Long ago I decided I don't have any claim to foreign policy expertise, so I try to avoid writing about such matters except when unduly provoked. But I have also come to believe that I'm not the only one a little shy of expertise. So bear with me. I'll toss out my opinion, since this is, after all, an opinion column, and readers can agree, disagree, or ignore.
First of all, I don't have a solution to the problem in Iraq. Well, actually I do have a solution, but it's too late to use it. The solution was never to go into that miserable place with the preposterous idea that we, in our unique brilliance, could get rid of the despot who ran it and show the ignorant heathen he'd oppressed how things really should be done. We already had a war in Afghanistan, one we had some justifiable reason to pursue, and we might have been successful there if we'd fired a couple of senior people and put a couple of better ones in their places. But we were certain we could do it all. After all, we're Americans, so surely we didn't need to study and fully understand centuries-old cultures before going in and mucking around with our superior technology and massive egos and just making them, in the approximate long-ago words of Congressman Dewey Short about some other heathens, "just like the people in Kansas City."
It isn't nice to blow one's own horn, so I ask your forgiveness for doing so right here. I publicly opposed our intervention in Iraq. I was told I was nuts. The position I held then is now retroactively the school solution, the one every thinking American allegedly held. To be fair, some now admit that they were for the invasion then but have come to realize they were wrong. Of course, those with the most blood on their hands, whose policies led to incredible suffering and loss of lives for usually innocent Iraqis and the waste of American lives and treasure, are not about to say they were wrong.
OK, everybody makes mistakes. But most of us can see that our country made a bad move with its intervention in a tribal-based, ancient, religiously-oriented culture. Must we continue the agony? In my opinion, when we officially pulled out of Iraq, we should have pulled out. Period. Give them a reasonable amount, with emphasis on reasonable, follow-on support for a short period of time, and turn them loose. We've proven that we can't solve their problems. Leaving them to fight among themselves is unlikely to produce more disaster than we can help them produce with our tentative, on-again off-again thrusts.
I can hear some counterarguments now, such as that there are geopolitical issues that a low-level nobody like me doesn't understand. True. And evidently some high-paid, high level people don't understand them all that well, either. Oh yeah, and we'll lose our credibility in the Middle East if we don't go back into this war.
Hey, I've got a secret for you: We lost our credibility long ago, and not just in the Middle East. We might be able eventually to regain it if we move back, get quiet, and try to reestablish a moral position in the world. Because there is a moral component to everything we do, and ignoring it often leads to unending pain. Study our heartless, cruel slaughter of innocents as we stole a continent, justifying every atrocity by our own superiority and Christian rightness. Look at our enslavement of a race, casually stealing lives and employing them for our personal gain. For generations. And often in the name of God. And consider the effects on this country today. So, yeah, there's something more involved than our own temporary political or economic well-being. There is a moral component.
Please tell Iraq they're on their own. No more U.S. troops. No more "help." Unless we have a real solution to the problem, and I am absolutely certain we don't.
Robert B. Simpson, a 28-year Infantry veteran who retired as a colonel at Fort Benning, is the author of "Through the Dark Waters: Searching for Hope and Courage."