Harry Reid (D), Nevada, Senate Majority Leader said last week the U.S. should not send troops to deal with the new Iraq crisis because it’s just a civil war and the U.S. should stay out of other people’s civil wars. Not much to disagree with there and there’s no public support for sending more troops into Iraq, anyway.
President Obama, however, has already ordered 300 “infrastructure support” or “advisors” in. That’s in addition to a couple hundred more to protect our embassy. These are probably prudent moves and probably not enough if our embassy is in danger. He is worried about “mission creep,” however.
The fact is, Sen. Reid’s pronouncement is much easier to declare than achieve. Our troops are already in 150 countries across the globe and are there for a number of reasons, not the least to deal in one way or another with civil or warring factions in other countries. These are legacies of our involvement in civil wars past and present.
Korea was a civil war between the north and south, between communists and non-communists (it took years to get to a democratic form of government in Korea). Vietnam was another. Before that there was the Russian Civil War (1917), the Cuban early and later uprisings, Spanish-American war (Cuba and the Philippines), Panama, Grenada, then, later it was the Afghanistan civil war (with the Soviets) and the Yugoslavia uprisings (Kosovo from Serbia), Haiti, Libya and Tunisia, and, of course, Iraq and Afghanistan. President Bill Clinton regretted we didn’t get involved to stop the Rawanda massacres. The point is that these occurred under both Democrat and Republican presidents and congresses. It seems to go with the territory of being a world leader.
In fact, such intrusions, exclusive of Iraq and Afghanistan, are on-going. We recently sent 300 troops to Uganda and that’s on top of 100 or more sent into the Congo both to deal with uprisings there. Countries we’re in include South Sudan (45), Somalia (24), Nigeria (20 plus), Niger (100), Mali (10), Dijbouti (4,000), Chad (80), and bases in Burkinka Faso and Ethiopia. All in all we have 160,000 troops abroad in all sorts of capacities. Most want us there even if it’s just for the money they get (Krygstan). Most of Europe wants us there (we have 67,000) because then they don’t have to spend their own money on defense.
It’s not all bad and it’s not all good. We are protecting our own turf. It’s no coincidence that wars, other than our own, have not reached our shores. So, we get involved to protect ourselves, to keep the fights over there, to punish others, to protect world oil supplies for us and others, to keep our influence, and for humanitarian reasons. We did intervene in two European wars that some said were only Europe’s problems.
As I said, sometimes we do good and sometimes bad. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes wrong. Iraq we got wrong (although if they had had weapons of mass destruction what then?), achieved some goals and then, they and we blew that. The so-called good war (President Obama), Afghanistan, we might have been right because the Taliban were shielding Al Queda. However, if we aren’t able to keep it, will it be right or wrong? Should we protect Israel from its neighbors? Should we keep Iran from getting the bomb? Should we protect anyone but ourselves?
Saying we should just back out to our own shores is easy, but doing it is more difficult than getting into messes abroad.
There are consequences, long and short term, for whether we get in, stay out, or stay in. None are 100 percent predictable, and all have unintended consequences. Each situation has its own set of circumstances which have different appearances depending upon different perspectives.
Rhetoric just doesn’t cut it.
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