Chris Van Es

The Lasting Damage of Iraq

The folding of the American flag in Iraq amid a collapse of public security and a severe crisis in the country’s fragile political order seals a tragic chapter in US history. America now faces a time of reckoning, which should usher in a period of comprehensive strategic rebalancing.

MADRID – The folding of the American flag in Iraq amid a collapse of public security and a severe crisis in the country’s fragile political order seals a tragic chapter in the history of the United States. It marked the denouement of one of the clearest cases ever of the imperial overreach that former US Senator William Fulbright called the “arrogance of power.”

Violently torn by religious and ethnic rivalries, Iraq is in no condition to play its part in America’s vision of an Arab wall of containment of Iran. Unless the Iranian regime is terminally humbled in the course of its showdown with the West over its nuclear program, the more plausible scenario is that Shia-dominated Iraq moves closer to Iran’s strategic orbit rather than become part of America's regional designs.

After ten years of war, more than a hundred thousand casualties, mostly Iraqis, and an astronomical cost of almost $1 trillion, the US leaves behind an Iraq that is neither more secure nor especially democratic. It is, however, one of the most corrupt countries (175th out of 178, according to Transparency International). The war that was supposed to be a central pillar in a drive to restructure the Middle East under America’s guidance ended up marking the decline of its influence there.

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