In recent weeks, the United States has shifted from its long-time policy of intervention in the Middle East by removing troops from Syria. Numerous law makers as well as many mainstream news outlets have denounced the sudden withdrawal from the war torn country, but history shows us that there might be merits to the withdrawal as well.
What have we as a nation truly accomplished in the Middle East since we intervened? The United States has been waging war in the Middle East for almost three decades, beginning with Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991 which prompted Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The U.S. military action in the region would only continue to grow with time.
According to Statista, 2,433 U.S. soldiers have been killed-in-action in Afghanistan since we invaded in 2001. Additionally, countless numbers of civilians in the region have been killed or displaced since the conflict started. Why are we still there after all these years? Why haven't we won?
The answer harkens back to the lessons learned the hard way in Vietnam. I had the opportunity to speak to numerous Vietnam veterans at my job over the summer, and one of them made a remark I will never forget. To paraphrase, he said the war in the Middle East looks a lot like the one he experienced in the ‘60s and ‘70s; a seemingly endless guerilla war, where it doesn't matter what kind of technology you have. If you do not have the hearts and minds of the public, and you can not provide them with a stable government that can provide prosperity for them, you will simply never win. More insurgents will take the place of those you defeated.
In order to defeat modern counter-insurgents, the U.S. would have to mobilize even more troops than we already have, which would result in expanding our already massive military spending even further. The U.S. public simply is not willing to accept that, and really, I don't blame them.
Furthermore, the domestic consequences of a continual presence have been immense. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there was almost 38,000 homeless veterans in the nation in 2018. With faults in the Department of Veterans Affairs over the past years, why would we want to continue to add more veterans in this system? Rather than adding more veterans to that statistic, it might well be prudent to put an end to the wars which cripple and maime our nation’s troops.
The conflicts began with seemingly good intentions: defeat the terrorists who attacked America, as well as bring democracy and liberty to the oppressed people of the Middle East. But after all this time, what has really been accomplished? We accomplished our main objectives, which was to kill Osama Bin-Laden and defeat the Islamic State.
In my opinion, it is time to go and start focusing on our numerous problems on the homefront. Just like in Vietnam, the wars in the Middle East simply cannot be won at a price the American people are willing to accept. Overall, there are ways that the withdrawal from Syria is justified, but the overall consequences will only be revealed with time.
It’s time to bring our men and women home, and give them the warm welcome they deserve after what they’ve been through.