Behind the curve again, but I really wanted to see how the reactions of the media, Congress, and the public would be to President Bush’s speech in which he laid out plans for Iraq before I threw in my 2 1/2 cents worth in a long post…

Last week, President Bush announced that there would some 22,000 troops sent to Iraq to stabilize the region and to assist the Iraqis in securing their country. Is this too little, too late? Many people out there think that this could be the case, and that opinion includes all the political spectrum – left, right, conservative, liberal, and everyone in between. One poll stated 60% opposed, and another stated 70%.

In many respects, it depends on how the troops are deployed, and what “Rules of Engagement” (ROE) they would have to follow. Considering that the previous ROE handicapped our troops in protecting themselves and restricted what they could do, the new ROE is a welcome relief. But our troops will still need to watch their backs as the media & arm-chair generals second guess every move that they make & every round they fire while ducking sniper fire & IED explosions.

I’ve stated in previous posts that I am not thrilled that we are in Iraq, but in some respects, it was inevitable that the United States would be drawn into the Middle East in some sort of prolonged military action. What!?! No, I’m not kidding, but very serious. Lest you forget, the United States is extremely concerned about the stability of the Middle East. Besides the new terrorist concerns, there is still the energy sources of the Middle East that the economy of the United States (and the majority of the world) depend upon. Of course, this is only one person’s opinion, but bear with me.

Those of you may remember that in 1979, the Shah of Iran fled the country as Islamic revolutionists established the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Shah ended up in the United States for treatment of cancer, and the newly established Iranian government demanded that the Shah be extradited to Iran for trial and execution. This led to the takeover of the United States Embassy in Tehran as the United States refused to hand over the dying Shah. A rescue operation was mounted By President Carter, but it failed miserably. On January 20, 1981, twenty minutes after the newly elected President Reagan’s inaugural address, the hostages were released after having spent 444 days in captivity.

Iran was having other problems besides worrying about what President Reagan would do about the hostages. Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, seeing the political turmoil in Iran and sensing weakness, attacked Iran in September 1980. The land war was extremely brutal, with massive casualties being incurred on both sides due to chemical weaponry and human wave attacks. Also, Iran and Iraq both attacked shipping in the Persian Gulf, and the United States conducted military operations in order to protect the shipping of neutral nations as well as that of United States concerns. The war between Iran & Iraq lasted 8 years, and set up the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq 2 years later.

The Iran/Iraq war devastated the economies of both countries. According to Wikipedia, Kuwait heavily financed Iraq in the war with Iran in the amount of a $14 Billion loan. Iraq was not in a position to repay the loan, and Kuwait was not going to forgive the debt. Wikipedia further states:

Iraq’s civil and military debt was higher than its state budget. On the other hand, with its vast oil reserves, Kuwait was regarded as one of the world’s wealthiest and most economically stable countries. The Iraqi government clearly realized that by occupying Kuwait, it will be able to solve its financial problems. Due to its relatively small size, Kuwait was seen by Baghdad as an easy target.

Thus, Iraq invaded Kuwait as a move calculated to erase its debts, and secure the revenue generated by the Kuwaiti oil fields. Of another concern would be an expanded access to the Persian Gulf through port facilities.

Saudi Arabia was understandably nervous with potentially hostile Iraqi troops on its border. Armed with a United Nations resolution and the Saudi government’s blessing, a United States led coalition began deploying to Saudi Arabia to defend Saudi Arabia from invasion and to drive Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

It was during this time that Osama bin Laden, a seasoned leader of Mujahideen from Afghanistan, offered the services of his organization to the Saudi government to repel any invasion by the Iraqi forces. He was turned down as the Saudi government went with the United States led coalition. Wikipedia goes on to say:

Bin Laden considered this a treacherous deed. He believed that the presence of foreign troops in the “land of the two mosques” (Mecca and Medina) profaned sacred soil. After speaking publicly against the Saudi government for harboring American troops he was quickly forced into exile to Sudan and on April 9, 1994 his Saudi citizenship was revoked….Shortly afterwards, the movement that came to be known as al-Qaeda was formed.

So now at the end of the first Gulf War, we have three known enemies in the Middle East: Iraq (for driving them from Kuwait), Iran (for military activities during the Iran/Iraq War), and al-Qaeda (for defiling the Islamic homeland). A dangerous mix, indeed…

During the time leading up to September 11, 2001, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein thumbed his nose at the world by violating numerous United Nation resolutions, genocide via chemical weapons, etc… In 1993, the first World Trade Center bombing occurred, which was financed by al-Qaeda. Iran, I believe, was quietly funding terrorist organizations like Hamas to provide distraction from it’s own agenda of developing nuclear weapons and this missiles to deliver them. Various terrorist attacks such as those on the USS Cole in 2000, nightclubs frequented by US servicemen, and bombings of US embassies around the world were largely ignored even though there were casualties. That was about to change…

September 11, 2001 changed everything about how the Middle East was viewed, especially when linked to terrorism. No longer could these violent acts be swept under the rug as before – the attacks had come to our neighborhood. The War on Terrorism had begun.

Fast forward to today’s events: The United States is in Iraq, having replaced Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship with a fledgling democracy. Iran is saber-rattling with the threat of developing nuclear weapons and has it’s eye on Iraq. And al-Qaeda is in the background, quietly planning the next attack.

So here’s the bottom line:

The United States must succeed in Iraq, i.e., to leave Iraq with a fully functioning government able to defend itself from enemies within and outside of its borders. There are several reasons why the above must be achieved:

1) National and international pride and credibility. There, I’ve said it. For a superpower to enter into an engagement such as this and not complete the job destroys our credibility with the international community. Being defeated in an effort that we claim to be at the core of our country, i.e., the pursuit of freedom and self-determination, will render the US as a 2nd rate country with a cap pistol.

2) If the US does not succeed, this country will be perceived by our enemies as being weak. That will embolden terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda to redouble their efforts to disrupt the activities of this country (private and governmental) through increasing attacks on US assets in both international and domestic locations.

3) Iran chomping at the bit to take over Iraq (or at least make it a puppet government) is a frightening prospect. If they succeed, this action would further destabilize the Middle East. It’s bad enough that Iran has nuclear ambitions and an apocalyptic leader stating that another country/people should be wiped off the face of the earth. But could you image the territory and natural resources that Iran would then control? If you thought gas prices were bad last summer, get ready for some severe pricing increases both here and abroad. And the rest of the Middle Eastern countries would be forced to cater to Iran’s will.

4) We’ve already seen Sunni and Shiite violence under these conditions, but could you imagine if there were absolutely no authority, no law, no government for keeping the peace? Civilian casualty counts would skyrocket as religious fighting would increase by leaps and bounds. The killing fields of Cambodia come to mind…

5) Terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda could find homes in which to establish training camps. This would allow them to plan, plot, and train in relative peace & security to inflict casualties upon the rest of the world.

Yes, it is in all of our interests that the United States succeed in Iraq. This will mean keeping our troops there for some time, and whether or not an extra 20,000 or so will make a difference will depend on how they are deployed and the ROE that they can operate under. The United States cannot fail, not only for our sake, but for the sake of millions of people in the Middle East and the rest of the world. The real question in much of this is:

Will our politicians, our duly elected leaders, grow backbones, have the intestinal fortitude, and suck it up, i.e., put aside political agendas, to do the right thing for the United States and the rest of the world?