The Iraq War 20 years later: How the conflict in Ukraine, the rise of Iran and the rise of Trump date back to the 2003 invasion

The Iraq War 20 years later: How the conflict in Ukraine, the rise of Iran and the rise of Trump date back to the 2003 invasion

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By the turn of the century, America had emerged victorious from the Cold War and remained unchallenged.

It had more power and influence than any other nation in history. He could have wielded that power wisely to protect the post-war US-led world order and inspire other countries to follow his values ​​of freedom and democracy.

Instead, he squandered that supremacy by embarking on a calamitous misadventure in Iraq which was misguided and disastrously executed. It would be the beginning of the end of the Pax Americana.

A direct line can be drawn from this debacle, which began on March 20, 2003, and others that followed, to the perilous state of the world today.

The war in Ukraine, China’s unchecked ascendancythe rise of Iranand even the rise of trump and the politics of populism all have roots that go back to the American madness in Iraq.

Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein standing near an Iraqi flag in 2002

U.S. President George W. Bush (R) shakes hands with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the Oval Office of the White House June 7, 2005. The two leaders, both facing skepticism at home over their handling of the war in Iraq, met for their first talks since Blair emerged from an election a month ago with a third term but politically weakened.  REUTERS/Kévin Lamarque
George W Bush had the support of Britain’s Tony Blair in his decision to invade Iraq

The lies and illusions that led to the war

America entered the war led by ideologues who believed they could reshape the Middle East in their image and bring democracy and a more pro-Western perspective to the region.

The failure of this neoconservative project has done lasting damage to Americans’ claims of exceptionalism and their belief that their form of governance is an example to the rest of the world. And it has, by extension, done lasting harm to the American-led world order.

The failures of this project in Iraq are well documented. The false premise of non-existent weapons of mass destruction, the illusion that invaders would be welcomed as liberators, the absence of any plan for tomorrow. The damage to America’s position in the world has been incalculable.

Similarly, human rights abuses, violations of democratic norms, targeted killings and atrocities at Abu Ghraib prison, from which emerged photographs showing abuse of detainees by US soldiers, have tarnished America’s image as a standard bearer for democracy and human rights.

This has weakened Washington’s influence around the world. When India and other countries in the southern hemisphere sit on the fence on UN resolutions on Ukraine, their ambivalence can in part be attributed to the US record in Iraq.

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The U.S. military escorts a group of Iraqi soldiers dressed in civilian clothes north of Basra, Iraq, in 2003
The U.S. military escorts a group of Iraqi soldiers dressed in civilian clothes north of Basra, Iraq, in 2003

FILE PHOTO: An Iraqi man cries while holding a little boy in front of a house damaged by a missile during an airstrike in Baghdad, Iraq March 22, 2003. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/File Photo SEARCH
An Iraqi cries outside a house damaged by a missile in Baghdad in 2003

A lasting impact on American foreign policy

The failure undermined America’s self-confidence. The specter of Iraq made Barack Obama reluctant to get drawn into the Syrian conflict and punish the diabolical use of chemical weapons by its leader.

This reluctance was seen in Moscow as an American weakness and no doubt emboldened it. defy the West and seize Crimea with relative impunity a few years later. And this in turn encouraged Vladimir Putin will seriously invade Ukraine last year.

The distraction of Iraq has led to failure in Afghanistantwo decades of prolonged occupation and a disastrous withdrawal.

Iraq sucked up what policymakers in Washington call bandwidth year after year, while in the East a much bigger challenge loomed. The West will take years to realize the threat posed by China.

Closer to Iraq, Iran has grown stronger. Prior to the invasion, its regional influence was limited to a southern Lebanese militia, Hezbollah. Today, it has weight in the capitals, from Beirut to Damascus, via Baghdad and Yemen.

The war in Iraq has damaged America’s faith in itself. The conflict has cost a trillion dollars and thousands of American lives. It fueled opposition to any further overseas military adventures.

And it undermined Americans’ trust in government and the political and media elites supposed to hold it to account. This only partly explains the rise of populism that ultimately brought Trump to the White House.

FILE PHOTO: An explosion rocks Baghdad during airstrikes, Iraq March 21, 2003. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/File Photo SEARCH
An explosion shakes Baghdad during airstrikes on March 21, 2003

The U.S. military escorts a group of Iraqi soldiers dressed in civilian clothes north of Basra, Iraq, in 2003
The U.S. military escorts a group of Iraqi soldiers dressed in civilian clothes north of Basra, Iraq, in 2003

Iraq is still recovering from a trip to hell and back

In Iraq, people no longer live under tyranny. There would be some sense of hope and renewal, but that’s only recently. And the country literally went to hell and back to get there.

Hundreds of thousands of people died in the war and subsequent waves of sectarian violence. The country was shattered, its institutions destroyed and its economy devastated.

He’s only just beginning to recover from all that trauma. But perhaps he can now cautiously look to a slightly brighter future. That’s more than could have been said had Saddam Hussein remained in power or one of his impulsive and venal sons.

A statue of Saddam Hussein is pulled down by US soldiers after the 2003 invasion of Iraq
Another view of the demolished Saddam Hussein statue

FILE PHOTO: Thousands of crosses stand on a hillside memorial honoring U.S. troops killed in the Iraq war, in Lafayette, California January 12, 2007. REUTERS/Kimberly White (UNITED STATES) / File Photo
Thousands of crosses at a memorial for American soldiers killed in the Iraq War, in Lafayette, California

Ten years ago, George W Bush delivered the final verdict on his actions in Iraq would come long after his death.

That may be true, and it may take longer to judge whether the removal of one of history’s worst tyrants has in any way justified the enormous cost and pain that has come with it. resulted.

Twenty years later, however, we can say that the invasion and occupation have left a lasting legacy on the region and the world, and much of it has not been for the better.

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