The results of our nation’s actions over the past few decades have resulted in benefits for our traditional competitors and have caused problems for some of our allies. Younger readers may not be as aware of this. Older readers may not have considered or noticed.
The 9/11 attacks set in motion a chain of events in the Middle East. These events where fueled by actions of the United States. We made some big mistakes. Those mistakes are now glaringly evident.
It was determined (or at least claimed) by US intelligence the attacks came from Al Quaeda based in Afghanistan. The US sent special ops teams to the nation backed by Air Force bombers to assist the Northern Alliance. They were a group of warlords who had fought against the Soviet occupation of the nation. They marched on Kabul and overthrew the Taliban. Bin Laden escaped over Khyber Pass into the unadministered territories of Pakistan.
It was felt the new government would not be able to maintain control so we sent combat troops. Troop levels maxed out at over 100,000 (not counting contractors) in 2010. Since then the numbers have gradually been reduced, The current total is around 5,000.
It was, in 2003, determined the US must overthrow Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Why our leaders would decide to engage another front during this critical time in Afghanistan is puzzling. Maybe they thought they were talking to god.
This was to be attributed to weapons of mass destruction. We knew Saddam had weapons of mass destruction because he had used sarin gas as early as 1983 in the Iran-Iraq War (Foreign Policy) against the Ayatollah Khomeini‘s forces. The CIA and president Reagan were aware of this but helped Saddam anyway. After the war he used gas on the Kurdish minority.
When we got to Iraq, the press reports, we did not find the weapons. This may be because we did not find the expected gas. Saddam could have sold his remaining stockpile to someone else, possibly Assad in Syria. It may be because we did find the gas but the “property of US” stamp (or France or CCCP) on the containers would have been a political embarrassment. More of an embarrassment than saying our intelligence was bad. Troop levels in Iraq maxed out at 170,000 (not counting contractors) in 2007.
The point is, sending troops to Afghanistan wasn’t a great idea but may have been necessary to cement the success of the Northern Alliance and the new government. Sending troops to Iraq was a horrible idea. Ulterior motives and third party deceit may have been involved.
Sending troops to Iraq took manpower and money away from the mission in Afghanistan. If, instead of deploying to Iraq, the US would have added half of that number to the Afghan deployment, things would have gone much more smoothly. There would have been fewer troops overall and the cost would have been significantly lower. In Afghanistan there is no guarantee the Taliban will not regain control.
The result of success in Iraq would mean the Shia majority would end up ruling the nation. This creates the possibility of Iraq becoming a satellite nation of Iran. The Ayatollah is basically the Shia Pope. So far this seems to have been averted. Muqtada al Sadr, an influential Shia Iraqi warlord goes to visit the Ayatollah whenever he feels threatened.
There is no doubt Saddam Husein was an evil dictator and deserved to be removed, even executed (which was carried out rather quickly). There are evil dictators all over the world. The US cannot afford to go after every one of them. We don’t have the manpower or money. Military force is not usually the best way to remove dictators. Understand I believe removing Hussein was a bad idea because of the timing, cost effectiveness and resultant political turmoil we created. Morally we could say we were right, but at what cost? If the overall balance is negative, we screwed up. Intervention in Iraq could have waited until Afghanistan was completely secure. Hopefully the Iraqi people will enjoy peace, prosperity and freedom well into the future.
Our actions also contributed to the formation of ISIS, consisting of Sunni religious fanatics followed by disaffected Iraqis formerly in the military. The Sunni generals got fired by the new Shia government. ISIS has been instrumental in preventing the overthrow of King Assad in Syria by the US backed rebel forces. ISIS operations in Northern Iraq and Syria added a third element to the conflict. It may seem odd that Hezbollah, a Iranian backed Shia group, and the Sunni ISIS, have helped Assad (backed by the Russian Federation) stay in control. Does that seem strange? Whomever is playing god works in mysterious ways. Because ISIS leaders and Hezbollah leaders talk to god, as does the Ayatollah.
Saudi Arabia has long been a staunch US ally but there has been some stress on the relationship. The US invasion of Iraq is one of them. Iraq was a Sunni ruled nation between them and their main opponent in the region, Shia Iran. For reasons stated above removing Saddam didn’t make them feel more secure.
The Saudi royal family has endured some bad press as of late. A princess was given a suspended sentence for ordering her bodyguard to beat someone up (al Jazeera). Jamal Kashoggi, a Saudi dissident author, was assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Turkey. The CIA has attributed this to the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman. However, 17 members of Saudi government have been sanctioned by the US for their involvement, 5 have been sentenced to death (Washington Post) by Saudi courts and 2 trusted advisors have been fired. It may be the killing was done to put a smear on the King’s name by competitors for the throne. Should we trust the CIA or the Saudi government? Does the CIA think they are talking to god too?
The net result is Sunnis; ISIS, the Taliban and the Saudi royal family aren’t looking so great. It’s as if there’s some sort of otherworldly force turning opinion against our allies. Meanwhile Shia forces; Iran, Yemeni rebels and Hezbollah have been making strategic gains in the region.