Just as promised, the last of the U.S. troops were pulled out of Iraq on Dec. 18 and home in time for Christmas.
But this picture-perfect, happy-ending rhetoric shrouds the fact that this is not a peaceful ending for Iraq yet. Military force alone has not provided the mechanisms for Iraq to build a lasting peaceful society. What is necessary is a non-militaristic peace-building plan.
Even since the removal of U.S. troops, daily life in Iraq is still plagued by car bombings, improvised explosives, political turmoil and an unrelenting insurgency. While the Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites clash over governmental power, civilians are looking for stability — including employment, a home that won’t be destroyed and the ability to lead a life free from worry of violence.
We are seeing the same issues, like car and suicide bombings, reported during U.S. military presence and after. The violence has nothing to do with withdrawal and everything to do with the lack of a successful peace plan.
The use of hard, militaristic power alone as a justified means to stability and peace is inherently problematic. Aside from the through-the-roof death tolls and physical destruction, entire livelihoods and socioeconomic networks are destroyed. People become internally displaced, or flee to neighboring nations, igniting regional tensions. Opposing groups fighting over power engage in violence instead of dialogue. A non-militaristic peace plan from the start can avoid the immediate destruction of war, while a peace-building plan after can ameliorate the affects of war and empower peaceful civil society.
While peace-building solutions come with their own Pandora’s box of imperialistic, neocolonial criticisms, if done right — identifying local power structures, dispute-solving mechanisms and traditions of pluralism — a community-inspired peace may last.
Removing the problem with force may be immediately effective, but it is in no way conducive to lasting peace. There are a multiplicity of people and factors that lead to conflict. An outside military intervention alone may only exacerbate it, leaving society torn and arid of any mechanisms to pick up the pieces when the foreign troops leave.
The U.S. made a promise to the Iraqi people for stability and peace with the end of the Saddam Hussein regime. The war is not over, and lasting peace is not achieved with U.S. troops coming home for Christmas. It is over when Iraqis can reap the benefits of the stable, peaceful society they were promised.
Shaza Elsheshtawy is a junior journalism and politics major. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.