A decade after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq it is hard to claim the war achieved its stated aims: Rather it exacerbated sectarian tensions, led to an enormous loss of life that continues today, and destabilized the entire region.
Save for the toppling of Saddam Hussein, the war has weakened the U.S. position on the international stage, and, even after a cost of roughly $1 trillion, exposed weaknesses in its military capabilities.
Those responsible for spearheading the war have lost most of the public support they once enjoyed, and look likely to go down in history as villains.
The people of Iraq continue to be victims of an ill-thought out and clumsily executed war. The country is plagued by violence, with car bombs an almost daily occurrence, and hundreds of thousands of civilians killed since 2003.
Animosity between the Sunni minority and the Shiite-led government appears to be increasing, and the possible fragmentation of Iraq does not seem too far-fetched a possibility. Christians have fled in droves, and Kurds in the north continue to demand their own state.
Beset by such violence and existential problems, Iraq has been unable to move forward toward genuine reconstruction or development. Frequent protests and strikes continue to paralyze the country. Endemic poverty pervades and corruption is as bad as it has ever been.
On a diplomatic level, the country has few friends, save for its patron, Iran, and Syria, witnessing similar problems on a greater scale. Once a minority figure, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has successfully consolidated power, with the help of coercive tactics and the support of his Iranian friends.
In fact the only real winner from this conflict appears to be Tehran. Without having to take any direct action, Iran lost in Saddam’s Baath party one of its greatest foes, and has, since its departure, been able to build its influence in the region enormously.
The alleged pretext for war – Saddam’s alleged WMD – proved to be little more than a fantasy. Apparently believing themselves to be beyond criticism, those who paved the road to war prioritized their own private interests over those of their own countries, and the Middle East. Motivated by the possibility of personal gains, the oligarchy surrounding George W. Bush, including Tony Blair, revealed itself to be incapable in leadership and entirely ignorant, in terms of strategy, geography and politics, when it came to Iraq and the Middle East.
If one thing is to be learned from this tragic decade, the current leaders of the U.S. must realize it is only their opponents who win when they allow themselves to be guided by ignorance and arrogance, meddling in the affairs of other states without thinking of tomorrow.
Comprehensive foreign policy shifts in Washington are essential if the tragedy of Iraq is to be avoided in the future.