Friday, March 8, 2013

Iraq: a display of declining US power

The only winners were the forces the coalition of the willing sought to defeat, writes David Gardner

Iraq remains the subject of visceral polemic 10 years after George W. Bush and Tony Blair launched their misbegotten and mendaciously sold war of choice to remove Saddam Hussein and, by their lights, reshape the Middle East. The invasion and occupation of Iraq unlocked forces with long-term consequences. Given the staggering obtuseness that marked the entire enterprise one cannot be sure, but one assumes few of them were intended by its Anglo-American artificers.

The devastation visited upon a country already made prostrate by wars, sanctions and tyranny did not so much shock and awe as offer a pitilessly public spectacle of the limits to US power (Britain’s role as spear-carrier was a sideshow).

No one is blind to the military might the US possesses in unique abundance. But after Iraq there are real doubts – seemingly in America as well as the wider world – about its ability to use this power competently to shape intractable events (current agonising over whether to arm Syrian rebels comes to mind). When future historians date the end of the brief, post-cold war, unipolar moment, they will surely pinpoint Iraq.