Has the United States learned any lesson from the Iraq war?


As the Ukraine war is continuing giving birth to speculations of this war ultimately getting expanded on to Russia and some other East European nations, war analysts and historians are asking if the United States learned any lesson from the Iraq war, which has already turned a peaceful Iraq into land of terror and destruction, while it has turned majority of Iraqis into America haters.

The New York Times, quoting sources said, leaked Pentagon papers showed in early April 2023 that the US is allegedly following the inner workings of Russia’s intelligence operations and is also spying on Ukraine, adding a new dimension to the United States’ involvement in the Ukraine war. Although the US has not yet officially declared war against Russia, the documents show that it continues to support Ukraine with military intelligence as well as cash and weapons against Russia, not only with the goal of driving-away Russian forces from Ukraine – including Crimea, it also has an ultimate plan of expanding the war onto Russian territory, thus unseating Vladimir Putin and placing a Washington loyalist regime in Moscow.

Although Ukrainian authorities, including President Volodymyr Zelensky and a large number of key figures in the Biden administration are repeatedly claiming of “gradual victory” against Russia, in reality there is no end in sight to the war between Ukraine and Russia – nor there is any sign of the United States either getting rid of this war or somehow withdrawing its involvement from it. According to scholars of international relations and experts on international conflict, a comparison with the Iraq War offers a useful way to look at the case of Ukraine.

The Iraq and Ukraine wars have notable differences from a US foreign policy perspective – chiefly, thousands of American soldiers died fighting in Iraq, while the US does not have any ground troops in Ukraine. But assessing the Iraq War, and its long aftermath, can still help articulate concerns about the United States’ getting involved in intense violence in another faraway place.

Stating, “Intervention doesn’t guarantee success”, scholar said: “Around the time former President George W. Bush announced the US would invade Iraq in 2003, Osama bin Laden, the wealthy Saudi Arabian Islamist who orchestrated the September 11, 2001, attacks, had remained at large. While not obviously connected, the fact that bin Laden continued to evade the US contributed to a general sense of anger at hostile regimes. In particular, Saddam Hussein defied the US and its allies.

A US-led coalition of countries that included the United Kingdom and Australia invaded Iraq in March 2003. The “coalition of the willing,” as it became known, won a quick victory and toppled Saddam’s regime.

Bush initially enjoyed a spike in public support immediately after the invasion, but his polls shortly after experienced a downward trajectory as the war dragged on.

However, the US showed very little understanding of the politics, society and other important aspects of the country that it had taken the lead in occupying and then trying to rebuild.

Many decisions, most notably disbanding of the Iraqi Army in May 2003, revealed poor judgment and even outright ignorance because, with the sudden removal of Iraqi security forces, intense civil disorder ensued.

Disbanding the army caused insurgent militant forces to come out into the open. The fighting intensified among different Iraqi groups and escalated into a civil war, which ended in 2017.

Today, Iraq continues to be politically unstable and is not any closer to becoming a democracy than it was before the Western invasion.

The Iraq War resulted in a rise in intense partisanship in the US over foreign policy. In addition, recent opinion polls about the Iraq War show that most Americans do not think that the invasion made the US any safer, which is actually true.

Now, the US faces rising public skepticism about getting involved in the Ukraine war, another expensive overseas commitment.

Polls released in January 2023 show that the percentage of Americans who think the US is providing too much aid to Ukraine has grown in recent months.

According to Pew Research Group about 26 percent of American adults said in late 2022 that the US is giving too much to the Ukraine war, according to Pew Research Group.

The average American knows little to nothing about Iraq or Ukraine. Patience obviously can grow thin when US support for foreign wars becomes ever more expensive and the threat of retaliation, even by way of tactical nuclear weapons, remains in the realm of possibility. Aid to Ukraine is likely to become embroiled in the rapidly escalating conflict in Washington over the debt ceiling.

Before invading Iraq, the Bush administration had portrayed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussain as a threat to the national security of the United States, Biden administration is trying to play a similar card to justify its involvement in the Ukraine war. What they do not say is – if the war is further prolonged, Ukrainians may start getting frustrated and at some stage angry with the Westerners. That will possibly be the beginning of emergence of anti-West activities in Ukraine and may result in the birth of newer terrorist entities under the garb of neo-Nazis.

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