Friday, December 16, 2011

The War in Iraq is Over?

In 2003, I was a freshman at Wartburg College.  The media were throwing around words like "weapons of mass destruction" and "pre-emptive strike."  To me, the concern about Iraq's aggression seemed to have materialized out of nowhere.

I was taking a public speaking class at the time and decided to do my big persuasive speech on the war in Iraq.  I researched the concept of a "just war" and came to the conclusion that a pre-emptive strike on Iraq hardly seemed to qualify.  (For the record, I think a pre-emptive attack of any sort is almost always unjust.)  So I gave my speech urging my classmates to contact their representatives and stand with me against the possibility of war in Iraq.

Two days later, the war began.

Through most of the war, my opinion has been that you can't just breeze into a country, dismantle their government, and then leave.  While I didn't agree with starting the war, I supported keeping our troops there long enough to establish a new government and some semblance of peace.  I hope we are not leaving too early to have accomplished that aim.

Yesterday, the war officially ended.

Now that the war is over, and I'm not sure what to think.  I am too uninformed to have any real opinions about the situation.  But I do have one real concern:  The end of the war will be covered in the news for a couple days, the troops will go home, and the war will disappear from the public discourse.

We will walk away from a decade of costly, confusing warfare without doing the hard work of analyzing what we did.  Where were we wrong?  Where were we right?  Where did we deceive ourselves or others?  What apologies need to be made?  What successes need to be repeated?  How can we do better in the future?  What is our present responsibility to Iraq?  What is our present responsibility to other troubled countries?

I think Christians especially need to take a step back and think about this one.  I knew quite a few Christians who gave their blanket approval to the operation in Iraq just because it was started by a Republican president.  Why?  We answer to a higher authority than a political party, and I think matters like war and terrorism call for a lot more prayerful reflection than we (the Christian right) seem to have done.

I hope the end of the Iraq War can usher in a long period of humble, reasoned self-reflection in the U.S.

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