What We Should Have Learned From The Iraq War

How can busy Americans learn when Republicans and conservatives continue to fail miserably in the information war? In the fall of 2007 I wrote up a series on the Iraq war using the words of many experts — and the series is packed with information few good citizens ever heard about from their elected leaders. Then, of course, Obama threw away the victory by pulling out all the troops in 2011.

Here’s John Daniel Davidson writing at The Federalist:

There’s another way to understand the Iraq war and its aftermath: as a hard-won success that a single presidential election unraveled.

For various reasons, Americans in the twenty-first century are unwilling to endure military action abroad for as long as it takes to establish stable regimes. American political leaders can’t count on decades of domestic support for large-scale military deployments in the wake of a victorious war, as in the American occupation of Japan and West Germany after World War II, or South Korea after the Korean War.

The great lesson of the Iraq war, then, is not that we should withdraw from the world and never again try to overthrow dangerous dictatorships, but that we should be very selective about when and where we intervene because of how easily domestic politics can undermine intervention. Seen in this light, it’s not the rise of ISIS that should be a warning to future administrations, it’s that the Obama administration was able to erase all our gains in Iraq by pulling the troops out too soon, which destabilized the country and created the space ISIS needed to grow.

To understand the magnitude of what Obama threw away in Iraq, consider that by the time he inherited the war, the country was almost completely pacified. We had defeated all the warring factions inside the country, including Iranian-backed Shiite militias, and casualty counts reflect that. By the end of Obama’s first year in office, coalition military fatalities in Iraq stood at just 150, a dramatic decline from two years earlier, when that figure was nearly 1,000. In the summer and fall of 2009, monthly Iraqi civilian deaths were being counted in the hundreds, not the thousands as they had been in 2006 to 2007.

Obama turned his back on those gains. He used the failure of Iraq’s National Assembly to pass a law granting U.S. troops immunity from local criminal prosecution as a pretext for letting the status of forces agreement expire at the end of 2011—as if we had been forced to leave because of domestic political factors in Iraq, instead of those in the United States. What we lost, however, was far greater than just our gains in Iraq.

Read more: The Federalist