Contrary to popular belief, we are not living in a civilized world - and evidence of that lies in the existence of perpetual war. Now don’t get me wrong, we’ve learned a lot together in our long history: how to explore space, create medicine and bring a new meaning to the term "addiction" by inventing the internet. However, one thing we haven’t learned from is the horrors of warfare, and this is a great shame because more often than not, attempting to resolve an international conflict by using aggressive military force is the same as attempting to fix your laptop’s cracked screen by throwing it down the stairs: it makes the problem worse and the culprit look like an idiot.
Nevertheless, in retaliation to the devastating events on 9/11, the US declared a “global war on terror” and, leading a coalition of the willing, launched military interventions in Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya and Syria. Almost 15 years on and the war has indeed been impactful: hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have lost their lives, trillions of dollars have been wasted and the Middle East is immensely more unstable. Despite these tragic facts, the war on terror continues to plague the world to this day, with countries like Australia, France, the Netherlands and Canada all coordinating with the US to continue military strikes in Iraq and Syria.
This piece will examine the ramifications of the war on terror and highlight 10 reasons why military intervention in the Middle East makes us less safe.
10 Collateral Damage
Accumulatively, the war on terror has resulted in over a million deaths and many more injuries. Unfortunately, it’s civilians that make up the majority of those dead and injured.
Usually these casualties are referred to as collateral damage, a military term that describes the incidental consequences of war. Although it’s difficult to identify the precise number, multiple scientific surveys have estimated over 8,000 US and Coalition deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s also estimated that in total, over 150,000 civilians have died in Iraq alone.
9 Creates More Radicals
The aim of the war on terror is to rid the world of terrorism, but since its declaration, terror attacks and terrorist threat levels have increased. Even worse, in the last 2 years the world has witnessed the rise of ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which has already conducted numerous mass beheadings, decimated ancient cities and been declared “too extreme” by Al-Qaeda. However, what’s salient to understand is that the rise in extremism and terror threats is, in large part, a consequence from years of military intervention and occupation. For instance, it was revealed by former CIA case officer Patrick Skinner, that Camp Bucca - one of many US detainment camps in Iraq - was a “pressure cooker for extremism” as it enabled terrorists to discuss and plot future attacks. That aside, history has proved that whenever a foreign aggressor perpetuates the killing of innocent people, the erosion of sacrosanct values and the destruction of homes, extremism will exist.
8 Strengthens Our Enemies
To properly fight a war on terror you’d think there’d need to be a critical debate beforehand and an understanding of the boundaries set in place by international law. Well, according to the US and Coalition members, what fighting a war on terror really needs is billions of dollars to spend on military equipment. But what happens when that equipment falls into the hands of our enemies like it already has? This year it was reported that ISIS had seized military equipment left behind by the United States and Coalition forces in Iraq, including “truckloads of Humvees, tanks and weaponry.” Undoubtedly, the more weaponry that falls into the hands of terror organizations, the more our safety and security is undermined.
7 The Middle East Is Worse Off Today Than it Was Before Intervention
Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is repeating the same actions and expecting different results. This logic could be applied to the war on terror: if intervention and occupation failed in diminishing the threat of terrorism, how can anyone expect that repeating these same tactics will result in a different outcome?
One of the primary reasons the Middle East is worse off today than it was before the intervention is because the war on terror weakened the power of governments in the region. Consider the Iraqi government for example: it’s been so devastated by the war that it’s been left with virtually no means to combat ISIS militants. In fact, in June 2014, the Iraqi military capitulated and fled from fighting ISIS militants in Mosul due to the fact they were running “low on supplies and bullets,” as well as suffering from “low morale and poor training.”
Lastly, even the former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who served under the Bush Administration and supported the war on terror, recently admitted that it was “unrealistic” to believe a democracy could be established in Iraq. In conclusion, although the war on terror may be guided by altruistic intentions, greater instability and turmoil have been the most noticeable results.
