We have a second chance to do right in Iraq, both in the fight for Mosul and the political and societal strife sure to follow in its wake.

The Iranian client state formerly known as Iraq might be confused about its loyalties right now. But that doesn’t mean we ought to be. We’ve done so much there. We need to see this through, more than we need to further entrench ourselves in the tragedy befalling Syria. So many folks have worked extremely hard to make Iraq great again. It’s not great and maybe it never will be in our lifetime. But we’ve been given a second chance to get it right.

Never mind why we went there in the first place; it’s irrelevant now. We are there. Even in the 24-hour news cycle, there’s no escaping Iraq.

Our work abroad and our constant desire to intervene is immaterial to the discussion of our role in the future or Iraq. What’s done is done, and it’s our role to stay there in some capacity. Iranian influence is strong, and we’ve witnessed the chaos released when the Sunni population feels cornered—something like ISIL emerges. A societal scourge, like Beetlejuice, waiting for you to request its help. We can help referee an Iraq, politically, that doesn’t make the Sunni population feel so outnumbered and helpless—they call for Beetlejuice.

The real fight in Iraq is a political one. Their greatest problems stem from and play out in their system of government. Their government is all powerful and there are not rules and laws styled like ours in their constitution. The cradle of civilization is at risk of failing on a larger scale than we’ve seen. After the Arab Spring uprisings, more strife seems impossible. But both Syria and Iraq could become worse.

Iraq ought to be our true focus; we have a kind of fiduciary obligation. We instituted their current government, built up a special operations force and their military. It’s all new for them and it’s in large part due to our intervention. We cannot scurry off and pretend it’s just their problem now. It’s ours.

Here’s a brief list of reasons why our efforts in Iraq should extend beyond the current battle in Mosul and the war against ISIL, in which we’ll eventually emerge victorious.

  1. If we, as a people, abandon Iraq (and the Kurds) again, in a time of great need, our standing in the world is more open to question. It could beget more confrontation in theaters we previously took for granted. For example, the Philippines is lost to us. They were an important ally we did not think would stray. Granted, it’s a political decision, but on the world stage, ultimately, all decisions are political.
  2. How many service members, contractors, diplomats, and federal employees here and abroad have set aside a large portion of their adult lives for Iraq? They deserve to see Iraq succeed, not watch as it reverts to a worse state than how we found it.
  3. Iraq is and always has been an incredibly important nation in the Middle East. Many of the current problems in Syria and elsewhere stem from instability in Iraq, which gave birth to ISIL.
  4. We’ve influenced and changed the culture for a generation of Iraqis. I’ve heard it said many times that they’ll finally have it together in one or two generations, maybe three. It might be an accurate statement, but the real battle is a generational one. Our work there to help Iraq foster the democratic society they embarked upon will carry for much longer than any one person’s lifespan.
  5. Iraq is an example, and American intervention and democracy are on the line. It can start with Mosul if we start caring about the right things and re-prioritize.
  6. Iraq gave birth to ISIL. A stable Iraq means fewer opportunities for chickenhawks to get the U.S. service member involved in armed conflict in other parts of the Middle East. Maybe not entirely, but it will mitigate it.
  7. The Special Forces motto is “de oppresso liber“—to free the oppressed. If left unchecked, minorities will continue to be persecuted in Iraq. This, again, can create monsters via the Beetlejuice theory that spawned ISIL.

Featured image courtesy of Yahoo News.