Editorial: Let's talk about Iraq


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The U.S. seems to be nearing the end of the mildly conflict-free and uneventful period between its withdrawal from Iraq and its inevitable return, a phase lasting — depending on when and how upcoming action is taken — only slightly longer than the time it took to complete the process of removing troops from the country. Despite the conflict in Crimea and the mystery behind the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, news of Edward Snowden whistleblowing and the completely expected yet somehow surprising reports that the NSA is monitoring everyone, the last three or so years have been uneventful in terms of large-scale, publicized U.S. military involvement.

Perhaps now would be an appropriate time — what little may be left — for a thoughtful nonpartisan discussion of possible actions and the consequences that could result. 

Discussing what to do — despite the actual complexity of the situation — seems to be the easier task. While The Daily Iowan did interview informed UI sources in Tuesday’s paper, it seems that everyone, including your dad, your family’s dentist, and the teenager bagging your groceries has an opinion about what should be done. Go in. Don’t go in. Send drones. Don’t send drones. Black or white.

According to a poll conducted and published by the New York Times, a slight majority of Americans approve of sending military advisers into Iraq. Another slight majority approves of sending unmanned drones to combat militants. Interestingly enough, of the phone-interviewed adults, the pattern of close splits holds through almost all of the questions — with the exception of sending troops on foot being heavily opposed. Perhaps even more interesting, more than two-thirds of adults feel that President Barack Obama “hasn’t clearly explained” the U.S. goals in Iraq. Without a proper, clear explanation from political leaders, how can we productively discuss the plan of action, whatever it is?

You might adamantly be a pacifist when it comes to U.S. foreign affairs, or you might simply be sick of our involvement in the Middle East. You might be excited by the chance to correct what you view as damage in Iraq, or you may simply want to act out of pity because of the executions of Iraqi military forces. You might be in the middle, unsure of what action we should take and looking for answers.

The middle is good. The middle is not hasty.

Action will be taken, perhaps even before the publication of this writing. Still, a thoughtful analysis of the consequences of our actions — looking ahead, how our decisions will affect the future — is required if we are to behave as responsibly as possible. We should heed the advice of our high-school history teachers: learn from the past to avoid repeating mistakes.

The conflict in Iraq has been likened to the Vietnam War plenty of times, but it’s a message worth repeating. In both events, the United States acted on principle —  and lies — and it did so quickly and with poor planning. Both were drawn out to the point of exhaustion, receiving low public approval. While the effects of each conflict were different, as were the initial causes, the reasons for engaging were somewhat similar. Getting “the bad guys” was about as definitive as “stopping communism.”

There’s no relatively objective way to tell if it worked. It’s time to slow down and rethink our strategy.

Where does all this leave us? About the same spot as before, and that’s fine. There are consequences of not acting swiftly, but there are also consequences of rushing in without a plan or reason. Now would be a good time to stop, weigh our options, and — calmly — discuss what to do.

In today's issue:

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