The Legacy

It never was his war; he inherited it from his predecessor when moving into the White House. The legacy of The Iraq war — which was forced on Obama by George W. Bush — is more than severe. Almost 4,500 dead American soldiers, 30,000 wounded and at least a trillion dollars of expenditure.

Looking from the Iraq side, the situation is even harsher: The number of those who have died since the beginning of the American-British led intervention in 2003 has been estimated at around one million. The number of those who have escaped to foreign countries is also put at one million. Saddam Hussein is forever gone — a dictator gone, but at what price! Although oil production is slowly reaching the pre-war years, it is so far very unimaginable to talk about peace or stability when it comes to Iraq.

Now, when the last troops have left the country, it is quite bizarre to hear Obama say that Iraq is “the skyscraper of democracy.” What the American troops have left behind is not a prime example to follow for those fighting for democracy and equal distribution of goods during the Arab Spring. In the view of many, if anything, Iraq is in ruins. After eight years of American “caretaking,” the country is on the brink of disintegration and not even the most basic operations are functioning. Security forces are not in control either. Tehran’s influence, together with a social and religious tension, is continuously growing, while the Shiite and Sunni conflicts are fueled by the Iranian-Saudi rivalry.

America and its allies do not explain their 2003 intervention through their desire to break Saddam’s violent sovereign power. After September 11, when al-Qaida became the center of attention, the Bush administration thought that Iraq could be a suitable place for their experiment to “export democracy.” America appeared in the region as a “good power,” where the West-friendly power could prove to be a “beach head” against their neighbor Iran, with nuclear plans for the future.

However, the results are quite different. The idea of being a “good power” did not work out and the Arab Spring was definitely not inspired by Iraq. For America, Iraq is a closed chapter, of course with the exception of those soldiers and their families forever wounded or crippled by the war. In the 2012 elections, the fact that Obama brought home the troops could be used as a major argument for him — he would like the exact same thing to happen in the case of Afghanistan. America, of course, remains in the unstable region, which with the rise of Iran still holds many unpleasant future surprises. Here in Europe it is important to pay attention to the turn of American strategic thinking, which is the result of not only budgetary cuts but Iraqi and Afghan “overgrowth.” In the Libyan war it became obvious that the U.S. wishes to remain in the background, and this time let Britain and France (whose military intervention capability is significantly lagging behind) take the lead. The Middle East is important, but in the 21st century America is looking in a different direction — to the west, in the direction of the Pacific Ocean.

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