As the U.S moves into new political territory this year, Andrew Ryan gives his opinion on why their history of intervention has caused more problems than it has solved.
The debate over the validity of Western intervention in war-torn countries has existed since the Iraq War of the early 2000s. In fact, anti-war sentiment has existed since the Vietnam War from 1955 to 1975.
The Vietnam War is an example of misjudged intervention in a conflict without complete understanding of the background of the conflict itself. While the United States viewed it as a necessary evil in order to prevent the spread of Communism, many others viewed the conflict as more of a civil war in the country in response to the fall of the French-Indo empire.
Whatever the reasoning behind the war was, it resulted in the rise of the anti-war movement in the United States. This pressure from the general population, as well as alleged war crimes such as the My Lai Massacre, and the fact that they were losing the war, resulted in the American troops being withdrawn from Vietnam in 1975.
Unfortunately, fast forward approximately 27 years, and the Americans would invade Iraq, having not learnt any lessons from their lack of knowledge of the region and culture they were imposing on.
Based on false evidence of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in the country, the United States, under the presidency of a certain George W. Bush, invaded Iraq and kickstarted the Iraq War, a war which would last from 2003 until 2011.
That particular war proved catastrophic for the region and its people. In the 8 years that the war lasted, it is believed that 500,000 Iraqi people were killed. Those deaths proved in vain as, not only was the aforementioned evidence of WMDs in Iraq completely false, but the effects of the war would last to this very day.
The Iraq and Vietnam Wars are just 2 examples of misjudged conflict intervention from the Western world. Now I concede that I have referenced America as culprits in both cases but, after all, they are the ‘leaders of the free world’.
Military intervention from the Western World in conflict areas, such as the Middle East, does more harm than good. Not only does it result in the deaths of thousands of soldiers and civilians alike, and no war involving civilian deaths is ever won, but it also results in the destabilisation of the region.
While the West have moved on from Iraq to other conflicts around the world, the country they have left has remained war-torn ever since. The installation of what is fashionably referred to as a ‘puppet government’ was carried out without taking into account the customs and history of Iraqi politics.
Such policies have been criticised by the Pope in the past. Speaking to the French Catholic newspaper, La Croix, the head of the Catholic Church said: “Faced with current Islamist terrorism, we should question the way a model of democracy that was too Western was exported to countries where there was a strong power, as in Iraq, or Libya, where there was a tribal structure.”
“We cannot advance without taking these cultures into account. As a Libyan said some time ago: ‘We used to have one Gaddafi, now we have 50 of them!’”, the pontiff said.
This ignorance of culture, as well as the resultant crippling of the local economy, the death toll, and the environment that existed following the Iraqi invasion has allowed for terror groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIL to grow and thrive.
What is tragically ironic is that, as a result of misguided military practises in the past, countries such as Iraq and Syria, where ISIL have imposed themselves, are in a state wherein the West are required to act. The Russian element of the Syrian Civil War has created problems for the Western World, while the displacement of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi people requires the West to take action as well. Not to mention the 400,000 Syrian casualties during the aforementioned Civil War, according to the United Nations in April.
It is a terrible set of circumstances, and nobody suffers more than the innocents fighting for survival.
What is also ironic is that the West have accomplished a military goal WITHOUT committing a large-scale army force. In 2011, the United States’ Navy Seals carried out a covert operation in Pakistan which resulted in the death of none other than OSAMA BIN LADEN, the leader of Al-Qaeda.
Admittedly, having spent this entire piece criticising Western intervention in conflict areas, I would be remiss in saying that I do not acknowledge the arguments in favour of such action. Examples of such being that, in the instance of such individuals such as Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, there appears to be no other option. Of course, there is also the prospect of another Hitler or Stalin rising to power, which would need intervention from the Western World, although a piece discussing how such rises to power could never come to be in the current digital age would be for another day.
However, I can’t help but think that the problems that arise from Western intervention in conflict areas outweigh the problems that they believe that they are solving. After all, is Western democracy really that valuable? Doesn’t seem worth the 900,000 Iraqi and Syrian lives to me.