The U.S. arsenal had deterred Stalin and Mao Zedong, but apparently it could not deter such a monster as Saddam. A second 9/11 with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons was something we had to go to war to prevent.
So, with the indispensable support of a Democratic Senate including Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Edwards, John Kerry and Harry Reid, we went to war against Iraq.
After eight years, what are the costs and what are the rewards?
Some 4,400 U.S. dead, 35,000 wounded, a trillion dollars sunk.
Iraqi dead, soldiers and civilians alike in the near-decade of war, must number 100,000, with half a million widows and orphans. Iraqi wounded surely number in the hundreds of thousands.
The Christian community has been destroyed. Half the Iraqi Christians have been uprooted. Half of these have fled into exile, though Christians have lived in Iraq almost since the time of Christ.
Shia Iran, that other axis-of-evil nation, cheered on the U.S. invasion, the dethroning of the Sunni despot Saddam and the rise to power of the repressed Shia. Tehran, against whom Saddam had waged a long war, is now America’s rival for influence over Baghdad.
In the other theater, after 10 years in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we have virtually decapitated the al-Qaida leadership.
Downside: It has cost us almost 2,000 dead and thousands more wounded. And as we have decimated al-Qaida, the collateral damage we have done has recruited thousands of fighters for a Taliban that now awaits America’s impending departure to reassume power and do to Afghan collaborators of America what the North Vietnamese and Pol Pot did to collaborators in 1975.
And before we cauterized and cut it out in the subcontinent, the al-Qaida cancer metastasized. It is now in the Arabian Peninsula, Somalia, the Maghreb and “liberated” Libya. And across the Arab and Muslim world, America has never been more detested and reviled.
Politically, early battlefield victories in Afghanistan and Iraq gave Bush’s GOP victories in 2002 and 2004. But the turning of the tide cost the party both houses of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008. For the first time, an opponent of an ongoing war, Barack Obama, won the presidency, and over an uber-hawk, John McCain.
Economically, the U.S. share of world gross domestic product has shrunk dramatically in a decade, while China’s share has soared.
We won World War II and the Cold War. We did not win the post-Cold War era now ending. Looking back on the decade since 9/11, one appreciates Edmund Burke’s summary judgment of that generation of British leaders who lost the North American colonies.
“A great empire and little minds go ill together.”
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