Remembering the Lessons of Iraq

As a veteran of the Iraq War, I am in a reflective mood since it was announced that all American troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by Christmas. Having spent three Christmases in the region, I can appreciate what that means. I think often of the friends I know that served or are still serving there, and especially those that didn’t come back.

I look back over the entire 68-year span of military service in my family reaching back to my grandfathers. I try to think about what they would think. In the nature of war, some things will always be the same. But some things have certainly changed. We have to recognize that winning in modern conflict is just as much about international development as it is about military victory. To succeed, both tools must be applied together.

If we had known then what we know now, and had been willing to apply it from the beginning, the U.S. and its allies could have been more successful in Iraq. Hindsight is always 20/20. There was no plan in place to deal with what followed the initial successful military campaign. Relations between a thankful ‘liberated’ populace and their ‘liberators’ broke down quickly. Washington envisioned throngs of grateful citizens as when my grandfather arrived in liberated Italy, but instead my generation of soldiers received quiet suspicion and then resistance akin to my father’s Vietnam.

It took us a while to learn the lesson that building a school or fixing sewage lines was just as valuable to us militarily as taking a would-be jihadist off the street. The people often rewarded us with actionable intelligence when they felt we were improving their conditions sooner than they would when we locked down their neighborhoods and homes searching for insurgents. As we came to understand this, our efforts began to feel more like diplomatic missions than combat patrols. As military advisors to an Iraqi army unit, we measured success in our sector by the number of shops opening up just as much as by the number of terrorists captured or killed.

It took us many years of hard fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan to learn these lessons. Yet, now it seems that some in Congress are ready to forget them. Those who send our troops off to war never learn the lessons of the people who had boots on the ground. They should at least listen to those who know firsthand. If military and international development spending are put on the cutting board, we will be forgetting the lessons we have paid so dearly in lives and money to learn.

Our troops have been brave enough to volunteer to fight for America come what may. Our Congress needs to respect that by being brave enough to find solutions to our fiscal problems that don’t put our security or our troops at risk. I think our veterans of Iraq and throughout the past 70 years would agree with that.

This article also appears at www.makeusstrong.com 

Photo Credit: The U.S. Army

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Chris Miller

Chris Miller is a nine year veteran of the U.S. Army where he served in chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense. He is a two-tour veteran of the Iraq War where he helped to screen Iraqi police candidates, served as an adviser to an Iraqi infantry battalion, and planned and led security for patrols and logistical operations. He received the Purple Heart, Combat Action Badge, and Army Commendation Medal, among others. After leaving the military, he served two years in the Middle East as a contractor. He is a Fellow and Contributing Writer with the Truman National Security Project. His work has appeared on/in ABC News, Fox News, The Atlantic, New York Daily News, The Guardian, The Daily Beast, Small Wars Journal, and other publications. He holds an LLB(Hons) from the Open University, United Kingdom and a postgraduate law degree from University of Law-Chester, England. He is currently a student at Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University in Wales. http://millersrules.blogspot.com/

MORE FROM

President Donald Trump turns Boy Scout Jamboree into campaign rally

The president discussed health care, Hillary Clinton, Obama, big yachts and more to 40,000 Boy Scouts and volunteers

This child kept HIV in remission for 8 years without drugs. Here’s what that really means.

More than eight years after his initial treatment, the child is still in remission.

Driver charged with human trafficking after 30-40 people found locked in fatally hot tractor-trailer

The charge against James Matthew Bradley, the alleged driver of the vehicle, could carry a punishment as severe as the death penalty.

Charlie Gard’s parents end legal fight to continue treatment for terminally ill son

The parents have withdrawn their request for Charlie to receive treatment in the U.S.

10th person dies after 38 found locked in sweltering tractor-trailer outside Texas Walmart

8 were found dead at the scene; 2 more died after being rushed to the hospital in critical or serious condition.

Dozens killed in deadly car bomb attack in Kabul

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.

President Donald Trump turns Boy Scout Jamboree into campaign rally

The president discussed health care, Hillary Clinton, Obama, big yachts and more to 40,000 Boy Scouts and volunteers

This child kept HIV in remission for 8 years without drugs. Here’s what that really means.

More than eight years after his initial treatment, the child is still in remission.

Driver charged with human trafficking after 30-40 people found locked in fatally hot tractor-trailer

The charge against James Matthew Bradley, the alleged driver of the vehicle, could carry a punishment as severe as the death penalty.

Charlie Gard’s parents end legal fight to continue treatment for terminally ill son

The parents have withdrawn their request for Charlie to receive treatment in the U.S.

10th person dies after 38 found locked in sweltering tractor-trailer outside Texas Walmart

8 were found dead at the scene; 2 more died after being rushed to the hospital in critical or serious condition.

Dozens killed in deadly car bomb attack in Kabul

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.