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The Costs of Perpetual War

The Wall Street Journal editors keep wishing that the Iraq war was still going on:

The best use of such aid would be as part of a counterinsurgency campaign to win back the Sunni population. But the U.S. gave up most of its leverage with Mr. Maliki when President Obama chose to leave Iraq in toto to serve his re-election theme that “the tide of war is receding.” It would have been far better for U.S. security to have kept 5,000 or 10,000 troops, as well as air and intelligence assets, as a bulwark against al Qaeda’s revival and Iran’s regional dominance.

When we remember that U.S. forces weren’t able to do this when there were more than 100,000 of them in Iraq, it should be immediately clear how useless and needlessly risky it would be to keep a few thousand Americans in Iraq with no end in sight. Leave aside the inconvenient fact that the Iraqi government wasn’t going to agree to their presence. Just ask whether it would have made any sense to leave a small number of American soldiers in a country where they would frequently come under attack for the sake of shoring up a semi-authoritarian and sectarian government. Is it likely that there would be fewer terrorist attacks in Iraq if U.S. forces were still there? Is it not rather more likely that their continued presence would serve as an invitation for even more? Keeping 10,000 Americans in Iraq wouldn’t provide a “bulwark” against anything. It would mean more Americans getting needlessly killed in a desperate bid to vindicate a disastrous and unnecessary war.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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