5 Myths About ISIS and Iraq

And why putting U.S. troops on the ground is a huge mistake.

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Thousands of Americans were killed and trillions expended in Iraq over the last 11 years. Tragically, all of this was in vain since the situation is at its worst since Saddam Hussein was wrongfully deposed.  And one would think America would have learned its lesson.

But after President Obama’s pronouncement that more troops are headed back to Iraq, it’s abundantly clear that America prefers self-immolation.

Most shocking is how cavalierly the war hawks want to ship Americans to the Middle East, seemingly fine with the inevitable fact that many will return in body bags — if they return at all.

In a last-ditch effort to inject common sense into the debate, here’s a look at the truths, and myths, regarding America’s involvement in Iraq:

MYTH: ISIS will wreak havoc in America if we don’t kill them over there

That may not be the dumbest, most irrational statement in the world, but it’s in the top three. Granted, having a wide-open U.S border is an invitation not just for illegal immigrants and drug traffickers, but terrorists, and should be sealed immediately.

But seriously, what’s ISIS going to do? Hop on a plane with their weapons? Drive their 1970’s pickup trucks, bicycles and camels across the ocean?  Take the Baghdad-New York express train? Wake me up when they arrive.

Here’s a newsflash: They have their hands full in their own backyard fighting numerous other factions; coming to America isn’t a goal, nor an option. So let’s stop bloviating about our misguided it’s-all-about-us self-importance and focus on our real problems.

MYTH: ISIS forming an Islamic Caliphate is a threat to America and the world

First, refer to the above. Second, Caliphates (a religious Islamic state) go back almost 1,500 years; it isn’t new, so why such a big deal?  So they want to take over the world? Who doesn’t?  But is military action against anyone who says something dumb our new policy?

If we’re going to continue our involvement in the Middle East because we refuse to become energy independent, then the solution is to stop coming in on the wrong side of the fight.

Backing secular leaders like Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi (both killed at the hands of the U.S.) and embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad are the answer.  They did infinitely more keeping extreme fundamentalists in the toilet than we could ever dream of accomplishing. Drop all pretenses of “democratizing” the Middle East and figure out a way to reverse our mistakes, while installing strongmen in those countries. It’s not pretty, but it’s reality. And the only solution.

MYTH: The only boots on the ground we need are “advisors” to help friendly forces

Sound familiar?  It should. That’s the exact line that justified America’s initial involvement in Vietnam  (another conflict lost from the start because we never won the loyalty of the indigenous people and never defined victory).

Here’s the problem: It never ends with just advisors. Troops will be needed to protect the advisors. More troops will be needed to logistically supply the American security forces, along with soldiers to guard the re-supply convoys. Bases will need to be constructed. Of course, we’ll also need military administrative personnel to run everything.  Cha-ching! The Treasury will get drained and Americans will die, requiring political leaders to espouse righteous indignation and — you guessed it — bolster our forces with more troops.

It didn’t work in Vietnam, it hasn’t worked in Afghanistan (where the “friendly” Afghanis we trained keep shooting us), and it certainly didn’t work in Iraq. To think we can be successful now illustrates monumental stupidity. No more American blood should be spilled in Iraq. Period.

Speaking of success, what’s the objective?  How will “victory” be defined? This is the biggest problem of all. There is none, and we can’t. From Day One of the 2003 Iraq invasion, not once has victory been defined. Oh sure, there was lots of rhetorical fluff, and justifications galore (all based on fantasy) but nothing about what “winning” really was.

Was it to find weapons of mass destruction? Well, after 11 years, during most of which we had free rein throughout Iraq, we found none. Zilch.  Strike one.

Was it to root out and stop Iraq’s “collaboration” with al-Qaida? Contrary to the convenient but woefully inaccurate “they’re all the same” line, Hussein and bin Laden were sworn enemies. Turns out, unsurprisingly, that there was no collaboration at all. Why? Because Hussein crushed fundamentalists at every turn, never allowing them to breathe, let alone operate.  Strike two.

How about “democratizing” Iraq and the Middle East? The sheer idiocy of thinking that was/is possible is mindboggling, because: A) It will never happen. Accept it and move on. And B) If it did, the dominant Islamic religious faction would always win. In Iraq and Iran, it would be the Shia, who would then annihilate the Sunnis and join together to create a fanatical Shia super-state. Going out on a limb here, but that would not be in America’s best interest. Strike three; we’re out.

The U.S should pull out for the most basic reason: If you can’t even define victory, then, by definition, you can’t win anything but more contempt (if that’s possible) by those viewing you as a crusading occupier.

MYTH: The new coalition will be successful

What coalition? It’s all Western nations, none of which will commit to fighting, leaving the U.S. to do all the heavy lifting and incurring the Muslim world’s wrath yet again. Europe not helping — gee, how surprising.

Where is Jordan? Or the Arab world’s heaviest hitter, Saudi Arabia?  Nowhere to be found. Could it be that, because those nations are Sunni, they tacitly endorse ISIS, also Sunni, engaging their Shia enemies? (Note about Sunnis and Shiites: Northern Ireland notwithstanding, if Catholics and Protestants in the civilized world have a disagreement, they work it out or use the rule of law. Sunnis and Shias blow each other up just because they are different sects, each having death squads to execute people with non-Sunni or non-Shia names.)

If the key nations in the Middle East refuse to step up and deal with the extremists, why the hell are we? It’s not our fight.

MYTH: Obama lost the Iraq war that Bush had won

To believe that is beyond comprehension, a classic example of revisionist history. Iraq, for the aforementioned reasons, was never won; it fact, it was lost the day America invaded. Brutality and terrorism are commonplace, as is widespread corruption and gross incompetence within the government and security forces.  It was so bad after four years that a U.S. troop surge was needed just to keep things from massively exploding. But to what end? Should we have kept them there forever? Not only isn’t that a strategic policy, but it would never keep the peace. Pulling the troops out wasn’t what lost the war; going to war in the first place was.

Sending troops will solve nothing and only serve as a recruiting tool for disaffected fundamentalists around the world. And tactically, it’s a disaster. We have a finite number of soldiers; they don’t. In a war of attrition, even if we inflict a 50-to-1 kill ratio, they’ll eventually win because they have an infinite supply of fighters, and can stomach horrific losses. We can’t on either count.

Our ultimate trump card is that the thousands of warring factions throughout Iraq, Syria and the Middle East despise each other. America needs to play them against one other, arming the ones who, at the moment, don’t want to kill us, and using airstikes to eliminate extremist leadership.

Committing troops will only perpetuate the fool’s errand America has been on. And what a tragedy that would be.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. He can be reached at [email protected]