In Monday morning’s Wall Street Journal, an article was published by military historian and Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Max Boot. In his article, Mr. Boot passionately pleads for a sustained U.S. military presence of 20,000 or more troops in Iraq. To justify the continued presence, Mr. Boot suggests, “Having active bases in Iraq would allow us to project power and influence, counter the threat from both Iran and al Qaeda, and possibly even nudge the entire Middle East in a more pro-Western direction.” With all due respect to Mr. Boot, we disagree.
Where in the U.S. Constitution is the federal government authorized to do such things as “project power and influence” or to “nudge” another sovereign nation in any direction? As further justification of his plan, Mr. Boot alludes to the possibility of an imminent war between Iraq’s Kurdish and Arab populations should the U.S. military not be present to referee. The conflict between Kurds and Arabs in Kirkuk goes back at least to the 1970s when Saddam Hussein forcibly removed Kurds from their homes in the city to replace them with Arabs.
Mr. Boot maintains that without U.S. forces present, cities like Kirkuk would break out into ethnic conflict. But according to Iraq News, Kirkuk is the exception, not the rule. While the citizens of Kirkuk might want U.S. troops to remain, the majority of Iraq’s population wants them out of the country. The troubling situation in Kirkuk calls for U.N. peacekeepers, not U.S. combat troops. The U.N. should be allowed to use its money and military resources to stabilize the region, even though that may deny neocons, like Mr. Boot, an American base of operation in the Middle East. The United States has played the border guard in Korea for over 50 years with no sign of an easing in tensions. How long would Mr. Boot wish us to guard the borders of an autonomous Kurdistan in Iraq?
It seems Mr. Boot’s real objective is “power and influence.” His argument that U.S. troops in Iraq can “counter the threat from both Iran and al Qaeda” stretches the believable. Just exactly what type of threat does Iran pose to the U.S.? The more immediate threat Iran poses is to Israel and Europe. As American allies, they are entitled to our support, but does that support does not include the unending occupation of a nation in order to protect them. How long should America carry Europe’s foreign policy water? The Second World War has been over for generations. It’s time for Europe to man up. In regards to threats from al Qaeda emerging in Iraq, what will 20,000 troops do that 1,000 couldn’t? What could 1,000 troops do that a strong CIA field office backed up by drone aircraft couldn’t?
The final part of the sentence Mr. Boot uses to justify a sustained presence in Iraq is to “nudge the entire Middle East in a more pro-Western direction.” This would be funny if it weren’t so sad. America’s military is not an ambassadorial color guard. The U.S. military is a war-fighting machine, as it should be. Having 20,000 of America’s finest young men and women squatting in Iraq for eternity is a gross misuse of their time and our money. They will have no more success bringing the Kurds and the Arabs in Iraq together than nearly 30,000 troops have had in Korea. Meanwhile the clock continues to tick along the Mexican border where, in short order, it will become clear that we will require a force numbering many divisions.