt and Iraq. In Iraq, we had to overthrow this regime; whereas the people of Egypt overthrew theirs.

We support the Saudis and the regime in Bahrain though both are authoritarian. We even overthrew the democratically-elected government of Iran in the 1950s to install the Shah, who would be overthrown in 1979 by the Iranian people.

When civil war broke out in Syria, we didn’t want to get involved. We didn’t know who the rebels were that we’d be helping. There were too many factions. It was only after chemical weapons were used that the world began to take an active role.

In the U.S., there were calls from members of Congress (Senator John McCain being one of them) to arm the Syrian rebels in their fight against the Assad regime. Interestingly enough, ISIL comes from some of those Syrian factions that we were originally so worried about arming, and they still got American weapons when they invaded a destabilized Iraq.

Now, we find ourselves again getting involved.

The president claims no combat troops will be on the ground, just advisers. However, that is exactly how our involvement in Vietnam started.

Arming Syrian rebels has also come back into the discussion. But exactly who would we be arming? Even Senator McCain believes we need to help Syrian President Assad deal with ISIL. This sounds like a complete 180 from just last year.

The president claims no combat troops will be on the ground, just advisers. However, that is exactly how our involvement in Vietnam started.
Maybe we should just admit that in Syria, we shouldn’t support either side.

The members of ISIL aren’t just coming from Iraq and Syria or even other nations in the region. They are also coming from western Europe, the United States, etc. They are our own citizens with passports that can come and go as they choose, making it easier for them to be trained to bring the organization into our own nations.

President Obama mentioned a broad international coalition including Arab nations that also see ISIL as a threat to the region. It is important to have those nations in this coalition.

Secretary of State John Kerry is currently in the region trying to shore up more support from those nations and work out plans. This includes Iraq and ensuring that the Sunni minority of that country has a role in the government.

A hundred years ago, World War I broke out across Europe. Interesting how we are still putting out the fires from that great conflict here in 2014.

ISIL is a threat to the U.S., and they have already made sure that we get the message loud and clear. Our involvement is crucial.

However, we must start realizing that we cannot arm people in other countries, especially in this particular region. Somehow we always seem to spend billions of dollars to destroy it all in the end.

We have spent trillions of dollars in this region to evoke “change” and we continue to do so. We have seen what a well-organized terrorist group can do if we don’t take the necessary precautions. We don’t need to relive that day again.

The nation is poised to enter the fray with a specific goal. It will not be quick, and it will not be cheap, and it’s doubtful that in the end we will learn from our past mistakes.