As our military departs Iraq and leave behind a war that has cost us some $800 billion, 4,486 US Soldier Killed, and 32,226 seriously wounded should serve as a reminder of the value of diplomacy to avoid wars. As a proud member of the U.S. military I believe that we as a society have become numb to these numbers so I would like to take a second and put the numbers in terms we can more easily understand. First $800 Billion looks a lot different when actually written out as $800,000,000,000. Just seeing this huge number still doesn’t convey what it means to the average American. Let’s say our ancestors were given $1 Million or $1,000,000 to spend per day in order to afford the eventual war in Iraq. Our ancestors would have needed to start putting that $1 Million per day in our little “Iraq War piggy bank” some almost 200 years before the birth of Jesus Christ to afford the war in Iraq. As we all know there is no value that can be put on the 4,486 lives lost and the parents who lost their son & daughters, the husbands and wives who lost their spouse, and the children who lost their parents. Finally, we must consider the 32,226 who were seriously injured in the war in Iraq. Many of these Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen will never be able to lead a normal life and will always deserve our nations emotional and financial support to deal with injuries obtained when the military option was called to deal with a problem when we as a nation didn’t see the value in continued diplomacy with Iraq. God willing the sacrifices our nation has made in support of this war effort will not be in vain.
Of course we must maintain a strong military option as a final alternative when diplomacy doesn’t work, but all too often the military option has been the first and only option when dealing with international problems. Even today as we listen to the politician talk about the threat that Iran poses I am concerned that we are too focused on finding a military solution to deal with Iran vs. a diplomatic solution that we can live with. To find this diplomatic solution we must recognize why we have the current tensions with Iran. Most would think that the tension goes back to a time when Iranian students stormed our U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took 52 American hostages. However, I think in order to truly understand the genesis of the problem we must go back to some 25 years before the Embassy was over run to where the U.S. chose to use a CIA operation to remove the popularly elected Iranian Prime Minister (Mosaddegh) when he made the unreasonable demand that Iranian’s deserved a greater share of the profits from Iranian oil. Instead of working out a diplomatic solution to this issue and upholding our values of democracy we worked with the U.K. to install the Shah as the leader of Iran. The political unrest generated from this affair eventually resulted in a popular revolution where the Shah was forced to leave Iran and the U.S. Embassy was overrun. This failure to understand the value of diplomacy some 60 years ago still haunt us today as we hear saber rattling from many politicians who are looking once again to find a military solution to what could be the next Iraq. Unfortunately, the U.S. isn’t in the same position we were in going into Iraq as our economy is in a severely weakened state, our credibility is damaged in the eyes of those who would be our allies, and most importantly our military is still banged up a bruised from the war effort in Iraq. Hopefully, we will take a close look at the price of recent wars as we look to find the value of serious diplomacy going forward.