Veterans of the War in Iraq are beginning to understand how veterans of Vietnam felt when they watched the fall of the U.S. embassy in Saigon.
But no soldier from either war should feel badly. Our military is asked to do one thing -- execute the national policy of the United States as determined by the president and Congress. If that policy is flawed, it is not the fault of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. They have fought magnificently, with great skill, determination and bravery. And, in fact, they accomplished the military missions they were given.
But the United States hasn't figured out how to properly end a war since World War II. Every war we've fought since then has ended on an indecisive note.
In part, we're a victim of our own success. Our military has gotten so good that any enemy we've engaged in the last half century has had no choice but to "go guerrilla." Nobody wants to take us on in a stand-up fight. But what is now called "asymmetrical" warfare is the hardest type to fight and the most difficult to resolve clearly.
Following the "surge" in Iraq, which suppressed, but did not destroy what had become our enemies there (we started the war with one enemy and wound up with a dozen others by the time we pulled out), our troops were tasked with training the Iraqi army. They did a good job doing that.
But the trick to having an effective military force is to constantly train (please note that, Congress) and after the al-Malaki government, which we set up and recognized, told us to leave that country, the training of the Iraqi Army for all practical purposes came to an end. Funds to keep that army on edge were poured into the myriad of ratholes of corruption that seem endemic to that part of the world.
Which explains why the ISIS rebels are rolling over that army. Iraq has devolved into a chaotic tribal/religious war, and no matter what we do, it won't be the right decision. We can prop up a corrupt government, slowly pouring in first advisors, then more and more bombing missions, then troops to protect the advisors and aircraft, and then we're right back into the full mess with another army in Iraq (it's the process we used in Vietnam). We can let Iran pour its troops into the country. We can wait until ISIS wins, then go back in and try and do it right the next time (assuming we have any better idea how to solve the political/religious problems there than we did before). We can wait until the country is virtually destroyed by civil war and sit and watch while hundreds of thousands (more) of the country's civilians are killed or forced to become the world's lowest class of people -- refugees. Then hope (probably forlorn) that whoever wins is too tied up trying to put things back together that they don't have time for anything else.
Face it, this is a mess with no good solution in sight. But until we develop the political skill and understanding to bring the issues of that troubled part of the world to a peaceful resolution, we can pour all the troops in the world back into that litter box over there and it won't make any difference in the long run.
-- Kelly Everitt