In 2003 the United States invaded Iraq under the pretense that Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction” according to the Bush administration. These lies led to the devastation of Iraq. At the end of this war in 2011 Hussein was taken out, but nearly half a million non-combatant civilians died in the process. Most of these deaths were directly from gunfire, bombs and airstrikes. The rest came from stress-related heart conditions, and poor sanitation from ruined infrastructure caused by the war. Even worse the region became completely destabilized and created a power vacuum when the U.S. military pulled out. Before the war started terrorism was virtually non-existent in Iraq. Now it has become a nesting ground for Islamic extremists and facilitated the creation of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The U.S. government inadvertently empowered ISIS and helped aid recruiting due to the resentment of Iraqis from the death of so many innocent civilians. One failed intervention was not enough though. Our government made another mistake by giving military aid to supposed allies and rebel groups trying resist ISIS. The new Iraqi army financed by the U.S. was supplied with over $1 billion in military weapons and equipment. This back-fired when the city of Mosul in Northern Iraq was overrun by ISIS, because many of the Iraqis were unwilling to fight and tried to flee. Is it really reasonable to expect the Iraqis to fight a war on behalf of the same government that dropped bombs on them? As a result, ISIS obtained over 2,300 Humvees, 40 tanks, 74,000 machine guns, and as many as 52 Howitzer mobile gun systems.

The mistake of empowering terrorists is not limited to Iraq. In 2013 the Senate Foreign Relations committee passed a bill to arm the Syrian rebel group Harakat al-Hazm with 200 anti-tank missiles to fight against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. This group was regarded as moderate and trustworthy by the Obama administration. Then Hazam decided to disband into smaller groups, some of which aligned with al-Qaeda. Vice president Joe Biden later admitted “The fact is, the ability to identify a moderate middle in Syria, um, was, uh — there was no moderate middle”. Again in 2014 the U.S. military tried to aid Kurdish fighters to fight against ISIS. Crates of hand grenades and other equipment were accidentally airdropped near ISIS fighters in Kobane, Syria.

Military aid given to Saudi Arabia has also worked unfavorably in preventing the spread of terrorism. The U.S. government supplied the Saudi’s with $1 billion in weapons, mostly consisting of missiles for F-15 fighter jets (also previously supplied by the United States). Saudi Arabia used this ammunition to kill roughly 5,000 people in Yemen, 2,300 of which were civilians. Much like the Iraq war, the infrastructure of Yemen was destroyed and created a vacuum for al-Qaeda to resurge and occupy the country.

Our political class has failed to recognize that military aid only backfires and creates more violence and chaos than already exists. Both Republicans and Democrats have contributed to the problem. They fail to understand the complexity of Middle Eastern politics. Nearly all of the countries in that part of the world severely lack the values and freedoms of Western Civilization. Things like separation of church and state, right to a trial by a jury of your peers, rights for women, free speech for example. These are ideas that have yet to be developed in Arab societies. Even the most moderate Islamists will not fight for the same values that we strive for in the United States. It is best to stay out of their wars, because there is no right side. The outcomes of our foreign policy must be looked at with honesty and politicians need to be held accountable, no matter how good the intentions. We should take Thomas Jefferson’s advice: “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations – entangling alliances with none.”