6 The War Was Based on Lies
Remember when Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction? Oh right, they never did. However, this is important to note as the 2003 invasion of Iraq was based on the assumption they did have Weapons of Mass Destruction. In fact, without this narrative, it’s highly likely the US and Coalition forces would have never garnered enough popular support to invade Iraq. Also, another narrative still widely used to this day is that “the terrorists hate us for our freedom.” Now, the fact that Switzerland and Sweden haven’t been the targets of Jihadi terrorism should drop a huge hint that the terrorists must hate us for reasons other than freedom - maybe it’s air conditioning? Anyways, the serious concern with wars being declared on the basis of lies is that populations are blindly coerced into supporting an action they may have otherwise deplored.
5 Harms International Reputation
This point doesn’t really apply to the US, Great Britain and France as they’re already internationally recognized for sharing aggressive military pasts. However, in the case of countries like Canada and Australia, international reputation is an important factor to consider. Canada used to be considered a beacon of hope and sanity on the world stage, imbedding the values of peace and humanitarianism into its foreign policy. But, under pressure from the US and mounting terror threats, Canada cut ties with its traditional foreign policy of peacekeeping and began to pursue militarism. Since 9/11, Canada has fought in Afghanistan and continues to launch airstrikes in Iraq and Syria to this day. Ultimately, countries that involve themselves in tangling alliances and military intervention jeopardize their International standing and, in particular, become more likely to face criticism from their citizens and other countries.
4 Creates Problems at Home
The war on terror has also had a tremendous impact on lives at home. First, there’s now an epidemic of suicide in the United States, as many returning soldiers suffer from PTSD and can’t erase from their memories the horrors of war. Second, the war on terror has created an atmosphere of uncertainty at home among muslim populations. Recently in Australia, people were so concerned about the rise of Islamophobia following a terror threat in Sydney, that a campaign entitled #I’llridewithyou was launched on Twitter. The “I’ll ride with you” campaign was established to help muslims feel safe by offering them assistance going to and from places - whether it be offering a ride or just company. Despite the Australians innovative attempt to combat Islamophobia, division at home will likely always exist as long as the war on terror does.
There have been numerous polls that prove the majority of Americans and Canadians oppose military intervention in the Middle East. Most noticeably, A 2011 Rasmussen Reports survey revealed 67% of Americans felt the US should leave the Arab countries alone. Also in a 2014 Forum Research poll, in was revealed that only 17% Canadians believed pursuing national interests in Iraq were worth sustaining Canadian casualties. Now to be fair, people can’t always be trusted: in the past people voted to burn witches, prohibit alcohol, and elect the Nazis. But that aside, popularity is a core principle of democracy, as it’s the mindset of the people that grant government legitimacy. In conclusion, after years of war, people at home and abroad are aware of the devastation and are, for the most part, opposed to further military intervention.
2 Waste of Money
According to Time magazine in 2011, the war on terror has cost the US over $5 trillion - and I thought tuition fees were expensive. But honestly, $5 trillion for what? Well for certain we know that it’s bought us increased destabilization in the region, higher risks of terror attacks, millions dead and greater division at home. Nevertheless, what’s more depressing is realizing what all that money could have been spent on. With $5 trillion you could house, clothe and feed every person in need, subsidize the creation of quality schools and hospitals in every town, and still have money left over to buy everyone an Apple Watch - because let’s face it, someone has to buy it. Overall, attempting to resolve international conflicts will always be an expensive procedure, and because of that it’s essential the public should have a greater say in determining how and where their money should be spent.
1 Learning From History
Winston Churchill once said that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Now although there’s a slim chance Churchill may have been referring to his struggle overcoming alcoholism, this quote is more relevant than it’s ever been. For instance, the collapse of the Roman Empire was, in large part, due to the fact they over expanded their military and accumulated massive amounts of debt by invading Afghanistan. Also, despite the colossal differences between Britain and Russia today, the last two centuries have proved that the British Empire and Soviet Union shared quite a lot in common: they both justified invading Afghanistan on the grounds of national security interests and both marched home in humiliating defeat. In fact, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is widely considered to be one of the major catalysts behind their collapse in 1989. For these reasons, It’s no surprise that historians consider Afghanistan to be the “graveyard of empires.” With trillions of dollars worth of debt and an over expanded military, it would be wise for the US to learn from the lessons of history and discuss more effective ways to fight the war on terror.