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Iraq, 20 Years Later: A Changed Washington and a Terrible Toll on America

The White House, Congress, and the military now see the Iraq war as a lesson in failed policymaking, and one that should be deeply absorbed. 

Before the war started, when G.W. Bush was president, G.W.B stated that this was a dangerous war to enter, as it would cost the United States billions of dollars. Here we are now, twenty years later, having spent two trillion dollars in Iraq without much to show for it. The price paid does not stop at dollar signs, however; over 8,500 American lives were lost in this war. The United States first invaded Iraq in 2003, hoping to bring an end to its rapid development of weapons of mass destruction and the reign of Saddam Hussein. What the United States failed to realize were the cultural and religious disputes that ran deep throughout Iraq between the Sunnis and the Shi’ites. The U.S. government thought they could just liberate Iraq from Hussein and then everything would be fine. 

So, even after Hussein was captured there were still strong forces at play; for example, the beginning of another terrorist group, Al-Qaeda. The United States did not consider the cultural differences or take the time to understand what was really happening in Iraq and overestimated how much they could help. This mistake has cost the U.S. billions of dollars that it does not have. This investment made in 2003 has cost the U.S. military money that has taken away from further developing our technologies. Retired Lt. Gen. Gregory S. Newbold stated, “You look at the Chinese military’s capabilities with hypersonic missiles, and the size of their forces, versus our decline in the number of Navy ships and Air Force squadrons and Army brigades.” 

The Iraq war has eaten up the military budget for the last twenty years and we may have fallen behind. The money spent in Iraq could have been used to help our own struggling country over the past two decades. Military and political leaders are now seeing the consequences of joining this war twenty years ago.


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