Research: Commentary

We Can't Bomb Our Way to Peace

USA Today, June 11, 2015 | Article

By Stephen Miles

It is painfully clear that there is no U.S. military solution to the deepening crisis in Iraq. Deploying 450 more American servicemembers — in addition to the 3,000 already there — will not bring peace to Iraq nor heal the bitter sectarian divide fueling the conflict.

America has spent the past 25 years trying to bomb our way to peace and security in Iraq, but we have only managed to achieve the opposite.

In 1990, America launched Operation Desert Storm, initiating a quarter-century of military intervention in Iraq. During that time, we have tried nearly every type of war, from limited airstrikes to invasion and total military occupation.

Our brave men and women in uniform have fought and died trying to bring peace to Iraq. Yet today, Iraq is in even greater chaos. For all this fighting, politicians promised a model democracy that would protect America's security. Instead, Iraq has never been a greater breeding ground for violent extremism and instability.

Some have pointed to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and invoked former secretary of StateColin Powell's famous Pottery Barn rule: We broke Iraq, so we own it. But by continuing to wage war in Iraq, we are only continuing to break Iraq.

After a year of bombing Iraq, the situation is little changed except for a growing body count. While the battle lines of the fight have shifted — ISIL lost Tikrit but gainedRamadi — the underlying conflict remains the same. Iraq is divided, largely along sectarian lines, with little faith in the central government and no shared vision for the future.

Violent extremists, be they Shiite militias or ISIL and affiliated Sunni militias, prey upon this sectarian divide. It fuels them, bringing them recruits and strength. More American soldiers will not change that fundamental reality. It is only likely to make things worse.

It is time to admit that the solutions to Iraq's instability will not be found through American bombs or boots on the ground. Failing to do so will put yet more Americans at risk while pouring fuel on a fire that the U.S. military cannot put out.

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