One of the biggest questions over the past few years has been whether the United States should have gotten involved, much less stayed involved, in Iraq. There appears to be a different opinion with each person you ask.American forces began hostilities against Iraq on March 19, 2003, after the U.S.-imposed deadline for Saddam Hussein and his sons to leave Iraq expired. Since that time, the world has witnessed the fall of Hussein’s regime and his capture nine months later on Dec. 13, 2003.
Under the leadership of Paul Bremer, appointed by President Bush as the civil administrator in Iraq, steps were taken to make Iraq its own sovereign nation again.
Since then, Iraqi citizens have had greater ethnic, religious and political freedoms as expressed in the first democratic election since before the fall of Hussein. Why then, if all of this good stuff has been accomplished, are U.S. troops still on the ground almost two years later? The job is not done.
Not all of Iraq has electrical power, running water or the supplies it needs to keep operating. In addition, Iraq’s military, while it has made great strides, is not yet fully trained to provide adequate protection for itself and other Iraqis. If the United States were to immediately pull all of its forces out of the country, Iraq, at this point, would be vulnerable to attack from other Middle Eastern nations.
The continued occupation of a nation following a conflict is not uncommon.
At the end of World War II, the United States established an occupation force in Japan under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. This occupation, which accomplished many of the same things we have seen in present-day Iraq, lasted almost seven years. This is not to say the occupation of Iraq will or should last as long as the occupation of Japan, but as history shows us, these things take time. We do need to be prepared to support our troops for as long as they are there, no matter how long it takes.
Take our road to freedom for example. After the peace treaty ending the Revolutionary War was signed in 1783, it took us five years to establish and put into effect our own Constitution. The Iraqis deserve the same opportunity to get their new government in order.
Although many great things have come from the liberation of Iraq, one thing discussed more than most is the loss of life by our U.S. servicemen and women. It is unfortunate that many of our fellow citizens have had to perish in this war, but I assure you that many of them were proud to die serving their country.
As of Jan. 30, 2,245 U.S. casualties have been reported by the Department of Defense. This is a staggering number, each month on average, half of the estimated 1,500 to 2,000 Iraqi deaths are insurgents, according to research by Michael O’Hanlon, a military analyst from the Brookings Institution, referenced in an Associated Press article published Oct. 25.
By my own estimates based on the data, there have been an estimated 25,000 to 33,000 insurgent deaths over a 33-month period. The exact totals are not known because the U.S. government no longer tracks opposing forces deaths.
The stark contrast in the number of casualties demonstrates the excellent nature of U.S. military training.
President Bush, in his State of the Union address, acknowledged that the work done in Iraq was difficult because of the brutal nature of the enemy. He also said the coalition had learned several lessons prompting changes, including a shift toward rebuilding Iraq.
“We have adjusted our military tactics and changed our approach to reconstruction,” Bush said.
Bush said confidence was high for the completion of duties in Iraq and that when the time is right, the troops will be brought home.
“As we make progress on the ground, and Iraqi forces increasingly take the lead, we should be able to further decrease our troop levels,” Bush said.
I have a vested interest in the situation because I may find myself there one day. As a member of the Air Force ROTC program, I will graduate next year and enter the U.S. Air Force. At this point, I do not know what I will be doing, but I do know that in today’s military, everyone is deployable. The Middle East is a real possibility for me.
Regardless of how long the U.S. military is going to be involved in Iraq, it needs the support of those at home. Yes, not everyone agrees with why we are over there, but we are there now. We will remain there until the job is done. The best thing anyone can do is to have patience and put faith into our military and political leaders to stay on course and finish what we started.
Michael Bishop is a junior news-editorial journalism major from Providence, N.C.