Who lost Iraq? Pose that question to a liberal Democrat, and the dastardly Bush gets the blame. Ask a conservative Republican, and feckless Obama is the culprit. According to Bernie Goldberg, both sides are right: President Bush was ill-advised to go in, and President Obama was naive to get out with such nonchalance.
But let's call a brief timeout in the blame game and ask another question that matters just as much. 4,486 U.S. military personnel were killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2012, more than 30,000 were wounded. Now that Iraq seems on its way to becoming a state ruled by bloodthirsty terrorists, was their sacrifice worth it?
The brave men and women who served in Iraq have every reason to be proud. They defeated the forces of Saddam Hussein, a brutal dictator who oppressed millions, used poison gas on his own people, tortured political enemies, and paid blood money to the families of suicide bombers. The depth of his depravity was illustrated when he bribed United Nations officials and skimmed billions of dollars from the UN's humanitarian Oil-for-Food Program. So, yes, ousting Saddam Hussein was a noble thing to do.
True, the subsequent occupation was mismanaged and, in retrospect, perhaps it was a fool's errand to even think we could pacify centuries-old Sunni-Shiite hatred. And yes, President Obama's decision to exit, stage left, seemed motivated more by politics than by genuine concern for Iraq's future. But while our politicians and their advisers fumbled and dithered, our troops performed magnificently. The anti-American cabal can point to Abu Ghraib and a few other embarrassments, but that was a minuscule part of the much larger picture forged by the brave men and women in the U.S. military.
That should surprise absolutely no one, it's in keeping with how our troops have always performed. Soon after liberating Europe from the Nazis and rescuing Asia from the death grip of imperial Japan, U.S. forces prevented a total communist takeover of Korea. The bad guys got the North, now a hellhole of backwardness and fear and repression. The good guys, the guys we fought with, got the South, a model of modernity.
Then came Vietnam, where our armed forces battled communist totalitarians. When we left Southeast Asia at the behest of the left, and when Congress cut off all funding, the communists murdered millions. Some 900,000 South Vietnamese were sent to "re-education" camps after the North Vietnamese violated the peace treaty and overran the South. Meanwhile, communists in neighboring Cambodia slaughtered two million human beings after the USA withdrew from the region. We made plenty of mistakes in Vietnam, but no one should question whether we were fighting the good fight.
And now there's Afghanistan. President Obama wants out, so out we will get. But what will be left behind in our wake? Savage terrorists who will repress women and attempt to impose brutal Sharia Law? People say we can't stay in Afghanistan forever. Advise them to ask the folks in South Korea whether our 30,000 military personnel should pack their duffle bags and go home.
President Obama should have left a similar residual force in Iraq. Even he probably knows that by now, although the man is not big on admitting error. Now there is a bloodbath of beheadings and executions, a direct consequence of our premature departure.
Again, blame the politicians and the pundits all you want. But don't ever blame the American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who fought with honor and nobility. It's just what they do.