America’s 21st century Middle East wars have cost our country thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of injured soldiers, the burden of having contributed to nearly a million Afghan and Iraqi deaths, and, per the latest estimate, $6 trillion, over a quarter of the entire U.S. federal debt.
If that money had been wisely spent, it could have modernized America’s infrastructure, including for clean energy, creating millions of good-paying jobs. Instead, we are left with Middle East destabilization, with no benefit to our nation. Most lamentably, countless sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, would be in the thick of our communities, rather than buried or maimed.
Given the strikes against Iranian assets and people, including General Suleimani, with American blood on his hands, we ought to recall the strategic mistake of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), to which I contributed as an active-duty naval officer stationed abroad.
Alongside others readying their respective units for war, my colleagues and I coordinated the largest nuclear submarine task force in history as part of the “shock and awe” phase of OIF – a war premised on stopping Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program, which turned out not to exist. Moreover, as one who worked with the CIA and SOCOM on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) nonproliferation, American resources were being diverted from monitoring other illicit nuclear sites in order to find the non-existent WMD in Iraq. Perhaps this is why Iran’s nuclear program, among other cases, was able to flourish as American servicepersons fought and died next door in Iraq.
Though I was disappointed that former President Obama had allowed, however inadvertently, ISIS to establish a large caliphate in Iraq and Syria, I was highly supportive of the Iran Nuclear Deal that he forged to avoid the third gulf war since 1991 (an imperfect deal but essential for the times). Similarly, I was appalled when President Trump withdrew America from the Iran Nuclear Deal (as well as abandoning our Kurdish allies in northern Syria and embracing tyrants around the world).
While the Trump Administration’s “maximum pressure” approach to Iran may work, it probably will not. Iran may counterstrike in a way that could kill Americans and lead to all-out war, or it could reconstitute and accelerate its nuclear weapons program, as it just implied by ending its own commitment to the Iran Nuclear Deal.
We as Americans need to ask ourselves: do we want another gulf war (perhaps with tactical nuclear bombs being used, designed for Iran), or do we want to stabilize the situation and focus on value-add projects, like rebuilding our country? If our answer is the latter, then we need to – once emotions have receded from the boiling point – renew Iran’s and our commitment to the Iran Nuclear Deal and get back to things that improve our nations, like job creation.
The right answer, though, may not be so apparent in the White House. Domestic and foreign special interests – including Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Bin Salman who loathes Iran and may have financial ties with President Trump and his family, those seeking a distraction from President Trump’s impeachment, oil companies which need higher prices from a Middle East war to stay financially solvent, certain segments of the military-industrial complex that prefer war to peace, AIPAC and Israel’s Netanyahu (non-representative of all Israel) who needs a distraction from corruption charges, and even Russia and China who may see a third U.S.-led gulf war as the death-knell of America as a superpower – may be pushing, behind the scenes, for war against Iran.
We, as citizens, must not let that happen.