Blogs: Paul Pillar

Panic over the ISIS Offensive in Iraq: "Everyone should take a deep breath."

Paul Pillar

Two final observations are directed especially at those who supported the game-changer of eleven years ago: the launching of the Iraq War. One is that all of the immense costs of that ill-fated expedition—the thousands of lost American lives, the greater numbers of broken bodies, the trillions in long-term monetary costs, and all the rest—are sunk costs. There is no way to get them back. There is thus no basis for investing still more in Iraq in a feckless effort somehow to gain redemption for one of the biggest and costliest mistakes in American history. Launching the Iraq War was a blunder; accept that and get over it. The psychological urge is strong to double down on losses with the idea that those who died shall not have died in vain. But psychological urges do not make good policy.

The last observation is that ISIS is a direct result of the U.S. launching of the Iraq War. Before the American invasion, nothing like it existed—not in Iraq anyway, but only in the fevered minds of war-makers eager to find themes to use as selling points to get public support for the war. If we feel fright and revulsion over this group, let that be a reminder of how mistaken was the decision to launch the war, and how mistaken is the broader exceptionalism-based belief, as Robert Merry discusses, in the magic of military intervention.

Image: Wikicommons