On Sunday, U.S. jets bombed facilities used by Iran-backed militias in Iraq, in retaliation for drone attacks on American troops. According to the White House, the aim of the most recent strikes was to “to disrupt and deter” these groups. Critics on both left and right have responded by complaining of the cost of U.S. involvement in “forever wars.” Noah Rothman sees things differently:
Disruption and deterrence have been central to the American mission in Iraq for several years, and it is vastly preferable to the alternative of all-out conflict. No sooner had Islamic State retreated to the relative safety of Syria’s lawless east than Iran and its proxies [resumed] destabilizing the region. In 2019 alone, the Islamic Republic regularly seized and sabotaged commercial shipping vessels in the crucial Strait of Hormuz. It downed an unarmed U.S. surveillance drone over international waters and executed a brazen multi-drone strike on the world’s largest petroleum-processing facility in Saudi Arabia.
Whatever you think of this adversarial cycle of testing and reaction, it is not an outgrowth of America’s presence in the region. If anything, America’s presence imposes sober circumspection on the theocrats in Tehran. [Indeed, there are several] potential flashpoints where the U.S. is supporting anti-insurgency campaigns or raising the costs of all-out conflict for would-be aggressors all around the globe.
The case that now tests the “forever-wars” thesis is Afghanistan, where Joe Biden is executing a headlong rush to the exits entirely without respect to the security conditions on the ground. The unambiguous result of this experiment has been more war, not less.