Muftic: The human cost to combat
Observance of Veterans Day on Nov. 11 should serve as a reminder that there is a human cost to combat. On Memorial Day last May, we honored those who died. On Veterans Day we honor those who came home, including the wounded.
There are those who advocate more robust military combat to stop our current threat, ISIS. Are we, the American public, ready to add another war to the list of those generating veterans and seeing the heartbreaking images again on TV of wounded warriors returning home?
The U.S. finds our forces again in Iraq, continuing in Afghanistan, and now making raids into Syria, albeit in a reduced numbers and very limited combat roles. Reality has begun to set in: more U.S. dead and wounded can be expected.
That the American public is “war weary” is a given. Almost no politician on the left and right is advocating an Iraq style invasion and occupation. No wonder. Over six thousand US troops have returned in body bags and caskets since 2003. But the numbers who died are only a small part of the total casualties, thanks to modern battle field medicine saving lives that would in the past have been lost. Those wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq total over 18,000. Some estimate a million. What we have to show for it is war without end, the rise of ISIS and resurgence of the Taliban and post conflict governments that have failed to stop either.
A political firestorm erupted with the announcement that the Obama administration is sending fifty more special forces have been added to the estimated 3500 US troops in northern Iraq and the 10000 forces in Afghanistan. Politicians are quick to opine whether there are too many or too few or they are jeering at broken promises and blaming premature withdrawal or parsing the definition of boots on the ground and combat, while providing no alternatives that have not failed in the past.
The only hope to limit mission creep is to bring an end to the conflicts that threaten our own security before there is no other Iraq style alternative left. Richard Haas, President of the Council on Foreign Relations on recent Morning Joe (November 2)and Fareed Zakaria’s CNN GPS (November 1) advocates realistic goals regarding Syria and Iraq, understanding that we neither have allies within Syria we can train nor the will for extensive combat ourselves to defeat ISIS there or to overthrow Assad. Instead, we need to buy time to get Sunni tribes and Kurds in northern Iraq strong enough to stop the advance of ISIS and to reach a realization among combatants that further violence is futile. At that point a political solution of dividing Syria into ethnic enclaves might work. His approach appears to be the administration strategy.
The hope is that while every combatant group that has its own agenda, many of Syria’s neighbors also fear an ISIS/Al Qaeda dominated Sunni control of the region. We should be applauding the US diplomatic initiative to seek a political solution in Syria, including Secretary of State John Kerry’s negotiations that involve Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kurds and the sending of more U.S. special ops to help what effective allies we have.
For more, visit http://www.mufticforumblog.blogspot.com.
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Ghosts, and goblins, and ghouls, oh my!