What have we learned from the Iraq War?

Posted in Foreign Affairs, War by Alex L. on February 4, 2012

The news stories are sounding awfully familiar. Nuclear weapons inspectors return home from the Middle East frustrated by their uncooperative hosts. The U.S. threatens military action. Television and radio channels across the world beat the battle drums. Public opinion rises in favor of war.

It seems like the prelude to the Iraq War is now repeating itself with Iran. The bulk of American armies quartered in Iraq flew back home in December. They were met in the United States quietly and with respect for their hard-fought victories. But the nation also remained silent about what the Iraq War has meant for the future of American foreign and domestic policy. There has been no real dialogue about this, and that is worrisome.

Chart of public opinion in the U.S. toward taking military action against Iran

Source: NBC News/WSJ Polls via PollingReport.com

America buried thousands of its soldiers in the Middle East, and Iraq lost hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians because of the conflict. The Iraq War cost the American taxpayer nearly 2 trillion dollars. This money could have been used to help solve the healthcare problems in America or even just eliminate our chronic budget deficits.

But the public seems willing to sacrifice more blood and treasure in Iran without even discussing the cost. Saddled by a monstrous amount of debt, can our nation even afford another such war?

The president, who may have to take a hard line against Iran as a diplomatic tactic, can’t initiate a national dialogue about the feasibility of war in Iran. That’s the job of Congress, the media, and the public–before the decision is made for us. And the war in Iraq is an excellent reference point for such a debate.