At the turn of the century, the United States emerged from the Cold War with unrivaled victory.
It has more power and influence than any other country in history. It could have used that power wisely to protect the US-led postwar world order and inspire other countries to follow its values of freedom and democracy.
Instead, it squanders hegemony in Iraq This is ill-advised and disastrous to execute. This will be the beginning of the end of American Peace.
A straight line can be drawn between that crash that began on March 20, 2003, and the others that followed, all the way to the precarious state of the world today.
ukraine war, China’s unchecked risegrowing force Iranand even Trump’s rise The roots of populist politics can all be traced to the follies of the United States in Iraq.
The lies and delusions that lead to war
The US waged wars under ideologues who thought they could reshape the Middle East on their own terms and bring a democratic and more pro-Western perspective to the region.
The failure of that neoconservative project has done lasting damage to Americans’ claims to exceptionalism and their belief that their form of governance is a model for the rest of the world. This, in turn, has done lasting damage to the US-dominated world order.
The failure of the program in Iraq is well documented. False premise that weapons of mass destruction do not exist, the illusion that invaders will be welcomed as liberators, without any acquired planning. The damage to America’s standing in the world is immeasurable.
Likewise, human rights abuses, violations of democratic norms, targeted killings, and the atrocities at Abu Ghraib — from which photos have emerged showing U.S. soldiers abusing prisoners — have tarnished America’s image as the standard-bearer of democracy and human rights.
This weakens Washington’s influence in the world. As India and others in the global south wait and see on the U.N. resolution on Ukraine, their ambivalence can be traced in part to the U.S. record in Iraq.
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Lasting Impact on U.S. Foreign Policy
The failure sapped America’s own self-confidence.ghosts of iraq Making Barack Obama reluctant to get involved in the Syrian conflict And punish its leaders for their nefarious use of chemical weapons.
This reluctance is seen in Moscow as an American weakness and arguably encouraged it Confront the West and take Crimea with relative impunity a few years later. This in turn encourages Vladimir Putin got serious about invading Ukraine last year.
Iraq’s distraction leads to failure in afghanistantwo decades of occupation and disastrous retreat.
Year after year Iraq sucks up what policymakers in Washington say is bandwidth, and in the east, bigger challenges are rising. It will take years for the West to realize the threat China poses.
Closer to Iraq, Iran strengthened. Before the invasion, its regional influence was limited to Hezbollah’s militias in southern Lebanon. Today it wields influence in capitals from Beirut to Damascus to Baghdad to Yemen.
The Iraq war has damaged America’s confidence in itself. The conflict cost $1 trillion in damage and tens of thousands of American lives. It has fueled opposition to any more military adventures abroad.
It undermines the confidence of Americans in their government and the political and media elites who seek to hold it accountable. This can only partly help explain the rise of populism that eventually brought Trump to the White House.
Iraq still recovering from tour of hell
In Iraq, people are no longer living under tyranny. There has been some reported sense of hope and revival, but only recently. This country has literally been to hell and back to hell.
Hundreds of thousands of people died in the war and the ensuing wave of sectarian violence. The country has collapsed, its institutions destroyed, its economy destroyed.
It’s only just starting to heal from all the trauma. But maybe it can now cautiously look forward to a slightly better future. That might say more if Saddam Hussein or his wayward, mercenary sons stayed in power.
A decade ago, George W Bush delivered the final verdict on his actions Iraq will come long after his death.
That may be true, and it may take more time to judge whether the ouster of one of history’s worst tyrants justifies in any way the enormous cost and pain that followed.
Yet two decades on, we can say that the invasion and occupation left a lasting legacy on the region and the world, much of it for the better.