SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

June 10, 2014

Watson: Current conflicts built on past strife

Americans think of the Iraq War as “over.” Because our country withdrew its soldiers completely at the end of 2011, and because our efforts there at “nation-building” have more or less halted, we naturally have mostly stopped paying attention to Iraq’s condition.

But what is going on there now is terrible, and it illuminates realities and dynamics that characterize lots of societies and conflicts around the world.

In 2007, at the height of the American involvement in Iraq, there were roughly 200,000 U.S. troops and mercenaries there. Those soldiers both trained Iraqi troops and actively fought alongside them. At various times during the war, we fought the Sunnis, the Shiites, Al Qaeda and rogue tribes and militias. It was a complicated war, and the adversaries and alliances were not always static or clear.

Ironically, attempting to impose order on an unnatural, mongrel “country” cobbled together in 1921 by the post-World War I powers, the United States got a clear appreciation for how the inexcusable brutality of Saddam Hussein had a certain horrible, contextual logic to it.

When the U.S. — in a colossal mistake, I believe — attacked Iraq in 2003, it invaded a country that was already full of barely contained resentments and grievances. To oversimplify, a minority Sunni elite ruthlessly controlled a majority population of Shiites and Kurds.

The chaos and civil vacuum created by the war allowed all of the latent ethnic, religious, tribal and criminal divisions within Iraqi society to become visible and openly expressed, often violently. In addition, anti-Americanism, terrorism and Islamism existed (and grew) as ideologies that sometimes overlaid the various sectarian divides.

By 2010, with a variety of means, the U.S. managed to both elicit and force an uneasy quiet in Iraq. Few of the ethnic, religious or governance conflicts were resolved; they were just suppressed.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion

AP Video
Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Amphibious Landing Practice in Hawaii Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA
Comments Tracker
Roll Call
Helium debate
Helium