Here’s an article by a defense industry analyst that goes out of its way to avoid mentioning who and what political party was responsible for the Iraq War while assidously making the case that said war has paralyzed American military decisionmaking in the long run:
Without Iraq’s enormous price, the once unassailable U.S. military strength would be whole, intact, unrivaled, and unquestioned. Had we not fought in Iraq, the reach, capability, and capacity still required of a great power with global interests would not be in jeopardy as it is today. For example, because the U.S. military had to rapidly expand to fight two simultaneous ground wars, personnel costs (some of which are likely fixed and irreversible) soared so much that U.S. leadership now recognize them to be unsustainable.
Further, the kind of war Iraq became — a grinding and costly counterinsurgency (COIN) — not only resulted in rejection of future U.S. involvement in wars like it, but also in near rejection of the necessity for robust ground forces in general. Air and sea forces weren’t immune to harm either. A decade plus of irregular war in the greater Middle East resulted in material and conceptual neglect in high-end warfighting and emerging threats like a rising China, Iran, North Korea, or Russia. In short, long-overdue defense innovation is certain to run headlong into war weariness and tight budgets.
The Iraq experience has had such a dramatic negative impact on U.S. risk calculations that it has effectively blunted all appetite for future intervention in response to failed political authority regardless of where, when, and under what conditions it occurs or no matter what’s at stake.
Obviously, the author sees this as a bad thing, but all the evidence he marshals in support of making that claim actually undermines that premise. Frankly, if military forbearance is the legacy of the Iraq War, then at least we got something for our efforts. If every adventurist President in the future sees the long shadow of Iraq on the wall while they debate making a play for oil and pseudo-imperialism in the future, perhaps we can actually avoid even more costly mistakes to come.
If not for Iraq, then would we be engaging Russia right now over Crimea? Would we be on the ground in Syria? Would we have intervened militarily in Egypt? Honestly, the real question to ask is, if not for Iraq, would we have had a President McCain or President Romney – both of whom made no secret of their disdain for President Obama’s choices to end the Iraq War, withdraw from Afghanistan, engage in limited fashion in Libya, avoid bombing Iran, and doing “something” about Syria, Crimea, etc.
The fact that these defense industry policy people can’t even bring themselves to name names about who the architects of the Iraq War were is further evidence of their denial of reality, a denial that I hope continues to keep them isolated from the corridors of power and policy for a long time to come.
Related: the famous “strategic overview” by famed warblogger Steven den Beste, which was quoted by all the pro-Iraq people in the runup to war. That was a dark time. Arguments like those convinced even many liberals to support the Iraq War. It’s worth reading the document now because it encapsulates the thinking which we can now see in hindsight was 100% as wrong as those of us against the Iraq War said it was. Vindication is a bitter pill though, in this case.