Loading
June 26, 2014
Iraq: Where to go from here
By Russell Shaw *

By Russell Shaw *

Starting in 2003, the United States has made two fundamental mistakes in Iraq, both with strong moral implications. At the risk of oversimplification, they can be summed up like this: the first mistake was going into Iraq, the second was getting out.

The first of these blunders was George Bush’s in launching an unjust and unnecessary war. The second was Barack Obama’s in pulling out before authentic stability had been restored in a country the U.S. had done so much to destabilize. By now we’ve paid heavily for both mistakes. Absent a fresh look at what we’re doing, we are likely to go on paying in days to come.

To understand how America got into this fix, a glance at recent history will help.

Turn back the clock to early 2003. In the face of mounting war fever, whipped up by the White House over Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist, some of us—fruitlessly, to be sure—opposed U.S. military action.

At that time, my own opposition was exclusively moral. Iraq simply didn’t meet the criteria for a just war. The Iraqis hadn’t attacked us and weren’t about to do so. On what grounds, then, were we proposing to attack them? Preemptive war? But what’s preemptive about attacking an enemy who has no intention of attacking you?

All too soon—and without altering in the least this rejection of the war on moral grounds—the practical folly of this mistaken adventure also became obvious. The Iraqis had no previous experience of democracy and no known taste for it, yet here we were, seeking to impose a democratic system on them in the mistaken belief they would fall in love with it and make it work.

Even so, it was barely possible that the U.S.-imposed solution would work—except for the fact, overlooked or dismissed by American policy makers, that Iraqi society was radically divided along sectarian lines. Saddam Hussein had used brutal force to create unity. But with Saddam gone, the Sunnis and the Shiites could be counted on to have at each other as soon as they had a chance.

And who stood to benefit from that? Who but the anti-American mullahs of Iran? Meanwhile, the sure loser was to be the Christian community of Iraq—now, as we see,  decimated after eleven bitter years.

It is debatable whether, once Obama determined to declare victory and get out, the U.S. could have left a residual military force behind to protect the feckless Iraqi regime from the consequences of its own mistakes. In any case, the Iraqis wanted no part of that. And so we left. In due course, the trauma of sectarian strife predictably set in. Which, approximately, is where this story stands now.

After so many blunders and so much wasted time, this may be one of those situations where no truly good option exists. The centerpiece of American policy in Iraq from here on out must be the Hippocratic maxim “Do no harm”—no more, that is, than we’ve already done. Beyond that, America has interests it needs to protect including Western access to Iraqi oil and resisting the spread of Islamist terrorism. The sorry state of the Christian minority should also be an object of serious U.S. concern.

In the end, though, the Iraqis must find their way for themselves. That will probably be ugly, but hardly uglier than the last eleven years. For certain, the U.S. doesn’t have the answer to Iraq’s problems. But then it never did.

Russell Shaw is the author of more than twenty books, including three novels and volumes on ethics and moral theology, the Catholic laity, clericalism, the abuse of secrecy in the Church, and other topics. He has also published thousands of articles in periodicals, among them The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, L’Osservatore Romano, America, Crisis, Catholic World Report, The National Catholic Reporter, and many others. From 1967-1987 he served as communications director for the U.S. Catholic bishops and from 1987-1997 was information director for the Knights of Columbus. He lives in Washington, D.C.
« Previous entry     Back to index     Next entry »
Ads by Google
(What's this?)
blog comments powered by Disqus

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day
Missionary of Charity, Korea
Testimony of Christian Love during Pope's Visit to Korea
Religious Sisters in South Korea react to Pope Francis kissing a baby
Warm atmosphere during Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup Stadium
Images inside Pope Francis flight to South Korea
The tombs of the early Christians
Missionaries of Africa, called "the White Fathers"
Italian youth give testimony after mission to Peru
Interview with Iraqi Ambassador to the Holy See on the persecution of Christians
New book 'The Vatican unknown'
A Look at India from Rome
3D Church mapping
#PAUSEforPeace Initiative
Dedicating art to San Juan de la Cruz
A state without territory elects new government
The renewal of the Legionaries of Christ
Presentation of the book "The Pastor"
Aug
27

Liturgical Calendar

August 27, 2014

Saint Monica

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 23:27-32

Gospel
Date
08/27/14
08/26/14
08/25/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: 2 Thess 3: 6-10, 16-18
Gospel:: Mt 23: 27-32

Saint of the Day

St. Monica »

Saint
Date
08/27/14

Homily of the Day

Mt 23:27-32

Homily
Date
08/27/14
08/26/14
08/25/14

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: