We’ve been in and out of Afghanistan and Iraq so many times that it’s easy to forget that we first went into the area in 1991, under President George H.W. Bush, to push the Iraqis, who were invading Kuwait, back into Iraq. It was all about oil.
Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, claimed Kuwait, was actually part of Iraq, and they wanted it back. Others pointed out that the Kuwaitis, ruled by a royal family and allies of the United States, had been overproducing from their oil fields, driving down the price of crude, and it was costing Iraq a lot of money. But for whatever reason, Saddam, who had been buying a lot of munitions from the United States, invaded Kuwait.
So the first Bush Administration, with the backing of numerous allies, sent the American military in to kick Saddam back into Iraq.
I was at a desert airbase in California, when our troops were being loaded onto airliners for the trip over. All those men and women, both young and middle-aged, getting on commercial jetliners. It was the first time I realized that the country needs the commercial airlines for large scale deployments overseas. I wondered if what we were doing would be worth it. I remember thinking, “My God, we’re sending young mothers off to war,” and wondering why we were really going and how many Americans would be forced to die for the cause of letting the Royal Family of Kuwait, keep their oil fields. I wondered how many American kids might lose their parents in the fight. I thought about how much the character of American warfare had changed since World War II and Vietnam. Since the end of the draft.
With Saddam and his Republican Guard, booted back onto their home turf, George H.W. Bush, followed the advice of his people and pulled our troops out of the region, not wanting to risk getting stuck in another Vietnam War scenario. Turned out to be a very smart choice, one his son, George W. Bush, wouldn’t follow just a few years later following the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
The point here, is that the United States incursion into Kuwait, was thirty years ago, not twenty. If memory serves. Meaning, we’ve been in-country over there for so long that at this point it’s difficult to remember exactly when we went in or why.
When we first went into Kuwait and Iraq, the phrase “boots on the ground” had yet to be invented and the media almost never referred to military “deployments.” That kind of military jargon was only adopted later, as the media became cheerleaders for a military rather than a diplomatic solution to a regional religious conflict as old as Islam, itself.
Military failure is a tough taskmaster. Especially so, when no one’s paying attention. The Chinese, the Japanese, the French and then the U.S., all went into Southeast Asia, thinking they could win. Or in the case of the United States, there appears to be evidence thanks to Daniel Ellsberg, that an ongoing stalemate, with bodies continuing to pile up, would have been acceptable going forward. But nothing seemed to work. Not for the U.S., or any of the others. In the end, all the invaders were pushed out by the Vietnamese.
Then the British the Russians and finally the U.S., did the same in Afghanistan and the Middle East, again thinking they could subjugate the indigenous people. And again, the invaders were pushed out. The point, is that we’ve been there for a very long time and President Biden, is probably right in pulling us out. He’s right to tell the Afghans, that it is their fight and that they are going to have to fight it. Finally. The only other option would be sticking with George W. Bush’s vision of “democratizing the Middle East,” which probably would have meant our ongoing presence in a never-ending war in a conflict where a military solution is probably impossible. Would it be worth another twenty or thirty years of war to find out?