EDITORIAL: Iraq combat ends

The announcement late in July that a year from now a memorial to our state’s fallen in the Iraq and Iran wars will be complete eased the concerns and assuaged the lingering grief of family and friends of 88 Mississippians – 87 men and one woman – who have died in the two combat theaters.
The $300,000 memorial will be placed at the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery on U.S. 80 between Newton and Hickory. The names on the memorial will include all the Mississippians killed in what’s being called the Persian Gulf since 1990.
We hope today’s major foreign policy speech by President Obama on the end of combat operations in Iraq can mark a turning point for peace in that region. While some good has come from our invasion of Iraq – the elimination of a dictatorial regime, the first steps toward democracy there – any honest assessment also includes the unintended consequences.
Anne Applebaum, an opinion writer for The Washington Post, posed pertinent reflections in a Monday column, noting that she, like the Daily Journal and many other newspapers, supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
“… There were other casualties, some of them hard to count and classify,” she writes.
Here are the ones she named:
* America’s reputation for effectiveness suffered. Victory was swift, but the occupation was chaotic. Two years ago, she noted, a German Marshall Fund poll showed that some of our closest friends felt “mismanagement” of Iraq – not the “invasion” of Iraq – was the biggest stumbling block for allies.
* The Iraq war, she says, also has influenced America’s ability “to influence the Middle East.” The chaos in Iraq has clearly strengthened Iran, she said, and has had no positive impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. By helping raise the price of oil for a few years it has also strengthened Saudi Arabia, the regime that produced 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers, she recalls.
* High oil prices strengthened Russia and Venezuela.
* The U.S. has lost some of its ability to think like a global power, noting, “Even if we eventually pull out of Iraq altogether, we will have been bogged down in that country for the decade in which China rose to real world-power status, Latin America drifted to the far left and Russia successfully used pipeline politics to divide Europe …”
* Applebaum said our nation’s ability to care for its wounded soldiers has diminished. Advances in medical technology have saved severely wounded men and women, and many will require high levels of care the rest of their lives, but we “need innovative programs … (and) high levels of bureaucratic energy … to create and fund them. And the bureaucracy is understandably tired.”
Historic perspective on Iraq is far from complete.

NEMS Daily Journal