Based on the mistaken belief that the Iraqi government had developed weapons of mass destruction, the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein, which happened that same year. The war and U.S. occupation has unleashed sectarian violence, strengthened Iran, and cost the lives of over 4,500 American servicemembers and nearly 2 trillion taxpayer dollars.
The United States has few vital interests in the Middle East. Staying in Iraq is not crucial to defending them and only puts our troops at unnecessary risk. With ISIS’ territorial caliphate defeated, it is time to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq as we reduce our broader Middle Eastern military footprint and focus on more important priorities at home or abroad.
Our troops have served valiantly, and with our main objectives long ago met, it dishonors their service and the will of the American people to continue a fruitless nation-building exercise that does not make us safer or more prosperous.
Congress should reassert itself in its duty to authorize and oversee military action, resetting the constitutional balance of war powers. Leaving war-making decisions entirely to the executive branch makes it more likely that “forever wars” continue without critical reflection on our strategy and vital national interests. Outdated authorizations, like the one that sent troops into Iraq initially, should be repealed.
Ultimately, our president should bring our troops home from Iraq, putting an end to 18 years of a misguided war. Withdrawing from Iraq doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t maintain an ability to counter credible threats to the U.S. that may arise. But protecting our homeland so does not require deploying troops to a dangerous country on a mission that does not serve America’s vital interests.