All too many people in the Middle East believe that America and its military are anti-Muslim. To make matters worse, terrorist organizations like ISIS feed on this storyline in their attempts to win over new recruits. This false narrative must be countered. The U.S. military is anything but anti-Muslim.
Iraq is on fire. Again. As usual we are offered many of the same approaches to put out the fire. Some voices seem to be animated by a sense of collective guilt: We broke it; therefore, we must try and fix it, through humanitarian measures. Their more hawkish counterparts continue to advocate for kinetic military measures as the default method for dealing with the violent instability that’s rampant across Iraq. What seems to be missing from the debate is an alternative framework that acknowledges the limits of America’s institutional capacity while drastically narrowing the scope of governmental responsibility towards the region at large, and Iraq in particular.
The first time I set foot in Iraq was as an Army grunt in 2004. Like most war experiences, it was an intense one, undoubtedly altering my life trajectory. Mortal combat, unlike most undertakings, has a transformational effect on the mind. In fact, almost any veteran who has ever squeezed the trigger of a rifle or ducked a whizzing bullet in a firefight can draw a thick line across the course of his or her life dividing before combat and after combat. Oftentimes that demarcation happens without notice, almost subconsciously.