A decade has passed since the American-led invasion of Iraq commenced in March of 2003. Looking back in retrospective, it was hard to say no to such a move: intel connected numerous al-Qaeda cells to various Iraqi cities, Saddam’s aggression towards fellow Arab countries, and the most important factor of them all (at least publicly): the weapons of mass destruction. The Bush Administration’s fears were justified, at least at the time. Not to mention the fact that the aforementioned WMDs were supplied by the Reagan Administration during the ’80s in an effort to combat Soviet influence in the region. When the search for weapons turned up dry, popular opinion of the directive turned sour. Ethnic clashes between the Shi’ite and the Sunni, who had enjoyed significant liberties under Saddam, brought further instability to the region. Combined with a mounting death toll and quickly escalating costs, pressure mounted on the Bush Administration to end the occupation. Many would say that his defiance contributed to his record low approval ratings. Indeed, President Obama won in 2008 not the least bit due to his commitment to a timely withdrawal.
What does this mean for American foreign policy going forward? For one, the memories are recent enough to trigger massive resistance to any invasions for the foreseeable future. It could also sow the seeds for increased American discontent for generations to come, forcing future presidents to take foreign threats into account. For now, all we can do it learn from the mistakes of the past and move on from there.