News / USA

Iraq Invasion, Occupation Forged New US War Strategy

US Conduct of War Reshapedi
X
March 15, 2013 4:31 PM
Long, drawn-out war was far from conventional and shaped the way U.S. military would handle future conflicts.
Luis Ramirez
Some estimates now put the cost of the war in Iraq at about two trillion dollars and the number of dead, both military and civilian, at nearly 200,000. The conflict, whose first concussive blasts were felt at 02:30 UTC on March 20, 2003, forever reshaped the way the United States armed forces conduct war.
 
U.S. Combat Troops in Iraq, 2003-2011U.S. Combat Troops in Iraq, 2003-2011
x
U.S. Combat Troops in Iraq, 2003-2011
U.S. Combat Troops in Iraq, 2003-2011
It was a war that began in a conventional way. U.S. forces went against Iraqi forces with a clear objective: to bring down the government of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
 
The long, drawn-out war that followed was far from conventional and shaped the way the U.S. military would handle future conflicts.
 
In 2011, the administration of President Barack Obama opted not to include regime change among its goals in Libya, citing mistakes in Iraq.

Story continues below photogallery
  • Smoke rises from the Iraqi Trade Ministry in Baghdad after it was hit by a missile during a U.S.-led attacks, March 20, 2003.
  • Smoke rises moments after the bright light at the right faded during U.S. strikes in downtown Baghdad in this image from television, March 20, 2003.
  • Then President George W. Bush makes a statement to reporters while Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld look on following a Cabinet meeting, March 20, 2003.
  • An explosion rocks Baghdad during air strikes March 21, 2003.
  • U.S. Marine Corp Assaultman Kirk Dalrymple watches as a statue of Iraq's President Saddam Hussein falls in central Baghdad, April 9, 2003.
  • Iraqi men run through a neighborhood with looted items, Baghdad, April 10, 2003.
  • Iraqis cheer a column of U.S. armored vehicles arriving in Bagdhad, April 10, 2003.
  • A detained Iraqi man with a plastic bag covering his head sits in garden of a house searched by U.S. soldiers during a night raid in Tikrit, Oct. 30, 2003.
  • Iraqi policemen guard the burning pipeline near Karbala, Feb. 23, 2004.
  • British Army troops are covered in flames from a gas bomb thrown during a protest in Basra, March 22, 2004.
  • Coffins of U.S. military personnel are prepared to be offloaded at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware in this undated photo released in 2004.
  • A still from Al Iraqiya television shows masked executioners putting a noose around former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's neck moments before his hanging in Baghdad, Dec. 30, 2006.
  • A man runs down a street warning people to flee shortly after a twin car bomb attack at Shorja market in Baghdad, Feb. 12, 2007.
  • A U.S. soldier guards an arrested man after a gunfight in central Baqouba, Iraq, March 29, 2007.
  • Demonstrators wave Iraqi flags during an anti-U.S. protest called by fiery cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Najaf, marking the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, April 9, 2007.
  • Supporters of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr burn a banner representing the U.S. flag during a protest in Baghdad's Sadr City,July 3, 2009.
  • U.S. Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles drive through Camp Adder before departing Imam Ali Base near Nasiriyah, Iraq, Dec. 16, 2011.
“Regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives and nearly a trillion dollars," the president said. "That is not something we can afford to repeat.”

With overwhelming power, U.S. forces were able to swiftly crush Saddam Hussein’s army and declare a quick victory, but managing the sectarian violence that erupted once Saddam was gone was a different story.
 
“The invasion in fact ended up being the easy part," says Jim Thomas of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. "The tough part was obviously the occupation. And our forces, while they optimized themselves for fighting another large conventional military, they were really unprepared for dealing with irregular, non-uniformed insurgents and terrorists that they encountered.”
 
That new scenario forced changes in Pentagon policy and practices on the ground, with new manuals on counterinsurgency operations, improved intelligence-gathering, a greater emphasis on cultural understanding, and knowledge of how to deal with improvised explosive devices.
 
But it was the length and the cost of the war that has most shaped the new U.S. defense structure.
 
“What we’ve learned is that occupations in particular are going to be incredibly costly and that there’s probably little appetite on the part of political leaders to undertake large-scale stability operations, counterinsurgency operations, especially if they’re going to be protracted," Thomas says.
 
With U.S. public opinion turning against big wars, the focus has shifted to less costly surgical approaches that are heavily reliant on unmanned aerial drones, special operations teams, and training partners and allies to handle conflicts in their own regions.
 
The approach raises new questions of whether the lessons of Iraq have made war an easier option than it seemed a decade ago.
Loading timeline...

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
March 15, 2013 6:11 PM
The biggest error the US made in Iraq, once it engaged, was to fight for the continued integrity of Iraq. Iraq should have been broken down into its constituent ethnic people/areas, and once those areas were secured by the particular ethnic grouping, the US should have left. Unfortunately, to please Turkey, and even some US erroneous US influencers, the US fought for the maintenance of the integrity of a state, that should never have been assambled in the first place. As we see now, Iraq continues to disintegrate, much like the fmr Yugoslavia, and other states around the world. States created by divisive imperial borders continue to suffer wars; and we know the rest. Syria is the same type of state, were people were pushed together, by failed empires, against the will of their ethnic groupings. If those ethnic groupings want to form multi-ethnic countries, they will do so by their own will; forced unifications are a recepee for never ending ethnic wars/genocides.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid