The US Military: Not Indispensible

There seems to be an unusual desire for the United States to head back into Iraq. Have we not learned our lesson from the first eight years of protracted conflict in that country?

While I am sympathetic to the plight of those suffering from the barbarity of ISIS, at the same time I can’t help but wonder if another intervention of the United States will plant the seeds of future chaos in a region of the world that’s volatile enough. 
In addition to the financial costs of a renewed conflict, one should always consider the human costs. The United States military has been at war in perpetuity since 2001. Many men and women have served multiple tours and as shown by the statistics of mental illness and the rate of suicide amongst veterans (an average of roughly 22 a day), they are clearly affected by the their time overseas. 
What I cannot wrap my head around is the view that the US military is indispensable. The knee jerk reaction seems to be that every time there is trouble somewhere in the world, that young Americans have to intervene at the behest of bureaucrats who only view them as pawns on a chessboard. Unfortunately this view is not isolated to policy-makers, but is also a view held by misled Americans who view the military as a panacea to the world’s ills, especially when those being persecuted happen to be Christian (as is the case in Iraq) and when there’s a false and ridiculous perception that if ISIS is unchecked, it will dominate the region. 

Even though the US military is an all-volunteer force, there’s no reason to expect it to fight wars without end. The reason the military exists is to protect the territorial integrity of the United States, its citizens, and to uphold the Constitution, not to engage in foreign adventurism or take sides in what is a civil war split along ethnic and religious lines that is a direct result of the last few decades of US intervention in Iraq. It has become clear that there can be a democracy there — if one correctly defines democracy for what it truly is: mob rule — and ISIS is just a competing mob that will be supplanted in due time by another mob with more considerable resources and power. 

George W. Bush ended up getting what he wished for, but it was nothing remotely resembling what all the idealistic think-tank staff around him claimed it would be and what’s happening in Iraq now — despite what talking heads say — was bound to happen no matter who was in office.

The United States military should not have to pay the price for that mistake and nor should men and women who have already seen enough of that country or in the case of classmates I graduated high school with, were only in grade school when the United States invaded in 2003. I don’t want to see my community mourn men and women in their twenties with their whole lives ahead of them one more time, nor do I want to see my community mourn those who took their own lives because of the dictates of some bureaucrat who doesn’t know them as individuals, but as faceless numbers in combat fatigues.

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Photograph: “War and Peace” by Jayel Aheram. CC-BY 2006.

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