Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

U.S. ‘victories’ in Iraq are a grim warning for great-power conflict with China

By Joel Mathis, The Week

Gen. Ray Odierno, credited with leading the 2007 “surge” of U.S. troops in Iraq, died Friday at age 67. Meanwhile, Iraq held its latest national elections. The coincidence should serve as a reminder of how little the United States accomplished in that failed war — and, hopefully, teach us a lesson for foreign policy choices yet to come.

Iraq War proponents tried declaring victory often in its early years. There was President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” declaration after the initial 2003 invasion was complete. We “won” again in 2005 when Iraqis held their first elections after Saddam Hussein was driven from power. Hawks tried most mightily to paint the Odierno-administrated surge as yet another victory. “The situation in Iraq has completely reversed,” Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) declared in 2008.

As the repetition should have made obvious, they were wrong. The surge did help tamp down violence in the country for awhile, but it was designed to give Iraqi leaders space to resolve their political differences and form a stable government. That didn’t happen. Instead, Iraq became a nesting ground for the Islamic State terror group, and today the country hosts a low-level proxy war between the U.S. and Iran. Meanwhile, an unabashed hawk like Graham has made a career of calling for new surges in Syria, Afghanistan and even, again, Iraq.

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