Many of the actors in the George W. Bush administration, as well as their associates in the Democratic Party, still act as ardent enthusiasts of war, including the conflict in Ukraine, and call for the use of force in order to impose American goals and values on the world. It is unlikely that their performance will be different from that during the invasion of Iraq 20 years ago, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Andrey Sushentsov.
The anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq this year on March 20 paradoxically coincided with major international events. On that day, Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee was in Moscow, and the Russia-Africa Parliamentary Forum was opening in parallel.
Twenty years ago, the United States, at the height of its power, proclaimed its “unipolar moment”, in which it completely dominated in the world arena and did not need any allies. Moreover, it did not tolerate objections from any of its opponents. It was believed that history had a single destination, and the US would stop at nothing to get there. American military, political and economic dominance at that moment really seemed undivided, echoing the theses of Henry Kissinger, who several years earlier had written that America was “at the Apex”. 20 years later, however, we are witnessing the rise of multi-polarity: in Moscow, the General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, in his farewell conversation with the President of Russia, said that the two countries contribute to changes that the world has not seen in a hundred years. This transience of world history shows how quickly historical cycles change, but it is also important that the United States itself, through its actions in different regions of the world, is accelerating the course of history.
One of the most important strategic mistakes of the United States was its 2003 invasion of Iraq. It created a false pretext and misled the international community; the incursion culminated in a series of grave war crimes, a catastrophic civil war, the disorganisation of Iraqi statehood and significant consequences throughout the Middle East. In just a few years, the American presence in Iraq resulted in massive civilian deaths, the indiscriminate use of force, and the destruction of several Iraqi cities, including Mosul. During the evacuation of the Russian embassy after the 2003 American invasion, a convoy of Russian diplomats came under American fire, and several diplomats and embassy technicians were injured. American private military companies, which at some stage were present in the country in the same volume as American troops, committed a series of war crimes. The US military’s abuse of inmates at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad is well-documented. When the International Criminal Court raised the issue of the responsibility of American citizens for crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States responded that it would begin to prosecute the judges who raised the issue, and they urgently had to withdraw their initiatives.
Some of the consequences of the American invasion turned out to run contrary to their plan: for example, the fight against terror yielded an increase in the influence of ISIS (banned in Russia) in Iraq. The unexpected strengthening of Iran in the country led to the fact that 150,000 US troops could not control the situation in Iraq, while several dozen Iranian diplomats in the embassy in Baghdad could. The metastases of the “Arab Spring”, which began to penetrate into various countries of the region, were another consequence of the war in Iraq. The US financial costs of the war have been estimated at several trillion dollars. In general, politically ineffective operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to a decrease in US influence and its status in the region. This recently culminated in the recent restoration of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, mediated by China.
In general, the Americans quite early, in 2007, formulated a reasonable goal of the military operation. General David Petraeus, the commander of US troops in Iraq, did so at hearings in the US Congress. When asked what the American interests in that country were, he stated, that the US goal was not to create a Jeffersonian democracy; the goal was to create conditions for the withdrawal of American troops. It was understood that the withdrawal of troops should not look like a defeat. At that moment, this rational goal was quite consistent with American interests and showed the depth of the strategic mistake that the Americans made in preparing for the invasion in 2003.
Unfortunately, many of the actors in the George W. Bush administration, as well as their associates in the Democratic Party, still act as ardent enthusiasts of war, including the conflict in Ukraine, and call for the use of force in order to impose American goals and values on the world. It is unlikely that their performance will be different from that during the invasion of Iraq 20 years ago.