In search of monsters to destroy

Harrison Leonard

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Is this the job of the U.S. military? Courtesy of MCT

President Obama addressed the nation in a televised speech last Tuesday night, proudly declaring that the “American combat mission in Iraq has ended.”

Oh, really. A “transitional” team of 50,000 troops still remains deployed in Iraq in a “support” capacity. To give you an idea of how many servicemen and women that is, consider that Dodger Stadium seats 56,000 people. Approximately 100,000 other American contractors and civilians will stay behind to resume infrastructure development projects, supervise the political process, and preserve oil pipelines. Nearly 5,000 special operatives will carry on covert operations to engage the insurgency and assassinate terrorist targets. Our armed forces will continue the open-ended occupation of over a dozen permanent military bases scattered throughout the region. And many of the troops who most recently served in Iraq are not returning home, but are being redeployed to go fight in Afghanistan.

Does this sound like the “American combat mission in Iraq has ended” to you?

The great irony in all this is that Obama didn’t really “end the war.” His administration merely facilitated a phased withdrawal that was devised and instituted by the Bush administration in 2008. So Barack Obama can’t even claim authentic authorship of the pullout, despite the fact that he is taking credit for the conclusion of the war.

No, despite the president’s best overtures, the war in Iraq is not over. How I wish it were. This war was misguided from the outset. We invaded a country that did not attack us. We never found weapons of mass destruction – save for the ones we gave Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. We fostered the growth of an insurgency that did not exist before we invaded Baghdad, and invited the growth of new al-Qaeda networks by virtue of our presence there. And, perhaps worst of all, we paid for the war on credit cards, and ceded our national sovereignty by going to war to enforce UN resolutions.

After nearly a decade of warfare, with little to show for it except a great deal of precious blood and treasure lost, Americans are beginning to rethink the merits of their foreign policy and wonder how it can be different.

The United States currently has upwards of 300,000 troops serving overseas, occupying around 700 military bases in about 150 countries across the globe. Some countries have put up with American military occupation for close to 60 or 70 years. And we spend nearly $1 trillion every year maintaining our overseas presence.

This is called empire. Republicans and Democrats built and maintain it together. It is morally hypocritical and paranoiacally insane.
Meddling in the affairs of other nations has produced far more harm than good for the United States. We put mujahideen resistance forces (possibly including Osama Bin Laden) on CIA payroll to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and provided military intelligence and weapons to help Saddam Hussein defeat Iran that same decade. In some ways, our government helped to create some of the radicals we are fighting today.

The U.S. trumpeted into the Middle East 60 years ago, and have been overthrowing leaders, bombing communities, building military bases, and policing internal conflicts ever since. And we wonder why they hate us and want to return the favor. There is a radical and committed element within Islam, dating back centuries, that is dedicated to the destruction of the West. There are also scores of Muslims worldwide that would leave us alone if we’d leave them alone.

George W. Bush was an easy scapegoat, but the Iraq War was merely the latest in a series of ill-advised foreign policy blunders that cross party lines and reach back for decades. Barack Obama campaigned on ending the war, but never promised to transform our foreign policy. Indeed, he has proved himself to be “more of the same.” We have no business threatening to use preemptive force against countries that have not harmed us, simply because we’ve decided we don’t like the way they operate. That we continue to do so reflects attitudes of macho-militarism and conquest, not peace.

These continued policies of foreign adventurism and nation building needlessly complicate international accord, and usually result in blowback that hurts us far more than we the people deserve. The U.S. can have a sufficiently powerful military force and strong national defense without policing the world.

President John Quincy Adams said America “goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy,” and warned that becoming embroiled in foreign conflicts would change “the fundamental maxims of (America’s) policy…from liberty to force. She might become the dictatress of the world…(America’s) glory is not dominion, but liberty.”

Are America’s leaders today listening?