One of the most amazing things about U.S. foreign policy is how so many American remain mired in the interventionist paradigm. Case in point: the Middle East. No matter how much a failure U.S. interventionism has been in that part of the world, people simply cannot bring themselves to break out of the interventionist box. They remain convinced that the United States has no choice but to remain mired in the ongoing failure, death, and destruction in that part of the world. And they keep hoping that maybe — just maybe — it will all work out over the long term.
Thus, it is very refreshing to me whenever I find others who recognize that there is really just one right course of action for the United States to take: pull out all troops and bring them home. That’s the message of an excellent op-ed in the Boston Globe today by Jeffrey D. Sachs, who teaches at Columbia University and who will be one of the speakers at FFF’s upcoming June 3 conference “The National Security State and JFK.”
The title of Sachs’s article says it all, clearly, succinctly, and directly: “U.S. Military Should Get Out of the Middle East.” That is the only realistic, practical, and moral course of action, especially have several decades of failure, death, and destruction. I highly recommend that everyone read Sachs’s article and share it with friends.
Why can’t some people see a full pull-out from the Middle East is the only right course of action for the United States to take? Why can’t they finally bring themselves to break out of the interventionist box? Why can’t they see that no matter what the Pentagon and the CIA do in the Middle East, it’s only going to make the situation worse?
Consider the fact that the U.S. military and the CIA, two of the principal components of the national-security establishment, have been intervening directly in the Middle East for more than half-a-century. Everyone knows how those 50 plus years of intervention have turned out — failure, death, destruction, taxes, debt, and loss of liberty and privacy for the American people.
Why would any rational person think another 10-50 years of more intervention are going to produce different results?
In 1953, U.S. officials engineered a coup that ousted the democratically elected prime minister of Iran and installed, trained, and supported a tyrant successor. How has that worked out?
During the 1980s, U.S. officials partnered with and supported Saddam Hussein in his war on Iran. How has that worked out?
During the 1990s, U.S. officials turned on their partner Saddam and initiated an undeclared war against Iraq, during which they intentionally bombed Iraq’s water and sewage facilities, knowing full well that that would help spread infectious illnesses among the populace. How did that work out?
The Persian Gulf War was followed by 11 years of brutal sanctions, which, among other things, prevented Iraq’s water and sewage treatment plants from being repaired. When the official spokesman for the United States, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright, told Sixty Minutes that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were “worth it,” she was expressing the sentiment of other U.S. officials. How did that work out?
In 2003, the U.S invaded Iraq in order to achieve the regime change that the sanctions had failed to achieve after 11 years of death and destruction, especially among Iraqi children. The U.S. invasion and occupation threw the entire country into even more chaos and disorder. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Iraqis encountered a perpetual hellhole of death, injury, maiming, torture, abuse, incarceration, destruction, or exile. How has that worked out?
Look at Mosul, Iraq, today. Has anyone forgotten the prominent role that city played in the death and destruction resulting from the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq? Notwithstanding the glorious appellation “Operation Iraqi Freedom” that characterized the U.S. occupation, today Mosul is nothing more than a hellhole of death and destruction, where multitudes are dying on a daily basis, some at the hands of U.S. officials who continue to drop bombs and fire missiles into the city in the process of destroying ISIS, the entity that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq brought into existence. How is that working out?
After 241 U.S. soldiers were killed in the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon, President Reagan did not call for negotiations, peace treaties, or international discussions to settle the issue. Recognizing that most people just don’t like a foreign occupier, Reagan ordered a withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Lebanon. He didn’t let concern over that people might call him “soft on terrorism” to dissuade him from doing the right thing.
Did that stop the fighting in Lebanon? Of course not! But it did mean that the United States was no longer throwing fuel onto the fire—and that the U.S. government was no longer sacrificing soldiers for nothing, as it did in the Vietnam War.
And that is also what the U.S. government is doing in the Middle East. After itself starting some of the fires, the Pentagon and the CIA are doing pouring fuel on the many ever-expanding fires — from Iraq, to Libya, to Syria, to Yemen, to Somalia.
How is all that working out?
It has all failed. Even worse, with each new intervention the situation has only gotten worse. That’s what happens when one pours fuel on a fire — the fire gets worse.
Not only have they started the fires and poured fuel on the fires in the Middle East, they have then used those fires as the excuse to suspend civil liberties here at home, purportedly to keep us “safe” from the terrorist blowback their fires produce over there. There is also the impending bankruptcy of the U.S. government owing to out of control federal spending and debt to consider.
What will it take for the American people to finally abandon a losing policy? Jeffrey Sachs is right: Bring the troops home now. There is no other practical or moral solution.