Saturday, March 18, 2023
The Lessons Not Learned From Iraq Twenty years on, the war still shapes policy—mostly for the worse...... “War is a stern teacher,” Thucydides wrote nearly 2,500 years ago. Since then, great nations have often sought to learn lessons from the wars they waged, especially bad or stupid wars. But the same can’t really be said of the United States, which invaded Iraq 20 years ago as of Sunday. (March 19, 2003, marked the start of the “shock and awe” air war.) ........ Considering its long-term effects, the Iraq invasion amounted to one the most consequential strategic misdirections in U.S. history. Yet there has been very little discussion about why that is—and why what happened two decades ago is not a history lesson at all but rather part of an ongoing class in current events. ........ The hubris and excess of the Iraq invasion—a later iteration of the “reckless audacity” that Thucydides, the Greek historian, ascribed to the warmongering Greeks in the Peloponnesian War—are still with us today, shaping our times. The aftereffects of Iraq dramatically reduced the position of the United States in the Middle East, most recently opening the way to China’s brokering of Iran-Saudi Arabia rapprochement. The unnecessary diversion into Iraq—and the drain on U.S. resources and attention that resulted from it—set the stage for Washington’s 20-year failure in Afghanistan, which left U.S. President Joe Biden humiliated when he precipitously withdrew all U.S. troops, declaring in August 2021 that he was putting an end to U.S. efforts “to remake other countries.” .
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