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

Russian Help on Iran Less Promising on Syria, Ukraine

US-Russian collaboration to secure a deal on Iran's nuclear program has raised hopes of closer cooperation on other world issues More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe More

US-Ethiopia Relationship Strong, But Complicated

While Ethiopia serves as a valuable security ally and a bulwark against terrorism - the U.S., is a major aid donor and economic stimulator 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.
Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backersi
X
Michael Bowman
July 26, 2015 8:44 PM
Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Underground Streetcar Station In Washington, DC, to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Rise in HIV Infections Worries Ugandan Officials

Uganda had the third-highest number of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa last year, reversing its reputation for successfully tackling the epidemic in the 1990s. Although the percentage of people living with HIV/AIDS is still half of what it was in the 1980s, the increase in new infections is worrying to health workers. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs