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

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake 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.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid