This upcoming Sunday, January 17th, marks the 25th anniversary of the beginning of Desert Storm, a.k.a. the Gulf War, a.k.a. The First Iraq War. Since then, the US Air Force has flown combat missions over the northern and southern Iraqi “no fly zones,” combat missions in Operation Desert Fox and the Second Iraq War, combat patrols in the aftermath of that war, and now combat missions vs. the Islamic State. That is 25 years of unceasing combat for the Air Force (and also the aviators of the US Navy) in the greater Persian Gulf region. The period encompasses the administrations of four consecutive US presidencies. Additionally, US forces had been actively engaged in combat operations in the region under the previous two presidencies, Reagan and Carter. Indeed, the roots of this engagement are found in The Carter Doctrine, which also has an anniversary approaching. President Carter, in his final State of the Union address on January 23, 1980, committed the United States to becoming the fulcrum of power in the Persian Gulf in order to secure our national interests there. Oil being the lifeblood of the national and international economies and the Persian Gulf being the largest single repository of “easy oil,” those interests are substantial – the total cost of US operations in the region since 1/23/80 are over 7000 service members killed, over 50,000 wounded and trillions of dollars spent.
Those lives lost and damaged are tragic – the real best and brightest of the last several generations. We owe it to them to continually question whether the Carter Doctrine has been worth their sacrifices. While it is true that we as a nation could have chosen to funnel all that money and effort into searching for alternative energy sources that would negate the importance of the Gulf region, it remains true that there is no such source on the horizon that equals the what we get from oil. So, for their sacrifices, the men and women of the military (and the taxpayers who fund them) have given us decades of relative peace and prosperity. That run is being tested today, so my conclusion is not final and is subject to revision, but my honor and salute to those who have been serving on that front line for so long is not.